Today, we’re bringing you the next installment in our Israel 2020 series, written by Church President Joel Gehly.
A very special experience was offered to us when we were in Israel. After a very wet and chilly (but exhilarating) day of visiting sites in the city of Jerusalem, we boarded the tour bus around 6 p.m. for a short drive to a Jewish home. It was Friday evening, and as we drove the streets of Jerusalem, we observed that the normal activity level of the city was greatly diminished. Friday evening at sundown was the start of the Jewish Sabbath. As we entered the beautiful home, happy exuberant cries of “Shabbat Shalom” echoed over and over.
“Shabbat Shalom” is the special greeting between people, even strangers, said on Shabbat. The greeting means that one should have a Shabbat of peace.
To describe our evening, I suggest you first take a look at the short video at the bottom of this article. This will give you a sense of the home, the people, the table, the host, and the joy we experienced as we fellowshipped together with our Jewish hosts.
The dinner and fellowship during the evening was very special and something that I believe I will not soon forget. There were 37 people surrounding a mammoth-long series of tables that spanned two rooms. The food was unique and delicious. My one complaint — which I will only share with the few hundred of you reading this blog — is that they did not prepare us for the enormous variety of delicious dishes. I got full way too fast; but of course, to be polite, I still had to try everything.
The evening was not just the food however. We listened to prayers being sung. We participated in games. We were taught a little bit about the Jewish Shabbat. We conversed with young Jewish men and learned about their lives in Israel. We sang songs. We felt the love and the closeness of becoming like true family friends within a few short hours.
Sabbath for the Jewish people, we learned, is a special day. It truly is a day of rest. It is a day of worship, a day of family, and a day of no work. All meals are prepared before the sun goes down on Friday evening. Telephones are turned off. The people are not even allowed to write. Maybe it sounds strange (even quite boring) to you. However, we learned most of them truly love the Shabbat. Life activities, which are as fast paced and hectic in Israel as in the U.S., change for 24 hours every week. The people go to the synagogue; they spend wonderful time with family and close friends; they talk, play games (not electronic ones), and read; they rest.
“Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work:
But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.” (Exodus 20: 8-11)
I am not advocating changing our Sabbath day to Saturday or starting our Sabbath day at sundown. I don’t wish to mandate any laws regarding the Sabbath day. I do ask that we all consider the fact that the commandment of God written above has not changed or lost any importance in the mind of God since the day it was given to mankind. Let us all reconsider what it means to remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.
This article has undergone ministry review and approval.