Celebrating the Shabbat (Sabbath)
by Cossie Rosario
After Passover 1998, my Indian Jewish friend Jeremiah (now in Israel) summed up Shabbat for me: “Whatsoever is not of rest,” he said, “is not of the Shabbat.”
I carried that principle home to my wife, and she decided to observe the following Shabbat as a day of rest for body, mind and emotions.
We knew nothing about how Jews celebrate Shabbat. But we knew that on Shabbat we must avoid anything that is not “of rest.”
From Jeremiah we also picked up some more useful points: That Shabbat is a day to remember creation, and freedom … a day to be enjoyed … a family day … a day to read the Scriptures … a day to thank Adonai for all His benefits during the week … to trust Him for any and all current problems and to not strive to solve them with our own thinking or doing.
Our Skimpy Shabbats
Our practice of Shabbat in those days was “skimpy.” My wife and daughter would light a candle each, and my son and I would join them in remembering how Adonai created the world, and how He freed His people from slavery to Pharaoh, to sin and to satan. We’d ask Adonai’s blessing on our Shabbat, and ask Him to help us enter His Shabbat rest. Then we’d spend some time (not too long) worshiping Adonai in song, and praising Him in spontaneous prayer. When we felt complete, we’d just stop and wish each other “Shabbat Shalom!”
After that, we’d bring out special Shabbat snacks and enjoy them as a Shabbat treat.
Then the family would play scrabble, or chess, or read a testimony or the Scriptures devotionally.
Sometimes, we might dine at home, with a little wine and sweet buns which we called “challah.” Or sometimes, we’d eat out at a restaurant. Different things on different Shabbats. Everything spontaneous. Nothing routine. And nothing that was not completely restful … and enjoyable. We marked the end of Shabbat with our own version of “havdalla” (the ceremony that separates the Shabbat from the work-week), excitedly wishing each other “Shavua Tov” (Happy Week!)
Another thing we soon picked up was that we must “make Shabbat.” It would not be an automatic experience.
Shabbat a delight
Each week we enjoyed Shabbat more and more, and we had this wonderful feeling that God was enjoying Shabbat with us.
We also noticed that the Shabbat became the center of our week, instead of the end of it! The three days before the Shabbat were spent in anticipation and preparation. The morning before the Shabbat became a time of excitement. By afternoon everyone was racing to finish all work before sundown. Then came Shabbat, the Queen of Days, the center of our experience of the week. The next three days would carry the afterglow of the last Shabbat.
So the whole week glowed: the glow of anticipation, the glow of remembrance, and between these the glow of the Shabbat.
We never tired of Shabbat. And now, after so many years, and after learning it and trying to teach it (without much success) to Christians, we’re still never tired of “making Shabbat.”
Shabbat on the wrong day
That said, actually, we observed and still observe Shabbat on the wrong day! We find it hard to stop work on Friday evening. That’s because in India, our children have school (or college) on Saturday mornings. And in those days my son was in college, my daughter in school. And many businesses work on Saturdays, for at least half the day. So we looked to Adonai and did the next best thing: we “make Shabbat” from Saturday before sunset, to as late as possible on Sunday night, thus extending our Shabbats well beyond 24 hours. We know it’s the wrong day, and we’re asking Adonai to help us shift to the right day.
Yet God conspired to encourage us
Despite making Shabbat on the wrong day, we have many wonderful stories of how God involved Himself in our Shabbats! I have space here for only one!
One weekend, I was physically and mentally low. There were strange symptoms, including dizziness and weakness, and at 61 I felt that my life was ebbing. My finances were low and there was not enough money in the bank to pay the electricity bill. If I didn’t pay by Monday, the utility would cut off our electricity.
That Saturday evening, the doorbell rang. Through the peephole, I saw a policeman standing with a box in his hands. I was shocked, not expecting a visit from the long arm of the law! There was nothing to do but open the door. The policeman strode up to our dining table, and set the box down. It was a cake box! Then he pulled out an envelope.
I opened the envelope first. Shock and awe! It was stuffed with currency notes, twice or thrice what we needed! Then I opened the cake box. The beautiful chocolate cake had the words lettered on it: “Cheer up, Cossy! Never give up!” I asked him what it was about. He said that his boss had told him to carry these gifts to me. In India, a policeman give money? to a stranger? Impossible! And a cake as well?
Next morning, Sunday, I received a call from an Indian friend in Paris. She said that the Lord had told her to send me a cake and money. So she trunk-called her brother (a police officer), and asked him to organize for the cake and cash to be sent to me. She asked whether I had received the gifts which she’d sent … from Adonai!
You can imagine our feelings that Shabbat. Adonai could get someone in France, to minister to a family in India, without the one in France knowing our need. He was letting us know that we could really enjoy our Shabbat rests, that He would not let us down, that His eyes were always upon us. And on that Shabbat, I was also healed of my symptoms!
One story among many. Is it any wonder how much our family is so enthusiastic about sharing Shabbat with the Jews who observe it as well?