Lesson 2: Torah Law

Faith, Hope, and Love artOur project is seeking ways to observe the Sabbath Way of life in our technological society. Let’s begin by looking at the two versions found in the Ten Commandments. Respected scholars claim we should regard these as teachings or guidelines rather than as laws.

Exodus 20: 8-11: “Remember the Sabbath day, and keep it holy. For six days you shall labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it.

Deuteronomy 5: 12-15 Observe the Sabbath day and keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you. For six days you shall labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, or your son or your daughter, or your male or female slave, or your ox or your donkey, or any of your livestock, or the resident alien in your towns, so that your male and female slave may rest as well as you. Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.

First notice the similarities. Both call for observing a holy day, or as we would say today, a holiday. Remember to make something holy is simply to set it aside from the normal. So the seventh is to be a different kind of day.

Both commandments say we should make sure everyone can observe this holiday. In fact, it is the only one of the commandments that is to be applied to children, slaves, animals, and foreigners.

Finally, both involve “remembering”. It is a day to remember who we are and what we should be doing. That means telling the stories by which we identify ourselves. We refuse to see ourselves as conventional society defines us. Rather than conforming to its standards, we allow these ancient stories to transform us. That means the Sabbath will always be a day for repenting or rethinking as we take time to restore the proper perspective on our lives. It is a time for mindfulness.

Now look at the differences. The first emphasizes taking a day of rest. We are to remember the creation when God himself rested after working six days and so blessed the seventh. The Sabbath is the pause that refreshes. We are to use it to re-create ourselves. We are to remember we are more than what we do. We are more than our work; life is more than producing and consuming. This version establishes a healthy rhythm in our lives.

The second focuses on taking time to make sure justice is being practiced in the community. Prosperity seems to breed amnesia and prevents us from remembering from where we came. So the Hebrews are reminded they were once slaves who called out for freedom. They are now prosperous, only because God rescued them. So they are to remember the slaves among them and make sure they are given a Sabbath. Today we would say no human being is a commodity that can be bought and sold by corporations. All are persons bound together as neighbors and children of God

These interpretations are enforced when we realize the previous commandment prohibited making graven images. The epitome of this was the Golden Calf that was made from the golden possessions of the people. Jesus was saying the same thing when he claimed nobody can serve both God and Mammon. Mammon was property and possessions that too often define us more than our God. On the Sabbath we remind ourselves of that insight that flies in the face of a society that judges everything according to production and consumption.

Next week we’ll see how this is supported by other Sabbath commandments in the Torah.

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2 Enlightened Replies

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  1. Derek says:

    I’d be the first to admit that technology has changed our society greatly. However I don’t think this particular issue is one you can lay at its feet, nor solve by uninstalling some apps.

    • Fritz Foltz says:

      I agree we cannot blame technology for Christians neglecting to observe a Sabbath life style. However, they no longer can depend on the society helping their effort. The environment created by modern technology prevents anything like the old Blue Laws. But then perhaps we are better off without them

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