Shabbat Basics

There might be some of you coming to get a primer on how to practically observe Shabbat and when you find a philosophical conversation about the heart of it you are more than a little overwhelmed.

This is for you. 

Firstly.  What does the Word of God say about Shabbat and how does He wish for us to honor Him during this time?

He gave us an example in Genesis 2:1-3 where he “ceased from His labors and rested”.  It’s that simple.

But you have toddlers and critters who get hungry!  The dishes pile up and you want to pull your hair out because the mess causes such anxiety you can’t rest.

How then?

Exodus 20:6 has an outline.  “Six days shall you labor and do all your work.”

All of it?

Why not?

If you had a special day planned for your family and you knew, beyond all doubt, that you needed to get it done by a certain time so you could enjoy the day with them, wouldn’t you do all your work ahead of time? 

We must not only learn but commit to reorient our lives around the Biblical timeline and not be slaves to the calendar that is dictated by our urgency and our anxiety.

Shabbat starts at sundown on the sixth day so check your weather app to find out when that is.  Then plan your week and days accordingly. Sabbath is NOT a burden but rearranging your life to be different from what has been always your practice CAN be hard.

Don’t confuse the two truths. Sabbath is not hard. Turning the ship around is.

So, now you know when it starts.

Secondly.  You’ve organized yourself and you are as ready as you can be.  The sunsets and NOW WHAT?!?!

Many families will make a special dinner, light candles, bake a twisted/braided egg bread, drink wine or grape juice, and give thanks to YHVH as they pray over one another.  There are ancient Hebrew blessings that offer thanks to the Father for His guidance and provision of the light, the wine, and the bread. All of these actions set the day apart as they begin to celebrate. And it can be lovely. And it can be overwhelming. And it can easily become rote and religious.

What do you HAVE to do?

The command is that the Sabbath, the seventh day, is “a Sabbath unto the Lord” (Exdus 20:10). So it’s not just a day off from toil it is a day that belongs not solely to us but also to Him and He has a specific plan for it.

“You are to remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and Adonai your God brought you out from there with a strong hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore Adonai your God has ordered you to keep the day of Shabbat.” Deuteronomy 5:15

Remember your freedom from bondage and accept your privilege to set this day aside for God’s purposes.

A few ideas are as follows:

  • Make the time to study the Word together. 
    • Families and congregations all over the world study the Torah portions on this day.  This is a great resource to help you know what those Scriptures are.
  • Listen to worship music and read inspiring stories/books
  • Slow down and take time to fellowship and engage with one another
  • As YHVH did in the Garden, take the day to enjoy creation

What about all the things? The bread. The wine. The candles. The sayings in Hebrew. 

Are they necessary?

To me, they can be a beautiful and elegant tradition loosely based on some aspect of Temple worship but they are NOT required for the honest observation of Shabbat. That being said, they can be a wonderful way of setting the time apart within the context of the humdrum of the week.

Seated in my clean house around a beautiful table setting, a lovely home-cooked meal steaming, my sparkling glass, and a ruby wine refracting candlelight is a balm to my soul.  Beauty speaks to us and the effort to make our Shabbat time as special as we can is a way we can choose to honor the Father.

However, these things do not make it a more valuable and godly Sabbath than the ones where we crawl to the finish line, crash on the couch, and cry “UNCLE!” from the week that was. 

Our heart’s desire is to honor God and hold His timetable sacred.  Special.  An unmoving cornerstone in our life. 

What is prohibited? What CAN’T you do on Shabbat?  

That is not an easy question to answer in our current world and, as those who do not live in the Land of Israel, it seems there are varying conversations.

The teachings about how to be observant can be fairly lax in a modern reformed synagogue or more western church type environment. And that laxness can be a stark contrast with the extreme legality of orthodoxy that can be as rigid as portioning out your toilet paper ahead of time.

How do I prepare for Shabbat?

In a perfect week, I begin preparing myself for cleaning/food preparation/spiritual insights by Wednesday at the latest.  I do grocery shopping, prepare meals ahead of time, clean the house, and plan the menu for Friday evening.  In an imperfect week, some but not all of those things get done and I am deeply grateful for His grace that can carry me beyond my lack and weakness.

