שַׁבָּת הִוא לַיהוָה בְּכֹל מֹושְׁבֹתֵיכֶם
Levi. 23:3 ‘You may do work six days, but on the seventh day there shall be a Sabbath of complete rest, a holy convocation. You shall do no work; it is a Sabbath to the Lord in all your dwelling places.’
For reasons I’m unable to fathom to my complete satisfaction, the Lord interjects this verse about the Sabbath before He continues to enumerate and describe the appointed seasons. The Sabbath is not strictly an appointed season. Nor is the complete year of Sabbaths an appointed season. Perhaps the Lord inserted this verse to emphasize the difference between keeping the three appointed seasons as opposed to the Sabbath. But what is the difference? A clue to the answer might be found in the last phrase of the verse, “… in all your dwelling places.” The Sabbath is to be observed in our homes, wherever they may be, but in the appointed seasons we are to appear before the Lord, i.e., assemble at the Tabernacle or the Temple.
Another aspect of this verse seems to provide a new valuable insight that I haven’t considered in detail to this point, although I discussed it in Exod. 15:26. The second-person pronouns in this verse (and subsequent ones) convey some very practical, even vital, information. The pronoun you in “You may do work …” is singular. This informs us, I believe, that it is the community that is to pursue work six days. Now we know that there are some people who will not be able to work six days. Sickness, weakness, childhood, old age, travel, and more, would prevent some from working even one day for some period of time. Realizing this, I am led to accept the following important theory:
When the Lord (or Moses) uses the singular second-person pronoun while addressing the people with
a positive precept, He is implying that not everyone need be included – His utterance is a general
commandment intended for the community as a whole, not necessarily for each individual. It is not a
requirement on each individual if circumstances for that individual make it not applicable..
A very striking and remarkable realization, I think!
Contrasted with this, the you in “You shall do no work; …” and the your in “all your dwelling places” are plural. As I’ve stated before, I believe this means that the statement would be intended for each and every member of the community. No one may work – no exceptions.
How amazing that apparently no one in three thousand years or more of studying the bible seems to have recognized the knowledge embedded in this Hebrew grammar! [Back]
Levi. 23:32 “It shall be a Sabbath of solemn rest for you, and you shall afflict your souls. You shall keep your Sabbath on the month’s ninth day in the evening, from evening until evening.”
This verse, in conjunction with v. 23:27, provides very convincing support for the Jewish day not starting in the evening (see previous discussions relating to Gene. 1:5, Exod. 12:6, Exod. 12:18, and Levi. 6:13). Here’s the reasoning behind it.
Yom Kippur is on the tenth day of the seventh month (Levi. 23:27). If the ninth day starts the preceding evening, God would be telling us in this verse to observe the ninth day, not the tenth. So the evening of the ninth day must be that evening, not the preceding evening. If the evening of any day is at (or shortly after) the subsequent sundown, it cannot be the start of the next day. It must be the end of only the daylight hours of that very same day. So when might a 24-hour day start if it doesn’t start near sundown? As there were no clocks to signify time during the night, the day logically would have to start with first light, which means to me that every morning, the moment before dawn of a new day, is a continual reminder to us of God’s Creation.
But now we have to ask another question raised by this verse. if the day starts in the morning, why would the Lord tell us to afflict our souls from evening to evening, and not from morning to morning? The answer is partly rather obvious. If fasting is the main aspect of afflicting our souls, then according to this verse, we would be fasting from the previous evening (the evening at the end of the ninth) anyway. When we awake in the morning, it’s already the tenth day, so we cannot eat or drink then. Finally, I believe that the Lord is demonstrating His compassion to us here by telling us that 24 hours of affliction is enough. If we were to have to retire without eating or drinking after fasting all day on the evening after the tenth day, we would be very uncomfortable during the night. For many people this might even be dangerous and life threatening. Moreover, sleep that night would be extremely difficult, aggravating the discomfort of hunger and thirst and their danger. I know from experience what that means. When I first conjectured that the day started in the morning, it was a short time before Yom Kippur. I decided I’d follow my belief and fast until the next morning -- a full 36 hours. That night, sleep was not impossible. But I tossed and turned almost all of the night, waking frequently and feeling quite uncomfortable. At those times the gnawing in my belly was actually painful. Now the Lord tells me in this verse that such discomfort is not necessary. God may not appreciate excess in our “good” behavior, even if it’s inspired by our love for Him.