Torah: Shemot 13:17 – 17:16; Haftarah: Judges 4:4 — 5:31
"Shabbat Shirah – The Shabbat of Song"
Shabbat Shirah is the Shabbat in which the Victory Song of Moshe is read in the synagogues throughout the world.
“Then Moshe and the people of Yisrael sang this song to the LORD, and spoke, saying, 'I will sing to the LORD, for He has triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider has He thrown into the sea. The LORD is my strength and song, and He has become my Yeshua / my salvation; He is my God, and I will praise Him; my father’s God, and I will exalt Him. The LORD is a master of war; the LORD (YHVH) is His name. Pharaoh’s chariots and his army has He thrown into the sea; his chosen captains also are drowned in the Red Sea. The depths have covered them; they sank to the bottom as a stone. Your right hand, LORD, is glorious in power; Your right hand, LORD, has dashed in pieces the enemy... Who is like You, LORD, among the heavenly powers? Who is like You, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders?... In Your loving-kindness You have led the people whom You have redeemed... the LORD shall reign forever and ever.'" Shemot: 15:1-18
The rabbis comment that the Torah's definition of a "song" is a profound and unusual spiritual phenomenon. They contend that in the normal course of events, we fail to perceive the hand of God at work and often wonder how most of the daily, seemingly unrelated, phenomena surrounding us could be part of a divine coherent plan. We see suffering and evil, and we wonder how they can be the handiwork of a merciful God. Rarely, however, there is a flash of insight that makes people realize how all the pieces of the puzzle fall into place. At such times, we can understand how every note, instrument, and participant in God's symphony of creation plays its role. The result is a song, for the Torah's concept of a song is the condition in which all the apparently unrelated and contradictory phenomena do indeed meld into a coherent, merciful, comprehensible whole.
At the sea, Moshe and the Jewish people understood their situation as never before. The suffering of the Egyptian exile, the deception that led Pharaoh to pursue them, the hopelessness they had felt when they were surrounded by Pharaoh, the sea, and the wilderness; the demands from many of their own that they return to slavery, even Moshe's old accusation that his arrival in Egypt to carry out God's mission had only made things worse — such doubts and fears disappeared when the sea split. To the Jews at the sea, creation became a song, because they understood how every unrelated and incomprehensible event was part of the harmonious score that led up to that greatest of all miracles. The uniqueness of this song was that an entire nation — not merely its prophets, scholars, and leaders — could rise to a state of prophecy.
But the Jewish people will experience again a similar moment when all their persecution and all their suffering will melt away. All the pieces of the puzzle will fall into place again and they will understand that God was working for their redemption all along. At that moment they will not only sing the song of Moshe but also a new song: ”And they sang the song of Moshe, the bond-servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, “Great and marvelous are Your works, O Lord God, the Almighty; Righteous and true are Your ways, King of the nations!” Revelation 15:3.
They will understand that Yeshua was sent as the Lamb of God to redeem everyone, Jew or Gentile, who would believe in Him.
In this week's Parashah we see how God is shaping the character of the newly reconstructed Jewish nation. Instead of leading them through the shortest route to the Promise Land, He guides them through the desert. He wants to teach them that their survival is entirely in God’s hands, and that He provides for their physical as well as spiritual needs. On the physical level, He guides them in the desert through the hot day by the protection of a cloud and through the cold night by the warmth of a pillar of fire, He turns the bitter waters of Marah into sweet drinkable water, He gives them food - the bread from heaven - manna, and quails as meat. On the spiritual level, God first gives them the blessing and the joy of the observance of the Shabbat.
The first recorded Shabbat observance in the Tanakh is here, in Shemot 16:19-26: ”And it came to pass, that on the sixth day they gathered twice as much bread, two omers for one man; and all the rulers of the congregation came and told Moshe. And he said to them, ‘This is what the LORD has said, Tomorrow is the Shabbat observance, a holy Shabbat to the LORD; bake that which you will bake today, and boil what you will boil today; and that which remains over lay up for you to be kept until the morning.’ And they laid it up till the morning, as Moses ordered; and it did not stink, neither was there any worm in it. And Moses said, ‘Eat that today; for today is a Shabbat to the Lord; today you shall not find it in the field. Six days you shall gather it; but on the seventh day, which is the Shabbat, in it there shall be none.’”
This event was before the Torah was given at Mount Sinai, and yet, to show its importance, the Shabbat observance was later included in the Ten Commandments. God in His fourth utterance says: “Remember the Shabbat day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work; but the seventh day is the Shabbat of the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work, you, nor your son, nor your daughter, your manservant, nor your maidservant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger that is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and Shabbat the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the Shabbat day, and made it holy” - Shemot 20:8. Observing the Shabbat is a testimony for creation, a testimony to the unbelieving world that there is a God and that He created all things. The Shabbat is a commandment and a covenant - just as the circumcision - between God and the Jewish people: ”Therefore, the sons of Yisrael shall observe the Shabbat, to celebrate the Shabbat throughout their generations as an everlasting Covenant” - Shemot 31:16.
