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Sukkat Shalom B'nei Noach




A Covenant Between G-d and the Jewish People

Shabbat is first mentioned in Genesis 2:2-3:

And G-d completed on the seventh day His work that He did, and He abstained on the seventh day from all His work that He did.
 בוַיְכַ֤ל אֱלֹקים֙ בַּיּ֣וֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִ֔י מְלַאכְתּ֖וֹ אֲשֶׁ֣ר עָשָׂ֑ה וַיִּשְׁבֹּת֙ בַּיּ֣וֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִ֔י מִכָּל־מְלַאכְתּ֖וֹ אֲשֶׁ֥ר עָשָֽׂה:
3And G-d blessed the seventh day and He hallowed it, for thereon He abstained from all His work that G-d created to do. גוַיְבָ֤רֶךְ אֱלֹקים֙ אֶת־י֣וֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִ֔י וַיְקַדֵּ֖שׁ אֹת֑וֹ כִּ֣י ב֤וֹ שָׁבַת֙ מִכָּל־מְלַאכְתּ֔וֹ אֲשֶׁר־בָּרָ֥א אֱלֹקים לַֽעֲשֽׂוֹת:

This verse shows that the divine rest of Shabbat belonged to God Himself; there is no mention that Adam (or humanity) must observe this day in any way. Therefore, we do not find examples in the Tanakh of people observing Shabbat until Exodus 16:23, which states:

So he said to them, That is what the L-rd spoke, Tomorrow is a rest day, a holy Sabbath to the L-rd. Bake whatever you wish to bake, and cook whatever you wish to cook, and all the rest leave over to keep until morning.
 כגוַיֹּ֣אמֶר אֲלֵקם ה֚וּא אֲשֶׁ֣ר דִּבֶּ֣ר יְהֹוָ֔ה שַׁבָּת֧וֹן שַׁבַּת־קֹ֛דֶשׁ לַֽי”הֹוָ֖ה מָחָ֑ר אֵ֣ת אֲשֶׁר־תֹּאפ֞וּ אֵפ֗וּ וְאֵ֤ת אֲשֶׁר־תְּבַשְּׁלוּ֙ בַּשֵּׁ֔לוּ וְאֵת֙ כָּל־הָ֣עֹדֵ֔ף הַנִּ֧יחוּ לָכֶ֛ם לְמִשְׁמֶ֖רֶת עַד־הַבֹּֽקֶר:

This is the first ‘work prohibition’, so to speak, and it teaches the people of Israel that they do not have to expect manna on Shabbat because they are not allowed to prepare food on that day. This serves as preparation for what we read in Exodus 31:12-17:

The L-rd spoke to Moses, saying:
 יבוַיֹּ֥אמֶר יְ”הֹוָ֖ה אֶל־משֶׁ֥ה לֵּאמֹֽר:
13“And you, speak to the children of Israel and say: ‘Only keep My Sabbaths! For it is a sign between Me and you for your generations, to know that I, the L-rd, make you holy. יגוְאַתָּ֞ה דַּבֵּ֨ר אֶל־בְּנֵ֤י יִשְׂרָאֵל֙ לֵאמֹ֔ר אַ֥ךְ אֶת־שַׁבְּתֹתַ֖י תִּשְׁמֹ֑רוּ כִּי֩ א֨וֹת הִ֜וא בֵּינִ֤י וּבֵֽינֵיכֶם֙ לְדֹרֹ֣תֵיכֶ֔ם לָדַ֕עַת כִּ֛י אֲנִ֥י יְהֹוָ֖ה מְקַדִּשְׁכֶֽם:
14Therefore, keep the Sabbath, for it is a sacred thing for you. Those who desecrate it shall be put to death, for whoever performs work on it, that soul will be cut off from the midst of its people. ידוּשְׁמַרְתֶּם֙ אֶת־הַשַּׁבָּ֔ת כִּ֛י קֹ֥דֶשׁ הִ֖וא לָכֶ֑ם מְחַֽלֲלֶ֨יהָ֙ מ֣וֹת יוּמָ֔ת כִּ֗י כָּל־הָֽעֹשֶׂ֥ה בָהּ֙ מְלָאכָ֔ה וְנִכְרְתָ֛ה הַנֶּ֥פֶשׁ הַהִ֖וא מִקֶּ֥רֶב עַמֶּֽיהָ:
15Six days work may be done, but on the seventh day is a Sabbath of complete rest, holy to the L-rd; whoever performs work on the Sabbath day shall be put to death.’ טושֵׁ֣שֶׁת יָמִים֘ יֵֽעָשֶׂ֣ה מְלָאכָה֒ וּבַיּ֣וֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִ֗י שַׁבַּ֧ת שַׁבָּת֛וֹן קֹ֖דֶשׁ לַֽי”הֹוָ֑ה כָּל־הָֽעֹשֶׂ֧ה מְלָאכָ֛ה בְּי֥וֹם הַשַּׁבָּ֖ת מ֥וֹת יוּמָֽת:
16Thus shall the children of Israel observe the Sabbath, to make the Sabbath throughout their generations as an everlasting covenant. טזוְשָֽׁמְר֥וּ בְנֵֽי־יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל אֶת־הַשַּׁבָּ֑ת לַֽעֲשׂ֧וֹת אֶת־הַשַּׁבָּ֛ת לְדֹֽרֹתָ֖ם בְּרִ֥ית עוֹלָֽם:
17Between Me and the children of Israel, it is forever a sign that [in] six days The L-rd created the heaven and the earth, and on the seventh day He ceased and rested.” יזבֵּינִ֗י וּבֵין֙ בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל א֥וֹת הִ֖וא לְעֹלָ֑ם כִּי־שֵׁ֣שֶׁת יָמִ֗ים עָשָׂ֤ה יְ”הֹוָה֙ אֶת־הַשָּׁמַ֣יִם וְאֶת־הָאָ֔רֶץ וּבַיּוֹם֙ הַשְּׁבִיעִ֔י שָׁבַ֖ת וַיִּנָּפַֽשׁ:

