As a kid growing up in Queens, NY, I remember Saturday being the ‘cleaning day’. It was the day the house got cleaned from top to bottom. My father once shared with me that when he was a kid, not only was Saturday cleaning day, but it was also the day the whole family took a bath. (Yes, I know it sounds strange to our modern ears, but bathing was not always an every day occurrence.)
Why all this activity? Because Sunday was the day we went to church and gathered for a family meal. Though I was raised Catholic, I never understood the significance.
Enter Messianic Judaism in my life, and it all starts to make sense. You see, the Catholic church broke from Judaism and one way it tried to accomplish this was to move the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday. If they moved the Sabbath to Sunday, then the day to prepare for the Sabbath would be moved from Friday to Saturday.
Recently, I was looking for some ideas for Sabbath lunch. I typically make cholent, and while my granddaughter and I love it, having the same thing week in and week out gets to be a little old. And it’s because we love it so much that I don’t want to get sick of it. So I was searching for some alternatives. I happened upon a site that was discussing all the preparation that goes into the Sabbath. One of the comments pointed out how people freak out over all the preparation that goes into Thanksgiving, and how that is exactly what goes on every week in a Jewish home. And she is right. Not only does all that cleaning and cooking go on, but also planning and cooking for the meal on the second day.
You see, the Sabbath starts on Friday evening and doesn’t end until Saturday evening, so there are several meals to prepare since cooking is taboo on the Sabbath. When I first started on this journey to honor the Sabbath, I thought there was no way I could do this.
But today I saw a video memory on Facebook of my grandson’s first steps and was reminded that first steps bring breakthroughs. What started with baby steps – lighting candles – ended up with a full blown celebration that continues to grow into what it should be.
So today – Friday – is the day the house gets cleaned, the bread gets baked, the meals get prepared, and any last minute grocery runs take place. It is a scurry of activity. What makes it harder is that I also have a full time job that requires a lot of end of the week wrap up, so for me Friday is a very stressful day.
Yet, at the same time, it is a day I long for all week. Why? Because once the work is complete, my granddaughter and I are bathed and dressed, walking around in a freshly cleaned home with the aroma of good food and fresh baked bread encircling us. The table is set with fine china, a special table cloth and napkins, fresh cut flowers, and candles beckoning us to light them. A holy day feeling is in the air.
And once the candles are lit, welcoming the Sabbath, there is nothing to do but enjoy the presence of God and each other, feast on His Word and on the wonderful meal He has set before us. What most Americans do only once a year, we get to do each and every week.
God truly made the Sabbath for man to enjoy. And if it takes a bit of work to prepare for it? Well, in my book it’s worth it.