THE HALACHA OF YESHUA:
THE SHABBAT (Part 1)
OK let us begin by getting an understanding of the Shabbat Halacha of
the Essenes and the Pharisees.
The Essene Halacha concerning Shabbat was the strictest of any sect of
Judaism. Josephus writes of the Essenes:
"…they [Essenes] are stricter than any other of the Jews in resting
from their labors on the seventh day; for they not only get their food
ready the day before, that they not be obliged to kindle a fire on
that day, but they will not remove any vessel out of its place, nor go
to stool thereon."
There is a lengthy discussion of the Sabbath in the Damascus Document,
I will include here only some key points:
"No man shall eat on the Sabbath day aught save that which is prepared
or perishing (in the field). Nor shall one eat or drink unless in the
camp. (If he was) on the way and went down to wash he may drink where
he stands, but he shall not draw into any vessel. … No man shall walk
after the animal to pasture it outside his city more than two thousand
cubits. None shall lift his hand to smite it with (his) fist. If it
be stubborn he shall not remove it out of his house. No man shall
carry anything from the house to the outside or from the outside into
the house, and if he be in the vestibule he shall not carry anything
out of it or bring in anything into it. … Let not the nursing father
take the sucking child to go out or to come in on the Sabbath. … No
man shall help an animal in its delivery on the Sabbath day. And if
it falls into a pit or ditch, he shall not raise it on the Sabbath. …
And if any person falls into a place of water or into a place of… he
shall not bring him up by a ladder or a cord or instrument. No man
shall offer anything on the altar on the Sabbath, save the
burnt-offering of the Sabbath, for so it is written `Excepting your
(Damascus Document 10:14-11:18)
Note that the Essene Halacha was so strict as to place Sabbath
observance above human life.
On the other hand, Pharisaic Halacha placed human life above the
Sabbath. As we read in the Mishna:
Rabbi Mattiah ben Harash said, "He who has a pain in his throat, they
drop medicine into his mouth on the Sabbath, because it is a matter of
doubt as to danger to life. Any matter of doubt as to danger to life
overrides the prohibitions of the Sabbath."
In the Talmud, the Gemara to this passage elaborates on and explains
the reasoning behind this halacha:
BECAUSE IT IS A POSSIBILITY OF DANGER TO [HUMAN] LIFE. Why was it
necessary to add `AND WHEREVER THERE IS DANGER TO [HUMAN] LIFE, THE
LAWS OF THE SABBATH ARE SUSPENDED?-Rab Judah in the name of Rab said:
Not only in the case of a danger [to human life] on this Sabbath, but
even in the case of a danger on the following Sabbath. How that? If
e.g.. the [diagnosis] estimates an eight-day [crisis] the first day of
which falls on the Sabbath. You might have said, let them wait until
the evening, so that the Sabbaths may not be profaned because of him,
therefore he informs us [that we do not consider that]. Thus also was
it taught: One may warm water for a sick person on the Sabbath, both
for the purpose of giving him a drink or of refreshing him, and not
only for [this] one Sabbath did they rule thus, but also for the
following one. Nor do we say: Let us wait, because perchance he will
get well, but we warm the water for him immediately, because the
possibility of danger to human life renders inoperative the laws of
the Sabbath, not only in case of such possibility on this one Sabbath,
but also in case of such possibility on another Sabbath.
Our Rabbis taught: One must remove debris to save a life on the
Sabbath, and the more eager one is, the more praiseworthy is one; and
one need not obtain permission from the Beth din. How so? If one saw a
child falling into the sea, he spreads a net and brings it up — the
faster the better, and he need not obtain permission from the Beth din
though he thereby catches fish [in his net]. If he saw a child fall
into a pit, he breaks loose one segment [of the entrenchment] and
pulls it up — the faster the better; and he need not obtain permission
of the Beth din, even though he is thereby making a step [stairs]. If
he saw a door closing upon an infant, he may break it, so as to get
the child out — the faster the better; and he need not obtain
permission from the Beth din, though he thereby consciously makes
chips of wood. One may extinguish and isolate [the fire] in the case
of a conflagration — the sooner the better, and he need not obtain
permission from the Beth din, even though he subdues the flames. Now
all these cases must be mentioned separately. For if only the case of
the [infant falling into] the sea had been mentioned [one would have
said, it is permitted there] because meantime the child might be swept
away by the water, but that does not apply in the case [of its falling
into] the pit, because since it remains [stays] therein, one might
have thought, one may not [save it before obtaining permission],
therefore it is necessary to refer to that. And if the teaching had
confined itself to the case of the pit, [one would have thought, there
no permission is required] because the child is terrified but in the
case of a door closing upon it, one might sit outside and [amuse the
child] by making a noise with nuts, therefore it was necessary [to
include that too].
