The Jewish Roots of Christian Sabbath

Where I come from, Shabbat begins at dusk on Friday nights, and ends when the first three stars become visible on Saturday evening. The twenty-five or so hours from Friday evening through Saturday evening are meant to be a time of restorative rest and reconnection with God, family and faith community, I grew up in a fairly secular Jewish home in a predominately Jewish neighborhood, and understood that the Sabbath was a core part of our Jewish identity, even if few in our neighborhood observed it with any consistency.

On Friday nights, just before my family sat down to dinner, my mom would kindle the two candles that welcomed the Sabbath into our home, and my sister, my mom and I would pray the traditional Hebrew blessing over the flickering lights. After those moments of ritual, we’d eat, then go back to our regularly-scheduled program of watching TV, doing homework or finishing our household chores. The Fourth Commandment told us we were to remember the Sabbath day and seek to hallow it. We did remember (most weeks, anyway), but weren’t too committed to trying to figure out what keeping the day holy might have meant for us. I believed Shabbat was a gift that belonged to hard-core Jews, not people like us.

When my family moved from the predominately Jewish enclave to a majority-Gentile community before I entered 8th grade, I discovered that Christians called Sunday the Sabbath, which was extremely confusing to me. How could there be two Sabbaths in a single week? [Read more]

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