We see in the above verses that Shabbat is a sign between God and the Jewish people. Shabbat and the Torah are specifically given to the Jewish people, and although non-Jews must live morally and ethically according to the Noahide laws, they may not introduce new religious practices that deviate from the seven Noahide laws. This is called the prohibition of “Chiddushei Dat,” similar to the Jewish concept of “Baal Tosif,” which prohibits Jews from adding new commandments to the Torah.

Maimonides teaches in “Kings and Wars” 10: 9-10 that a non-Jew who delves into the Torah and studies it at a level beyond the Noahide Code, which includes only the seven Noahide laws, is obligated to die. This also applies to resting on a day, even if it is not Shabbat, or celebrating a festival in a manner similar to Shabbat. It is important to emphasize that this punishment is not intended to be literally carried out by a court, but rather as a warning of the seriousness of the act. It is also important to note that this is not a legal punishment carried out by humans, but rather a divine consequence.

The prohibition on non-Jews observing Shabbat is derived from Genesis 8:22, which states:

So long as the earth exists, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.”
 כבעֹ֖ד כָּל־יְמֵ֣י הָאָ֑רֶץ זֶ֡רַע וְ֠קָצִ֠יר וְקֹ֨ר וָחֹ֜ם וְקַ֧יִץ וָחֹ֛רֶף וְי֥וֹם וָלַ֖יְלָה לֹ֥א יִשְׁבֹּֽתוּ:

Reis Lakish explains that day and night shall not cease should be read as a command for non-Jews to constantly be involved in the world and not to observe a day of ritual rest.

Observing the Significance of Shabbat as a Noahide

However, it is permitted, but not obligatory, for a Noahide to mark the significance of Shabbat in certain ways, without making it a religious obligation or ritually abstaining from productive activities. It is good, however, to have intellectual recognition that God attaches special significance to Shabbat as the Seventh Day of Creation. This recognition also serves as a counterbalance to secular views on the origins of creation.

Some ways in which a Noahide can mark the Sabbath without violating the Noahide laws include:

  • Resting for physical relaxation, taking a day off from work if permitted by the employer, or taking a vacation.
  • Having a special meal after sunset on Friday and/or during the day on Saturday, with the option to light candles on the table to enhance the meal. However, one should not recite the Jewish blessing over the candles.
  • Wearing nice clothing.

Other suggestions for ways in which a Noahide can mark the Seventh Day include:

  • Spending extra time learning appropriate Torah subjects and prayers.
  • Spending extra time with family to strengthen bonds of love and dedication to Torah-true Noahide values.

By Angelique Sijbolts

See also the Shiur of Rabbi Tani Burton : CAN NOAHIDES OBSERVE SHABBAT?


The Noahide Laws by Yeshiva Shoshanim
Article from AskNoah: How Noahides should relate to the Seventh Day (Saturday)

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