shabbat queen

What Can Non-Jews Learn From Jewish Shabbos Observance?

Shabbat is a time to re-connect with family and friends, a time to bring sanctity and peace into our lives. But the real secret of Shabbat is that we can bring its gifts into the rest of the week. Here are seven lessons Shabbat can teach us that have the power to transform our weekdays.

-Sara Debbie Gutfreund
“No More Monday Blues”

mondayLike a lot of people who have a traditional Monday through Friday work week, I dislike Mondays. It’s tough readjusting from being able to sleep in and having a more relaxed day on Saturday and Sunday to waking up and driving to work while it’s still dark out. So I was intrigued when I read the title of Gutfreund’s article.

Then when I started reading the content, I was confused. How can you leverage Shabbat, a unique day in the Jewish seven-day week, to do away not only with “Monday blues,” but the frustrations of all of the days of the typical work week?

After all, observant Jews refrain from many activities on Shabbat that they freely partake of the other six days of the week. You can’t have Shabbat for the full seven days, can you?

You can click the link above to read Gutfreund’s short article and see how (or if) she makes her point, but the general idea is to take elements or principles from Shabbat observance and apply them to your day-to-day life (well, Jewish day-to-day life since she’s writing to a Jewish audience).

And while we non-Jews don’t have a specific commandment to observe Shabbat (at least in the manner of Jews, depending on how you interpret certain portions of Scripture), it may not be too much of a stretch to say that some of what Gutfreund’s article suggests might have more universal applications.

First things first: If Shabbat is a time to draw closer to our family and to God, we can still do that during the rest of the week, at least at specific moments. Even if we are too busy (travel for work for example), we can still keep the importance of family and God close to our hearts and realize they are the priority…they are why we are working in the first place, so we can devote our resources to them.

Elevate the physical: This is a rather contra-Christian perspective since the Church emphasizes the Spiritual and tends to minimize the physical. On the other hand, we live in a physical world and everything we need in a material sense, comes from the hand of God. We can choose to recognize the presence and provision of God in everything around us any day of the week.

shabbosShare with others: I suppose this should be a no-brainer and certainly not limited to a single day of the week.

Be in the moment: Pay attention to what’s really important in your environment on a moment-by-moment basis. This is pretty hard to do since, during work, you have responsibilities, some important, but others you just think are important. However, we can still take breaks in our routine to re-connect with the presence of God.

Gratitude: Again, this should be a no-brainer and it goes back to the realization that everything we have at any moment issues from the Almighty. How can we not be grateful daily?

Learning: While an observant Jew may have more time for Torah study during Shabbat, many Jews study on a daily basis, when they first get up, on their lunch hour, or in the evening. Since many Christians also understand the value of daily devotionals, this shouldn’t be difficult for religious non-Jews to grasp.

Unity: Of course Gutfreund means Jewish unity, which, as non-Jews, does not include us, but we can take these principles and apply them to a sense of unity we have with all disciples of Yeshua (Jesus). We can also recognize that we can stand in solidarity with Israel and the Jewish people, and particularly Messianic Jews, since we not only share these general principles with them, but also recognize the living revelation of our Rav and anticipate the return of Moshiach.

Some non-Jews in Messiah choose to observe or guard a Saturday Shabbat in one manner or another. While we, by definition, cannot actually fulfill the mitzvah of observing Shabbos the way a Jewish person can, it is still possible to perform many of the practices associated with Shabbat and allow a measure of rest and reconnection to penetrate our lives as well.

jewish prayer shabbosIf my wife observed Shabbat in a more traditional manner in our home, then I would as well, but as the Jewish member of our marriage, she would need to take the lead. I’m very pleased that on most Saturdays, she goes to shul, even though that’s not something she chooses to share with me. I’ve said before that one of the roles of non-Jews is to assist Jewish people in performing greater levels of observance. If my not sharing her worship with her frees her to have more affiliation with local Jewish community and to draw nearer to Hashem on Shabbos, then perhaps that’s a mitzvah that I, as a non-Jew, can uniquely fulfill.

Recently, the discussion on this blog post focused on methods of deriving mitzvot for non-Jews from the Apostolic Scriptures. I don’t know if we could find a commandment directing Gentiles to facilitate greater Torah observance in Jewish friends and family members, but I’m satisfied that I am performing a duty for my spouse in accordance with Hashem’s wishes for Jews to worship on Shabbos.


One thought on “What Can Non-Jews Learn From Jewish Shabbos Observance?”

  1. Good point, James. It’s thoughtful of you to ascertain what seems to be most conducive to your wife’s well being in this area. But we probably can’t find a commandment or instruction or even a suggestion in Apostolic writings for what you are doing. Nevertheless, while I back away from using “mitzvah” to label what gentiles rightly do, I feel it has an element of proper application in this matter. I like how you end saying you are confident or satisfied in this duty.

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