What doesn’t change is whether or not we stop our regular work when the sun goes down. We do. Unless a crisis presents itself.

The purpose of Shabbat is life and you can read about in this article, “Freedom to Rest – Permission to Live“.

On Shabbat, our personal observance is reflective of doing no “ordinary work”.  I don’t clean house, fold clothing, garden, or spend time on secular entertainments.  We will study the Torah portion, perhaps watch or listen to teaching when we aren’t meeting with our community, and rest.  Often lengthy conversations about all kinds of things will organically evolve over coffee because there is no other pressing matter to keep us preoccupied. 

Another aspect of our Sabbath-keeping is to refrain from commerce on Sabbath unless there is an urgent need.  This is, for us, a desire not only to prevent engaging in selfish pursuit but to also not ask someone else to work FOR me on the Sabbath. To not CREATE work for others during our day offered to the Lord.

We have grown, through the years, in our observance and understanding of the Father’s heart in the keeping of His special day.  Things that have become standard for us were once awkward and clunky, painful and overwhelming.  But Abba has been faithful to us.

He will guide you too as you seek to honor Him in His Shabbat.


Shabbat – Freedom to Rest, Permission to Live

Sabbath, Shabbat, is so much more than just a mandated period of time set aside for people to stress over things they can’t do while forcing themselves to sit still and “honor the Lord”. 

People who don’t have time to Sabbath often find themselves overworked, exhausted, anxious, and filled with resentment over all the things that demand their time.  That is who I was before I was given the opportunity to set aside the Sabbath as an immovable object in the way I live and function here on earth.

Free men get to self-determine. Slaves are bound to the will of their master.  Free men can take a day off.  Slaves never do. 

If you can’t take a day off?  You aren’t as free as you think you are.

The Seventh Day of Rest, Shabbat, is a reflection of the heart of YHVH.  In the beginning, He took a pause from His creative work to enjoy what His hands had created.  Specifically, He looked at mankind and was pleased with us.  We are very good to Him.

The longer I study Torah, seeking to examine Scripture with an open heart, the more I am reminded how relational our heavenly Father is. His purpose in creating and seating us in the midst of a beautiful, luscious garden was to provide us with the atmosphere to be enjoyed while we grow and enjoy His fellowship.  Adam and Eve, the first of humanity, were placed in perfection and their only requirements were to have dominion over His creation and walk with each other and with Him.

It was literally their occupation to manage His creation and to be available for communion with God.

We all know the story. They chose otherwise and that perfect world was plunged into chaos and anguish. The fall of man led to pain and death, separation and isolation, fear, and darkness. Cast from the garden into hard work, sacrifice, and, most profoundly, alienation from the Creator, it seemed as though all was lost.

But God… 

The most profound statement in all of human history.

God was not willing for us to remain in isolation and distress.  He immediately began implementing His plan for redemption. An eternally hopeful divine way of reconciling his now fallen creation with Himself in holiness and relationship. This plan had been in the works from the beginning.

The idea of Sabbath rest permeates Scripture. From the creation account to Hebrews we are consistently reminded that peace and rest are His design for us and striving and pain are aspects of the will of man in tangible practice.

Sabbath is where life begins. Quietly, peacefully, intentionally walking with Him in the moments He set aside.  Sabbath was made for us.

In Matthew 12 Yeshua is found walking through fields as His disciples, the cohanim, began eating of the grain because they were hungry.  Predictably, the leading religious leaders soundly rebuked Him and tried to find fault with Him. 

His reply?
“If you knew what ‘I want compassion rather than animal-sacrifice’ meant, you would not condemn the innocent.  For the Son of Man is Lord of the Shabbat!” (Matthew 12:7-8)

They were “harvesting” on the Sabbath!!!!  How could they be innocent? And what does compassion, animal sacrifice, picking a few grains on Saturday, and Yeshua have in common anyway?

Life.  

The cohanim were hungry so they ate. He had compassion on them to preserve their life.  He didn’t require more effort, more loss, more blood.  More works.  He chose to have compassion on them.

