Is Fast Allowed on Sabbath?

Posted by on Aug 11, 2021

The question whether a fast is allowed on Sabbath may seem purely theoretical and even unnecessary. But as we will explain in the course of this brief study, this question is neither theoretical nor unnecessary.

The matter will become clear once we understand why we should fast.

According to the tradition, Sabbath is a day which abounds with a lot of food and celebration. And according to the regulations of the Rabbinic Judaism, one must not fast on Sabbath. Moreover, if a fast happens to fall on Sabbath in the Rabbinic calendar, it is moved so that Sabbath remains a day of gladness and joy. And rightly so: Sabbath is indeed meant to be a day on which one should have a complete rest and festivity, as the Messiah Yeshua said,

The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. So the son of man[kind] is also Master of the Sabbath. (Mar 2:27-28)

To have the Sabbath as a day of a complete rest and festivity set apart to YHVH Elohim, it is decreed that all work should be ceased and whatever is to be cooked it is to be cooked before the beginning of the Sabbath: food for two days (Exo 16:23). All is made to be good for man: rest, food, wine, nothing is to be lacking on the table.

It seems like there is no room for fasting on the Sabbath day. And why should one abstain from food and afflict the body on a day of joy and rest? This year (2021), however, we are to face an interesting situation; a situation in which we should fast on Sabbath.

As of writing this article, we are on the first day of the sixth Biblical month; thirty days away to the autumnal appointed times of YHVH: Yom Teruah, Yom Kippurim, Chag Sukkot, and Yom haShemini (the closing day of all festivities of the year). (Refer to the sources for the complete quote.)

According to the sighting of the new moon and the Creator’s reckoning of time, Yom Kippurim this year will fall on the weekly Sabbath.

Yom Kippurim (Day of Atonement) is the holiest day of the year: a day of prayers for forgiveness and joy, but also a day of fasting. We should recall that the seventh day of the week and Yom Kippurim are called Shabbat (Sabbath); nor work is to be done on these days—days of a complete rest. These two days are also called Shabbat Shabbaton or “Sabbath of Sabbaths”.

But if Yom Kippurim is called Sabbath and day of rest and joy, why is it also a day of fasting: no food and even water are allowed on Yom Kippurim?

We must try to understand why the Torah refers to Yom Kippurim, also as a day of fasting. This is why.

After the revelation of YHVH Elohim on Mount Sinai and the utterance of the Covenant (that day became Chag Shavuot), Mosheh ascended to the top of the mountain to receive the Covenant in a written form.

In forty days and nights, Mosheh returned to the camp to find out that the people had already made an image of the invisible Elohim: the golden calf. In his anger, Mosheh broke the two tablets of stone on which the Covenant was written with the finger of Elohim, and rightly so.

Next day he ascended the mountain a second time to beg YHVH for forgiveness of the people’s sin. In forty days and nights of prayers and supplications, he returned to the camp to make a new set of tablets and ascended again to YHVH.

Mosheh spent again forty days and nights with YHVH, a third time. When he returned to the people with the Renewed Covenant, he announced that their sin had been forgiven and YHVH would lead them to the Promised Land. That day became a day of joy.

Now, if we count from Shavuot three periods of forty days and the intermediate two days, we will arrive at the tenth day of the seventh month. The people rejoiced on that day, but YHVH Elohim said in a way: “It is good that you are rejoicing for I have forgiven you, but you will also have a fast to afflict your souls and remember the sin against Me”.

That day became Yom Kippurim, Day of Atonement, for YHVH atoned for our sin with the golden calf. That day was decreed to be the most set-apart day of the year, Shabbat Shabbaton, a day of joy but also of affliction.

On the tenth day of this seventh month is Yom haKippurim. It shall be a set-apart gathering for you. And you shall afflict your souls, and and shall bring an offering made by fire to Yehovah. And you do no work on that same day, for it is Yom Kippurim, to make atonement for you before Yehovah your Elohim. (Lev 23:27-28)

In the referenced article, we explained that in Hebrew to “afflict your souls” means not only to repent from sins and ask for forgiveness, but also to afflict the bodies through fasting.

So, this year (2021) we will celebrate Yom Kippurim on Sabbath, Sabbath upon Sabbath: a double Sabbath. Should we abstain from food in observance of the annual Sabbath, or should we feast in observance of the weekly Sabbath?

The answer is simpler than it looks.

As we said in the beginning, Sabbath is a feasting; food should abound on the table. But we should also know that there is no particular way regulated in the Torah as to how to celebrate the weekly Sabbath. One should celebrated Sabbath according to his or her means; as we said it is a tradition to celebrate Sabbath with a lot of food, not a command of YHVH.

But the laws of the annual Sabbath are specifically regulated not by men but by Elohim Himself. As we also said, this year we will have a sabbath upon sabbath, but one of the sabbaths will take precedent over the other without replacing it.

We should celebrate both sabbaths with joy, prayers for forgiveness, and fasting. Shabbat Shalom! Have a complete Sabbath!

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