A Circle of Sisters and Brothers of Spirit and Scholarship
A Reprint from the Facebook Notes of Rav Judah Moshe
DO JEWS STILL KEEP THE SHABBATH?
December 18, 2010 at 6:02pm
This note was made as a result of an implied accusation made by a christian fundamentalist (aka Rav's description of Messianic Hebrew Israelite I think) about the Jewish Shabbath observancy. And I quote,“BTW why do keep Shabbath on Saturns day instead of the Shabbath that follows from the Luni-Solar Calendation as per the Torah?????”, this same individual goes on further to say, “you need to study about Shabbath. Saturday (Saturns day) is not Shabbath”; insinuating that Jews have been maliciously changing the Torah, which includes no longer observing the Shabbath. Any learned person, Jew or christian, would agree that these are wicked, ignorant and slanderous insinuations and accusations. So I’ve decided to write my two cents on this subject, with the intentions of giving the account in it’s true historic and Torah context, in hopes to correct any erroneous notion that Jews no longer keep the Shabbath.
It was also said by this same individual in a thread, “--------, You're wrong about the Shabbath.........need to enquire more! Small hint, Shabbath was changed by Hillel II.
The above statement is deceptive, in truth, the Shabbath was not changed, but method of which it was used to for its calculation changed. It was a forced and circumstantial decision made together by Hillel II and the Sanhedrin. During that time, no single Jewish giant no matter how great powerful, can make humongous Halakhic decisions under those circumstances on their own, the Torah forbids this!
The Great Sanhedrin was the supreme court of ancient Yisrael made of 71 Torah observant, G-d fearing Torah scholars. The Great Sanhedrin was made up of a Chief/Prince/Leader called Nasi (at some times this position may have been held by the Kohen Gadol or the High Priest), a vice chief justice (Av Beit Din), and sixty-nine general members. This assembly was instituted by G-d when He commanded Moshe to "Assemble for seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom you know to be the people's elders and officers, and you shall take them to the Tent of Meeting, and they shall stand there with you." (Numbers 11:16). Hillel II was the ‘Nasi’ during this time.
In the 4th century CE, Jews were under intense persecution and oppression by the Romans. Among other things, the extinction of Jewish culture and Torah practice was threatened at every hand, which included the Romans who forbade the use of the Lunar calendar used by Jews at that particular time. Jews everywhere and in the diaspora depended on them (the Sanhedrin) for the announcement of holidays and new months, etc. Let’s keep in mind that Christians were enjoying a serene docile lifestyle during those times.
Hillel II, knew that the dismantling of the Sanhedrin was eminent and the same would be with Jewish Torah observancy if he didn’t act quickly. So he acted with wisdom and with the fear of G-d to preserve the Jewish holy days and the Shabbath. By what authority you may ask? G-d’s authority! That’s right, this is what the Torah says regarding the Sanhedrin’s decisions, “You shall do according to the word that they [Sanhedrin/beth din] will tell you...and you shall be careful to do according to everything they will teach you. According to the teaching that they [Sanhedrin/beth din] will teach you and according to the judgment that they will say to you, shall you do, you shall NOT deviate from the word that they will tell you, right or left. And the man that will act with willfulness, not listening...to the judge, that man shall die, and you shall destroy the evil from among Israel.” (Deut.17:9-12).
But wait, there’s more! Even Yeshu the christian’s messiah/god, agreed to the rulings and the authority of the Sanhedrin saying, “The scribes and Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat; therefore DO ALL THAT THEY TELL YOU to do and observe.” (Matt. 23:2-3).
However, if one would insist this as a ‘change’, consider this, it would not be the first time that there was a necessary adaptation on how the Torah was observed. One would be a fool to argue that Jews of the first temple period observed Torah exactly the same way as the Jews during the Mishkan period in Moshe Rabbenu’s time, and the same is true about the first temple period vs the second temple period. Due to ever changing circumstances (advent of new technology, rulerships, and oppressors), Jews have always had to adapt to adverse conditions to keep the miswoth of Torah after the destruction of the second temple. Our prophets and sages have taught that there would be a third and final Beth HaMikdash (Temple) in the days of Moshiah ben Dawid, and Torah will still be observed but a little differently than all prior generations.
This reluctant but necessary decision was not ‘in the closet’ but a forced, necessary and PUBLICALY known adaptation. The Torah teaches, “…G-d said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years.” The Sanhedrin kept true to this decree, “This is the permanent calendar according to which the New Moons and Festivals are calculated and celebrated today by the Jews all over the world. Like the former system of observation, it is based on the Luni-Solar principle.” (Arthur Spier, The Comprehensive Hebrew Calendar). Notice, It said Luni-Solar, NOT Solar. Hmmmmmmm.
Today, secular aka christian calendars are SOLAR (Sun) calendars. The Months are named after emperors and rulers and the days of the christian calendar are all named after pagan gods as decreed by a Christian emperor named Flavius Valerius Aurelius Constantinus aka Saint Constantine; go figure! SMH
Hillel II took an extraordinary step to preserve the unity of Yisrael, having made public the system of calendar calculation, which up to then had been a closely guarded secret. It had been used in the past only to check the observations and testimonies of witnesses, and to determine the beginnings of Spring and other seasons.
Differing from the christian calendar, the Jewish calendar is both Lunar & Solar, and continues to name each day of the week according to the Torah (First day, Second day through the Shabbath), having the Hebrew months, as it was calculated so that the festivals would fall on its appropriate times. Therefore, the Shabbath is STILL observed with regards to the ‘new’ calculation of months and in accords with the Laws given by G-d.
HaShem in His great and indescribable wisdom gave the Sanhedrin the authority to make a drastic decision; and with that decision spared Yisrael from an attempt of systemized spiritual destruction against Jews everywhere, and Jews from that point on, were equipped with a ‘new tool’ to fulfill their obligation of fulfilling miswoth of keeping the Shabbath. After nearly two thousand yrs since the dismantling of our great Sanhedrin, Jews everywhere are continuing to observe the Holy Days and the Shabbath; keeping with the eternal covenant made between G-d and Jews.
Lastly, it is biblically and rabbinically taught that by the time moshiah comes, the Sanhedrin will have been already be reinstated, and there will be more adaptations/reenactments of how one should observe Torah miswoth so that we may continue to serve HaShem. So the next time you wish someone a Shabbath Shalom, say it, receive it, observe it and guard it, with confidence, great appreciation and admiration.
-Yehudah BenLewi -