Who has the authority to define the Sabbath?

Only the One who set this day apart, the Creator of the Sabbath, Himself, can define this day and make declarations about it.

Of all the things we often try to make Sabbath mean when explaining ourselves to people who have no revelation of this truth, do we share the life our Messiah chose to focus on?  He chose Life.  Because it’s all about life.  It’s always been about life.

The animal sacrifice, the very first one, was at the time of Adam and Eve’s fall.  The animal’s blood, a foreshadowing of Messiah’s sacrifice and redeeming blood, covered their sin, the furs covered their shame, and, as they were cast out, their lives began to count down.

Only the Lord of the Sabbath could say otherwise. Only the One who would redeem them could possibly intervene and transform their bleak new normal into a glimpse of the Garden.

As centuries progressed and the observance of Torah went from story to myth to legend in the minds and hearts of men the importance placed on rote symbology took the place of the original relationship.  Mankind chose to forget the time when a grieving Father covered His children both figuratively and literally, and began the work of tirelessly pursuing them to restore relationship with Him and the hope of life everlasting. 

Yeshua staked His claim on Shabbat.  It wasn’t the 3rd day or the 6th day or the 2nd.  It was the 7th day and it mattered to Him.  It mattered enough for him to take that moment of admonition and move from the field to the synagogue where they sat in pious observance.  In His authority He healed the man with the shriveled hand and once more affirmed the importance God places on human life. 

“Looking for a reason to accuse him of something, they asked him, “Is healing permitted on Shabbat?” But he answered, “If you have a sheep that falls in a pit on Shabbat, which of you won’t take hold of it and lift it out? How much more valuable is a man than a sheep! Therefore, what is permitted on Shabbat is to do good.”  (Matthew 12: 10b-12)

This day matters to Him and, its original intent, to reflect upon His creation and enjoy His company, to bring life, had been perverted into a wall of text and more rules than one would think possible for a single 24 hour period.  This was the heavy sacrifice that brought death to relationship and judgment instead of compassion.  

The elevation of man’s ideals over the significance of humanity’s relationship with their Faithful Creator desecrated the covenant He was devoted to restoring. 

This hopeless idealism manifests in our brokenness, our spiral toward death. We have spent millennia wandering away from the Garden of His care and His fellowship.

Hosea 6:6 is a difficult passage. The Lord clearly and precisely reveals the waywardness and rebellion of His people.  They had broken the covenant. Murder, greed, faithlessness, immorality… Struck down, cut to pieces by the Lord, they were a grotesque shadow of their promised identity if they had only obeyed. Their sins led them to atrocities but His heart remained the same and He was faithful enough to keep them from continuing beyond their ability to return.

He wants relationship through the intangibles of mercy, compassion, love and the touch-stones of conscious obedience as we commit ourselves to the knowledge of YHVH through his Torah and the rest of Scripture. 

Both of those elements, Spirit and Truth, come from an intentional pursuit of being restored to relationship with the Creator.  All that is necessary for abundant life.

And since the whole point of our faith is to LIVE, then it seems a simple transition that truly living starts with making time for Him and meeting Him when He is ready to be found.

“Seek Adonai while he is available,
call on him while he is still nearby.”

Isaiah 55:6

He is found by those who seek Him. He is found within His appointed times.  Sabbath, the New Moon, His Feasts. 

“For in six days, Adonai made heaven and earth, the sea and everything in them; but on the seventh day he rested. This is why Adonai blessed the day, Shabbat, and separated it for himself.” Exodus 20:8

We don’t make it holy. To think that we, as we are, can be invited to participate with Him is amazing.  We don’t deserve it.  But we desperately need it.

We have been invited to enter into a holy space in time to be renewed and refreshed. To find life again in a culture, a sinful world, steeped in death. Our Creator knows we need rest and communion and, for those who walk in it, the benefits cannot be overstated. 

We don’t reconcile ourselves to God, we couldn’t possibly.  He took that on and redeems us through His blood. This is unchangeable truth.  Yet we tend to lose direction, wander, find other things that fill our minds and lives. The observance and keeping of a weekly, physical, practical Shabbat reorients our lives to a posture that keeps our focus on Him, the bringer of life, and the One who has never given up on our redemption. 

