The Appointed Times of YHVH—The Shabbat Part II
In Rabbinical Judaism, “Do not kindle a fire on Shabbat” is seen as a “concept” which is understood as do not kindle any fire on Shabbat. This verse is seen not just as a Torah command but as a concept which forbids lighting even a candle on the Shabbat.
Do not kindle a fire in any of your dwellings on the Shabbat day. (Exo 35:3)
This “concept” teaches that the fire can be kindled before the Shabbat and the fire can burn during the Shabbat, but it cannot start, that is to be kindled during the Shabbat. And that is why by Rabbinical tradition, the Shabbat candles are lit well before the Friday sunset.
The verb used in the phrase do not kindle a fire in Exo 35:3 “to kindle” is בָּעַר ba’ar and can mean “to start a fire”, as seen in:
When fire breaks out and spreads to thorn bushes, so that stacked grain, or standing grain, or the field is consumed, he who kindled (ba’ar) the fire shall certainly repay. (Exo 22:6)
But it can also mean “to burn” in a sense of “to keep burning”:
And the fire on the slaughter-place is kept burning on it, it is not put out. And the priest shall burn (ba’ar) wood on it every morning, and arrange the ascending offering on it, and shall burn on it the fat of the peace offerings, (Lev 6:12)
In these instances, but also in other places, בָּעַר ba’ar is coupled with other synonyms to exemplify its meaning.
In Eze_39:9-10, however, it is used with its both meanings:
And those who inhabit the cities of Israel shall go out and set on fire (ba’ar) and burn the weapons, both the shields and armor, the bows and arrows, the clubs and spears. And they shall make fires (ba’ar) with them for seven years, and take no wood from the field nor cut down any from the forests, for with the weapons they make fire (ba’ar). And they shall plunder those who plundered them, and loot those who looted them, declares the Master Yehovah. (Eze 39:9-10)
So, why is the command “Do not kindle a fire” given exactly where it is?
YHVH elaborates giving more clarity as to why He does not want a fire kindled and kept on Shabbat. Let us read it along with verse 2.
Work is done for six days, but on the seventh day it shall be set-apart to you, a Shabbat Shabbaton to Yehovah. Anyone doing work on it is put to death. Do not kindle a fire in any of your dwellings on the Shabbat day. (Exo 35:2-3)
With the construction of the Tabernacle being done and a fire required for much of the melting of the precious metals for the set-apart objects, while doing the work as instructed in Exo_35:5-19, the people, in their enthusiasm to complete the building the Tabernacle and everything in it, may continue to work on the seventh day and thus to keep the fire burning over the Shabbat.
So, before starting any work on the Tabernacle, YHVH warned them that Shabbat was still to be kept regardless, even though the Tabernacle was still in construction. Therefore, we see that even the building of the Tabernacle and later the Temple, the ark of the Covenant, the menorah and all set-apart vessels cannot be the reason to break the Shabbat. The fire for melting the metals needed for the Tabernacle was not to be kept on the Shabbat because it was related to “labor”, and it was be kindled again on the first day, and then the work would begin again.
This is how YHVH is so meticulous regarding His set-apart day: the Shabbat, to say ‘do not kindle a fire on the Shabbat day.’
With that being said, we can render this verse in the entire context of Exo_35:5-19 like this:
Work is done for six days, but on the seventh day it shall be set-apart to you, a Shabbat Shabbaton to Yehovah. Anyone doing work on it is put to death. Do not burn a fire in any of your dwellings on the Shabbat day to do your work even though I have commanded you to build My Dwelling Place.
So, in the present author’s understanding Exo_35:3 is to be taken in its two applications as do not kindle fire on Shabbat and do not burn fire on the Shabbat to do your work even if this work involves the building of the Tabernacle and the set-apart objects in it.
As for the cooking (which requires fire), we have the commandments in Exo_16:23 to prepare our food on the sixth day, so that we do not have to cook on Shabbat.
This is what Yehovah has said, ‘Tomorrow is a rest, a Shabbat set-apart to Yehovah. That which you bake, bake; and that which you cook, cook. And lay up for yourselves all that is left over, to keep it until morning.’ (Exo 16:23)
In conclusion, how did the Rabbis come to “the concept” of do not to kindle a fire on Shabbat?
The Rabbis admit that the reason for this command was that even the work of Tabernacle cannot supersede the Shabbat. We read:
Some of our Rabbis say that [the prohibition of] kindling was singled out for a [mere] negative commandment, while others say that it was singled out to separate [all types of labor]. [from Shab. 70a]
He [Moses] prefaced [the discussion of the details of] the work of the Mishkan with the warning to keep the Sabbath, denoting that it [i.e., the work of the Mishkan] does not supersede the Sabbath. [from Mechilta]
And Rashi says this in his comments on Exo 35:3:
But [as for] you, although I have mandated you to command them [the Israelites] concerning the work of the Mishkan, do not let it seem to you that you may easily set aside the Sabbath because of that work.
So, how are we to understand the apparent controversy between their different teachings on the matter ‘do not kindle a fire on the Shabbat?’
The answer is that they have created “fences” around the Torah, so that a Jew could not even come close to accidentally break the Shabbat by kindling a fire.
The following article is regarding the Shabbat and the Messiah.
This article is a part of series of articles dedicated to the Appointed Times of YHVH and how His Messiah Yeshua has fulfilled them. For the rest of the set-apart days of the Creator, please, visit The Appointed Times of YHVH.
May we merit seeing the coming of our Mashiach speedily in our days.