Sunday, August 9, 2009

the guest- part one

Your special guest arrives right on time as usual. Your day has been spent preparing for her arrival, and you have looked forward to the time when she would appear. You prepared dinner, tidied up the house, and tried your best to get everything done in time, but just like last week, you're not quite sure if you completed all you intended to. But thankfully, this is a gracious and pleasant guest: she probably won't even notice the stray clothes or the clutter or the few items "out of place" in your home as she greets you. Your home is filled with joy and gladness, fellowship and meaningful conversation. Perhaps you all retire early so that you can continue the pleasure in the morning after you've rested, or perhaps you all stay up late, unable to leave one another's presence. Either way, you're probably disappointed when after a day, she has to say her farewells... until next week. Of course, you send her off with another special celebration, sad to see her go, but hopeful you will soon see her again. Your schedule and your plans revolve around this special guest's weekly visits. The guest I speak of is, of course, the Shabbat...

Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath of the L-RD your G-d; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you. For in six days the L-RD made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the L-RD blessed the sabbath day and made it holy. -- Exodus 20:8-11

Nothing motivates me more to tidy up my house than company coming over. It's amazing how much I can get done in so little time when I know that someone is coming for a visit. A few weeks ago, as I was busy cleaning the house for an expected guest, I realized something. What if I could treat the Shabbat this way, as a special guest... a guest worthy of preferential treatment and honor...

In the siddur, Shabbat is referred to as the "Sabbath Bride" and there is a beautiful prayer, "Lecha Dodi" (Come, my Beloved) to welcome "her". It states, "Come my Beloved to greet the bride, the Sabbath presence, let us welcome! "Safeguard" and "Remember" in a single utterance the One and Only G-d made us hear. HaShem is One and His name is One, for renown, for splendor, and for praise. To welcome the Sabbath, come let us go, for it is a source of blessing; from the beginning, from antiquity she was honored, Last in deed, but first in thought." I am convinced that G-d holds Shabbat very near to His heart, and so should we. I have heard countless testimonies of individuals coming to the realization that they should be keeping the Sabbath as the first step in their journey to becoming messianic. As the siddur states, it is a source of blessing. Of all the commandments He had to pick from, G-d chose to list honoring the Sabbath in the Ten Words (Ten Commandments). That should tell us something!

The Shabbat is one way that the G-d of Israel chose to draw those from the nations to Himself as well. In Exodus 20, we read that Shabbat is for everyone, including the servants and foreigners. There is another beautiful passage in Isaiah 56 (verse 3-7): "Let not the foreigner who has joined himself to the L-RD say, "The L-RD will surely separate me from His people. Nor let the eunuch say, 'Behold, I am a dry tree.' For thus says the L-RD, 'To the eunuchs who keep My sabbaths, And choose what pleases Me, And hold fast My covenant; To them I will give in My house and within My walls a memorial, And a name better than that of sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name which will not be cut off. Also the foreigners who join themselves to the L-RD, To minister to Him, and to love the name of the L-RD, To be His servants, every one who keeps from profaning the sabbath And holds fast My covenant; Even those I will bring to My holy mountain And make them joyful in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be acceptable on My altar; For My house will be called a house of prayer for all the peoples.'" Sounds pretty clear, doesn't it? Keeping the Shabbat equals blessings and acceptance from G-d.

But how do we do it? I'll write more about this in a later post...

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