He is our Salvation. Our Shalom. Our Rest. Our Hope.

Our Sabbath peace.

Shabbat Shalom.

It’s Time To Come Together Again

Shalom Bastrop Torah Community, 

Heidi and I pray every one of you is blessed and prospering in YHWH as the world around us is trying to find a new “normal” post lockdown.

I am reminded we have a sure foundation. YHWH is an unfailing anchor to keep us from succumbing to the plans of the evil one as we are witnessing the foreshadow of the “hour of testing” that is coming on the whole world.

Recently, at a critical point for me, I became aware we are experiencing a largely engineered event created to elicit fear and confusion. A measure of darkness has descended on humanity and especially onto our nation. This time has been foretold in Scripture and has been long-planned for by the enemy. Worldwide power is being consolidated while a stage is being set for the 10 ruler confederacy which will rise and then bow to the Torah-less One (more commonly known as the Antichrist or False Messiah). All humanity will be expected to follow their lead as they help usher in the final system of the beast. I don’t know if this will take months or years from here but it will happen and, barring a great awakening, life as we have previously known before the lockdown, will not return any more than we had a return to life as it was before 9/11 once Homeland Security measures were put in place.

We might be tempted to feel burdened with this knowledge and yet in this situation, we have an opportunity to wrestle with our Creator as Jacob did. He desires to remake us into the image of Yeshua like Jacob became Israel. However, as the patriarch did, are we willing to say (and do) like he said: “I won’t let you go until you bless me.”

Have you grown weary in well-doing? Have we been willing to sacrifice obedience to Yah’s Word to not forsake the gathering of the saints for perceived safety & security? I think y’all know what Yeshua has to say about that subject.

I can’t and shouldn’t tell you how to live your life or tell you how to respond to a government-mandated cease and desist order. However, I do know none of us are immune to the wiles of Ha-Satan. Sh’aul stated (Heb 10:25), we should be: “encouraging one another – all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Our Heavenly Abba has created us to need each other. Trying to do this on our own is a life of defeat and retreat. 

With that in mind, we are opening our house this Shabbat (5/23) at 1 PM for fellowship, praise, and Torah study. This week’s portion is about the census of the tribes. Will we be counted among His people?  Will we be physically present when His Ruach wants to move among us.

I cannot convey strongly enough how much we all need to fellowship in physical proximity with other believers whether with us here or somewhere else. Please get engaged where He leads you. But by all means, get engaged and don’t back down because your spiritual life depends on it.

Bamidbar – “In The Desert”

NUMBERS 1:1-4:20|

PROPHETS : HOSEA 2:1-22|

GOSPEL : MATTHEW 4:1-1

Please come with your Bible and, if you are able to stay and break bread with us, it would be great to share a meal. We will have the grill up and running. Bring your meat or main dish and a side to share. Please reach out to Heidi if you have other questions about what to bring.

Also, a friendly reminder to invite you to put it on your calendars to join us for the Sabbath of Shavuot on Sunday, May 31 – Feast of Weeks for fellowship and worship. We count from the morrow (Sunday) of the Shabbat following Pesach and end the counting on the 50th day on a Sunday. If that is not the calendar you keep you are still welcome to be part of a gathering.

We will keep in touch about plans for a holy convocation as we are instructed to gather on that day.

Parashah Nitzavim – Standing 09.28.19

TORAH: DEUTERONOMY 29:9-30:20 HAFTARAH: ISAIAH 61:10-63:9 B’rit Hadashah: JOHN 12:41-50


Commentary and insight from First Fruits of Zion:

The name of the fifty-first reading from the Torah is Nitzavim (נצבים), which means “standing.” The name is derived from the first verse of the portion in which Moses says, “You stand (nitzavim) today, all of you, before the LORD your God” (Deuteronomy 29:10). In this portion, Moses invites the entire assembly of Israel to take on the covenant. He warns them that if they sin, they will go into exile, but he also predicts that, in the future, they will repent and God will return them to the land of Israel. In some years, Nitzavim is read together with the subsequent Torah portion, Vayelech, on the same Sabbath.


