“Do Not Kindle a Fire on Sabbath!”
There is rabbinic prohibition in Judaism to kindle a fire on Sabbath, the most set-apart day. This prohibition is derived from the Torah and further extends to lighting the Sabbath candles and turning on the kitchen ovens.
For this reason, traditionally the Jewish woman kindles the candles before the beginning of Sabbath, and there are kitchen ovens with a “Sabbath mode” designed to keep the Sabbath meal warm from Friday sunset until Saturday sunset.
Where did this rabbinic prohibition come from, and is any kind of fire prohibited on Sabbath? This prohibition is derived from the Torah, for indeed there is a command not to kindle a fire on Sabbath. But what does the Torah really say?
The original command not to kindle a fire on Sabbath
On the morning after Yom Kippur, the day that Mosheh descended from Mount Sinai with the second tablets, he assembled all the congregation of Israel, and said to them, “These are the Words which Yehovah has commanded you to do” (Exo 35:1), and then he continued,
Work is done for six days, but on the seventh day it shall be set-apart to you, 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 day of Shabbat. (Exo 35:2-3)
* שַבָּתֹון שַבַּת Shabbat Shabbaton, a sabbath of sabbaths.
After the restoration of the covenant, Mosheh announced to the people the commands with reference to the building of the most set-apart place of the Tabernacle, which was to contain the items yet to be placed there: (1) the golden ark, (2) Aharon’s staff, (3) the jar of manna (Exo 16:33-34), (4) the Torah scroll that Mosheh wrote before his death (Deu 31:26).
Before giving his instructions, Mosheh repeated first of all the law of the Sabbath according to Exo 31:13-17 (see also Exo 20:9-10, Exo 23:12, Exo 34:21, Lev 23:3, Deu 5:12-15), and strengthened the importance of the Sabbath Day by the announcement, that no fire was to be kindled in their dwelling on Sabbath.
Why was there the necessity for Mosheh to add the command not to kindle a fire on Sabbath next to the command not to work on this most set-apart day to YHVH?
To find the answer to this question, we need to see why the Torah has indeed placed the commandment to cease work on Shabbat next to the work of the Tabernacle, the Dwelling Place of YHVH.
Remember the Seventh Day
And in the seventh day Elohim completed His work which He had done, and He ceased on the seventh day from all His work which He had made. And Elohim blessed the seventh day and set it apart, because on it He ceased from all His work which Elohim had made to do. (Gen 2:2-3)
According to the plain meaning of the text, it means that whatever work the Creator did on the seventh day was the completion of the seven days of creation. The Sages explain the phrase thus: “and He (the Creator) gave rest to the world on the seventh day”, i.e., no further act of creation took place on that day.
For this reason, the Second Commandment of the Covenant explains the Genesis account and requires the same,
Remember the Shabbat day, to set it apart. Six days you labor and shall do all your work, but the seventh day is Shabbat of Yehovah your Elohim. You do not do any work – you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days Yehovah made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore, Yehovah blessed the Sabbath day and set it apart. (Exo 20:8-11)
The phrase “all His work which Elohim had created to do” in Gen 2:3 describes not the creation of the world, but the creation of “work” which has been created for the purpose of executing it, that is, “created to do”. In other words, “all His work which Elohim had created to do” refers to the design, which the Creator had to do in six days. When all He intended to do was completed, He ceased from any work and rested.
Did the Omnipotent need “rest” from His work? Not at all. We must conclude, therefore, that on the seventh day, the world also attained to this rest of the Creator, as He rested, because He defined His Shabbat as a sign between Him and His creation—Exo 31:13, Exo 31:17, Eze 20:12, Eze 20:20.
The apostle correctly understood the significance and importance of the Sabbath Day that he urged the Hebrew believers to keep this covenantal sign and enter into His rest—the seventh millennium—the Messianic Kingdom,
So there remains a Shabbat-observance (Gr. sabbatismos) for the people of Elohim. For the one, having entered into His rest, has himself also rested from his works, as Elohim rested from His own. Let us therefore do our utmost to enter into that rest, lest anyone fall after the same example of disobedience. (Heb 4:9-11)
See our comments on the apostle’s words.
The reason Elohim blessed the seventh day is that He was so pleased with the results of His Creation that He loved the world which He created and blessed the seventh day upon the completion of His work.
Therefore, what does the Biblical prohibition (unlike the rabbinic prohibition) ban? Does it concern itself with lighting candles, as it is interpreted to mean in Judaism?
Or the Torah simply tells that the Israelites were to observe the Sabbath Day even though the work to be done for the building of the Tabernacle had not been completed. The Sabbath Day takes precedent over any human activities, even if it comes to the building the Tabernacle and the Ark of the Covenant: the most sacred things.
For further knowledge of the significance of the Sabbath Day and all other appointed times of the Creator with His people, please, refer to the series The Appointed Times of YHVH of Time of Reckoning Ministry.
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May we merit seeing the coming of our Mashiach speedily in our days!