16. Shabbat III - Practical Conclusions for Non-Jews

16.1. Shabbat III - Practical Conclusions for Non-Jews Pt. 2

Observance vs. Acknowledgement

Until now, we have only discussed the observance of Shabbat. By observance, however, we mean refraining from labor or imitating other Jewish Shabbat obligations. However, this prohibition does not preclude Noahides having a positive, meaningful connection with Shabbat. In short, Noahides may not observe Shabbat, but they may certainly acknowledge and commemorate Shabbat. In fact, Noahides may even be required to acknowledge Shabbat. The Midrash says:

[The wicked Turnus Rufus] asked Rabbi Akiva: “From where can you prove to me that God wished to honor the Seventh Day?” … Rabbi Akiva responded: “Verify it with [via necromancy,] because a spirit will ascend on any day of the week except for Shabbat – verify it with the spirit of your father!”… Turnus Rufus checked the veracity of Rabbi Akiva’s claim with the spirit of his own father. His father’s spirit ascended on every day of the week except Shabbat. On the following Sunday, Turnus Rufus again raised his father and asked him, “father, is it possible that you became a Jew after you died, that you now observe Shabbat? Why did you ascend every day of the week, but did not ascend on Shabbat?” He [Turnus Rufus’s father] answered him, saying: “Anyone who does not willingly observe the Sabbath among the living is forced to do so among the dead!”

The Maharzu explains that the spirit of Turnus Rufus’s father could not mean that non-Jews must observe Shabbat. Rather, it means that any non-Jew who denies the significance of Shabbat will be “forced to do so among the dead.” What does it mean “forced to do so among the dead?” The Midrash goes on to explain that the wicked are punished with the fires of Gehinnom (purgatory) every day of the week, but are given respite on Shabbat. One who denies the existence and significance of Shabbat, even a Non-Jew, will apparently be held accountable.

Furthermore, Noahide acknowledgement of Shabbat goes back to the beginning of creation. There is a fascinating Midrash about Adam, Kayin, and the composition of Psalm 92:

Adam met Kayin and asked of him: “What happened? What was your judgment?” Kayin replied: “I repented and it was mitigated”

Adam began slapping his own face and cried out: “Such is the power of repentance – and I didn’t know it!” Adam immediately arose and declared: Mizmor shir le-yom ha- Shabbat, a Psalm, a song for the Shabbos…

Psalm 92, recited by Adam for Shabbat, only mentions Shabbat in its opening. It then goes on to praise God’s deeds and creations, curiously contrasting the permanence of His deeds with the temporary follies of the wicked, and then concludes with the praises of the righteous man.

What is the connection between the ideas of teshuvah, repentance, the temporary prospering of the wicked, and the Shabbos?

Speaking with Kayin, Adam realized the power of repentance and marveled at its greatness. Teshuvah is the great creation for which Adam praises God. God is also praised for His incredible kindness: He does not execute judgment immediately. Rather, He waits, allowing transgressors time to either do teshuvah or lose themselves further. Alternatively, Adam also realized that this world is the place of finite recompense. Here a person is rewarded for the minority of his deeds. Therefore, the wicked are often rewarded for their few mitzvos, while the righteous are often punished for their few aveiros, sins.

But what does this all have to do with Shabbos? When God rested on Shabbos, he beheld the goodness of His creation – he saw that it was well suited for its purpose. So too, Adam, in his revelation, suddenly understood the greatness of God’s world and the incredible potential that it offered.

In that revelation, he saw the “big plan” – he understood the nature of reward and punishment, the fate of the wicked, and the ultimate reward of the righteous. He understood his purpose and how the world was designed for it.

Rashi understands this Psalm as, primarily, an acknowledgement of the World to Come, the ultimate Shabbos.

We see that Adam’s relationship to Shabbat was not one of rest. It was a relationship of epiphany, a day of awakening and realization. This is the Noahide relationship  to Shabbat.

It is therefore appropriate to base the Noahide acknowledgement of Shabbat on Psalm 92 and Adam’s epiphany. In this way, Noahides are following in the way of Adam, to whom the Noahide laws were commanded.

Shabbat Prayer and Service in the Home - All Shabbat Prayers are in 'The Order: A Communal and Individual Noahide Siddurand include:

  • Lighting Candles
  • Friday Night Prayers
  • Introductory Nighttime Psalm & Verses
  • Call to Prayer
  • Acceptance of God’s Kingship
  • Lay Us Down to Sleep…
  • The Silent Prayers
  • Declaring the Seventh Day & the Completion of Creation
  • We Bend Our Knees…
  • Seasonal Addition: Psalm 27
  • Song: Master of the World
  • The Evening Meal
  • Blessing of the Children
  • Song: In Praise of One’s Wife
  • Blessing on Bread
  • Concluding the Meal