Portion Outline

  • TORAH
    • Deuteronomy 29:9 | The Terms of the Covenant
    • Deuteronomy 30:1 | Repentance and Forgiveness
    • Deuteronomy 30:11 | The Choice of Life and Death
  • PROPHETS
    • Isaiah 61:10 | God’s Favor
    • Isaiah 62:1 | Zion’s Coming Salvation
    • Isaiah 63:1 | The LORD’s Day of Vengeance
    • Isaiah 63:7 | The LORD’s Mercy Remembered

Dear Community,

We have been issued an extraordinary invitation to experience covenant community with the Most Holy God. This isn’t just a one time offer but one that is graciously repeated throughout our lifetime. That invitation to pursue a deeper relationship, to press further in, a growing understanding continuously adding weight and value. But that invitation does not come without cost or requirement. The King of Kings wants us to obey Him, to serve Him, to submit our hearts and our physical lives to His commands. He knows our limits and our weaknesses and has provided us a means to return, to Teshuvah, to Him through repentance. We have the extravagant gift of free will.
Let us choose this day whom we will serve.
Shalom, Heidi

9.28 and 9.29 Shabbat & Yom Teruah Gathering Info

Join us at the Colorado River Refuge at 280 Riverside Dr, Bastrop, TX 78602, in the Cottonwood Parking lot (the last parking area) at 3pm on Saturday, the 28th, for a time of teshuvah, tashlich, and the opportunity to mikveh.

For more clarity on what teshuvah, tashlich, and mikveh are read “The Beauty of Searching”.

After our time there, we will be heading over to the Bensarghin’s home (Sherry & Amir) for a BBQ and maybe some swimming in their pool. They will provide burgers and beef hotdogs, bring a dish or dessert to share. If you want to grill something else, that works too. Looking forward to being with you and preparing our hearts for Yom Teruah, the Feast of Trumpets, Sunday afternoon and evening.

Yom Teruah – 9.29.19

Come to the Stone’s at 4pm for food, fellowship, worship, and blowing of the shofar!!

Bring your shofar and a side dish or dessert to share. We are anticipating a joyous celebration as we begin the Fall Festivals of YHWH and bring in the new year at sundown.

Parashah Ki Tetze – When You Go Forth 09.14.19

Torah: Deuteronomy 21:10-25:19 Haftarah (Prophets): Isaiah 54:1-10 B’rit Hadashah (Gospel): Matthew 24: 29-42

The ways of the Lord are different than the ways of the world and His command to treat our fellow human beings with compassion and dignity extends to even the most personal decisions of intimacy and romance. We have no excuse, whether in the heat of battle or in the heat of family negotiations, to treat one another any differently than His clearly defined terms of respect, honor, and grace demonstrated in this Torah portion.

If you ever wanted to see an expression of God’s heart for the vanquished, the unloved wife, the foreigner, the child, the wicked, and even the care of one’s oxen, this text includes 74 of the 613 mitzvot in one place helping us to see many specific and deliberate ways our faithful Heavenly Father wishes for us to care for one another and those in our care.

The text concludes with the admonition to not forget what Amalek did to them on the road as they were coming out of Egypt.

But what did he do?

Deuteronomy 25:17-19 “Remember what Amalek did to you on the road as you were coming out of Egypt, how he met you by the road, attacked those in the rear, those who were exhausted and straggling behind when you were tired and weary. He did not fear God. ” (CJB)

It was a heinous thing in the eyes of YHWH for the weak and powerless to be attacked and plundered. He is a defender of the weak and the refuge for those who need help. Psalm 41:1-2 Blessed is he who has regard for the weak; the LORD delivers him in times of trouble.  2 The LORD will protect him and preserve his life; he will bless him in the land and not surrender him to the desire of his foes. 

It is a violation of His nature for injustice and oppression to be found among His people. When we go forth we are not to be like the other nations. We know better and we have the empowerment of the Ruach HaKodesh to teach us and equip us.