R. Ishmael, R. Akiba and R. Eleazar b. Azariah were once on a journey,
with Levi ha-Saddar and R. Ishmael son of R. Eleazar b. Azariah
following them. Then this question was asked of them: Whence do we
know that in the case of danger to human life the laws of the Sabbath
are suspended? — R. Ishmael answered and said: If a thief be found
breaking in. Now if in the case of this one it is doubtful whether he
has come to take money or life; and although the shedding of blood
pollutes the land, so that the Shechinah departs from Israel, yet it
is lawful to save oneself at the cost of his life — how much more may
one suspend the laws of the Sabbath to save human life! R. Akiba
answered and said: If a man come presumptuously upon his neighbour
etc. thou shalt take him from My altar, that he may die. I.e., only
off the altar, but not down from the altar. And in connection
therewith Rabbah b. Bar Hana said in the name of R. Johanan: That was
taught only when one's life is to be forfeited, but to save life one
may take one down even from the altar. Now if in the case of this one,
where it is doubtful whether there is any substance in his words or
not, yet [he interrupts] the service in the Temple [which is important
enough to] suspend the Sabbath, how much more should the saving of
human life suspend the Sabbath laws! R. Eleazar answered and said: If
circumcision, which attaches to one only of the two hundred and
forty-eight members of the human body, suspends the Sabbath, how much
more shall [the saving of] the whole body suspend the Sabbath! R. Jose
son of R. Judah said: Only ye shall keep My Sabbaths,' one might
assume under all circumstances, therefore the text reads: `Only' viz,
allowing for exceptions. R. Jonathan b. Joseph said: For it is holy
unto you; I.e., it [the Sabbath] is committed to your hands, not you
to its hands.
It is important to note that three reasons that are given in the
Gemara for relaxing the Sabbath in matters where human life are in
1) "… [he interrupts] the service in the Temple [which is important
enough to] suspend the Sabbath, how much more should the saving of
human life suspend the Sabbath laws!"
2) " If circumcision, which attaches to one only of the two hundred
and forty-eight members of the human body, suspends the Sabbath, how
much more shall [the saving of] the whole body suspend the Sabbath!"
(b.Yoma 85b; This halacha is dealt with in much greater detail in the
Mishna m.Shabbat 18:3-19:2 and in the Gemara of the Talmud in
3) " For it is holy unto you; I.e., it [the Sabbath] is committed to
your hands, not you to its hands."
(As we will see later, Yeshua uses these exact same three arguments to
argue for his own Sabbath Halacha).
However Pharisaic Halacha only permitted the Sabbath regulations to be
loosed when a life was in doubt, but not for healing where no life was
at stake, as the Mishna says:
They anoint and massage the stomach.
But they do not have it kneaded or scraped…
They do not induce vomiting.
And they do not straighten [the limb of] a child
or set a broken limb.
He whose hand or foot is dislocated
should not pour cold water over them.
But he washes in the usual way.
And if he is healed, he is healed.
(m.Shabbat 22:6 the Gemara is in b.Shabbat 147).
OK so lets review:
Essene Halacha was the strictest of any sect of Judaism and actually
maintained that the Sabbath held priority even over a human life.
Pharisaic Halacha differed in maintaining that the Sabbath was to be
loosed in matters where a life was in doubt, but did not loose the
Sabbath for any healing where a life was not at stake.
Now lets look at Yeshua's Sabbath Halacha….
(To be continued)