But the conclusion of Amalek’s listed grievances was the most tragic. He did not fear God. There could not be wisdom found in him and he became anathema to God’s people. Israel was told to. “…blot out all memory of Amalek from under heaven.” (Deuteronomy 25:19) There would be no lasting legacy for this pagan king.

Let’s go forth with the fear of the Lord and, with His banner of love and compassion, of wisdom and kindness, build community that reflects His nature. No shrinking back from battle but stay far from willful destruction, selfish use, and oppression so that our memory can be a blessing and our lives can bring abundant life to a world desperately in need of a Savior.

Parashah Ekev – Consequence 08.24.19

TORAH: Deuteronomy 7:12-11:25 HAFTARAH: Isaiah 49:14–51:3 B’rit Hadashah: Matthew 16:13-20

As we near the end of this year and look expectantly toward the Fall Festivals, their meaning in our lives, their prophetic importance, and the steadfastness of Abba’s perfect and excellent plan for His creation, Ekev has great meaning. We walk daily with the consequence of our choices and it is the heart of our Beloved that we would walk in the blessing and joy that is a natural consequence of following His truth and His commands.

“The forty-sixth reading from the Torah and the third reading from the book of Deuteronomy is named Ekev(עקב), a word from the first verse of the portion. Deuteronomy 7:12 says, “Then it shall come about, because (ekev, עקב) you listen to these judgments and keep and do them, that the LORD your God will keep with you His covenant and His lovingkindness which He swore to your forefathers.” Usually, the word ekev means “heel.” In fact, this word shares the same three-letter root as the name Jacob (Yaakov, יעקב), whose name actually means “heel.” He was born holding on to Esau’s heel. However, in Deuteronomy 7:12, the word ekev means “on the heels of” or “because of.” This portion of Deuteronomy speaks of the rewards that will come to Israel on the heels of keeping God’s covenant and commandments.” (quote from First Fruits of Zion)

  • TORAH
    • Deuteronomy 7:12 | Blessings for Obedience
    • Deuteronomy 8:1 | A Warning Not to Forget God in Prosperity
    • Deuteronomy 9:1 | The Consequences of Rebelling against God
    • Deuteronomy 10:1 | The Second Pair of Tablets
    • Deuteronomy 10:12 | The Essence of the Law
    • Deuteronomy 11:1 | Rewards for Obedience
  • PROPHETS
    • Isaiah 49:8 | Zion’s Children to Be Brought Home
    • Isaiah 50:4 | The Servant’s Humiliation and Vindication
    • Isaiah 51:1 | Blessings in Store for God’s People

Additional Study resources can be found on Torah Class by Tom Bradford. Lessons 10-13 are relevant to our Torah portion.

Parashah Devarim – Word 08.10.19

This week’s portions are: Deuteronomy 1:1-3:1, Isaiah 1:1-21, Matthew 24:1-22

https://torahportions.ffoz.org/torah-portions/allportions/devarim/

Additional study on this week’s Parashah can be found by listening to Tom Bradford at Torah Class: Lessons 1-4 will cover our text (Deut 1:1-3:1)

A resource my sons have particularly enjoyed was the Bible Project. This ministry based out of Portland, Oregon has used graphic novel type visuals and Youtube videos to explain historical and biblical concepts. This video is only about 8 minutes long but provides a fantastic overview of the book of Isaiah and can help us to gain perspective into our Haftarah portion, Isaiah 1:1-21, leading us into Isaiah’s vision, the wickedness of Judah, and the degenerate city.

Finally, our gospel portion, Matthew 24:1-22 is the text where Yeshua discusses the destruction of the temple and the Abomination of Desolation. This is a very appropriate text as we are ushering in T’isha B’Av, the 9th of Av.

Notable events of this historic date include:

1. The Spies Returned With a Bad Report

2. Both Holy Temples Was Destroyed

3. The Battle at Betar Was Lost – the end of the Bar Kochba revolt and massacre of Jews by the Romans.

the end of the Bar Kochba revolt and massacre of Jews by the Romans.

4. The Romans Plowed the 2nd Temple – Beit HaMikdash

5. The Jews Were Expelled From England

6. The Jews Were Banished From Spain

7. Both World Wars Began