But how about us, the Messianic Believers? How are we to “keep” this day? The first things that come to mind for many believers are the restrictions imposed by the Rabbinical Judaism, which, by the way, most are not found in the Bible. But is this what God intended? Is this what Torah-True Judaism teaches? Could it be that the negative connotation that we give to the word “keep” makes us think of that? A better translation is to “observe,” it has a positive connotation because indeed we are to dedicate this day to the LORD with a positive observance.
Our goal as individuals and as a community of Messianic believers is to bring the good news to the Jewish people. The first step in doing that, just as God was doing with the Israelites, is to observe the Shabbat which became “the most vital force in Jewish life.” Without observing the Shabbat, we will always be outsiders, trying to “convert” them to a foreign religion, instead of bringing them back to their own. So, what does it mean to observe the Shabbat? It means to worship the Lord on the day that He chose, on the day that He sanctified it, to do things for the glory of God and to set our minds on the heavenly things, as it is explained in Yeshayahu 58:13-14: ”If you restrain your foot because of the Shabbat, from pursuing your own pleasures on My holy day; and call the Shabbat a delight, the holy day of the LORD honorable; and shall honor it, not doing your own ways, nor pursuing your own pleasures, nor speaking of vain matters; Then shall you delight yourself in the LORD; and I will cause you to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed you with the heritage of Ya'akov your father.” It is a day to put aside all vain preoccupations, the profane - don’t even talk about them - and concentrate on doing the sacred by worshiping the Creator of the universe, and you will be rewarded with peace, joy and the heritage of Ya'akov. Why Ya'akov and not Avraham our father? Because from Ya'akov came the Twelve Tribes which formed the Jewish nation. Avraham had Yitzchak and Yishmael, and Yitzchak had Ya'akov and Esav, but Ya'akov, who later was renamed Yisrael, had the twelve sons who later formed the twelve tribes of Yisrael. Therefore, Ya'akov is the true father of the Jewish nation and thus, of the Jewish heritage.
Observing the Shabbat means to stop doing your work and do God’s work. The Jews are supposed to be a nation of priests and the believers are to be the priests of their families. Therefore, like the priests in the Bible’s time which were doing God’s work on the Shabbat, so, too, we are to work for His glory. We read in Bamidbar 28:1-10: ”And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, This is the offering made by fire which you shall offer to the LORD; two lambs of the first year, without spot, day by day, for a continual burnt offering. One lamb shall you offer in the morning, and the other lamb shall you offer at evening… And on the Shabbat day two lambs of the first year without spot… This is the burnt offering of every Shabbat.” We also are to bring an offering of a pleasing aroma before the LORD and not just one, but a double portion. But, how do we do that?
It does not mean to observe the myriad of restrictions imposed by the Rabbinic Judaism. But it means to be active to do things for the kingdom of God, to do things for someone else having a positive observance by the example that Yeshua gave us seeking first mercy and compassion. For six days we labor for ourselves, on the seventh day we labor for God, even driving and making fire for a poor soul who is cold and cannot warm up the stove to even feed himself or herself. This is what it means to keep the Shabbat, to have mercy and compassion.
We have many examples in the Brit Chadashah of what Yeshua did on Shabbat. Yochanan writes in 5:16: ”And for this reason they were persecuting Yeshua because He was doing these things on the Shabbat. But He answered them, 'My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working.'” Yeshua, our High Priest, was healing on Shabbat, not only the body but also the soul - Yeshua and the Father in heaven were working and are still working, even on Shabbat, to save us. Yeshua was persecuted for healing on Shabbat, yet the doctors of our time, much less qualified then Yeshua, are allowed to work for saving an earthly life, how much more one should work for an eternal life.
In Mattiyahu 11:28 we read Yeshua’s words: ”Come to Me all who are weary and heavy-laden and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart and you shall find rest for your souls.” Learn compassion from Yeshua, be like Him and find rest for your soul. Continuing in Mattiyahu 12:5: ”Have you not read in the Torah that on the Shabbat the priests in the Temple break the Shabbat and are innocent? But I say to you that something greater than the Temple is here. But if you had known what this means, I desire compassion and not a sacrifice, you would not have condemned the innocent. For the Son of Man is Lord of the Shabbat.” These are Yeshua’s words. The Shabbat is Yeshua’s day, the Lord’s day, and we are encouraged by the apostle Shaul to rejoice in the LORD with songs, Psalms (reading the word of God), prayer and, if I may add, with food and joyful dancing. This is how we should observe the Shabbat.
Observing the Shabbat in this way is not something new, Yeshua was not doing away with the Torah but interpreted it correctly, because the Tanakh previously stated in Yeshayahu 58:1-7: ”Thus says the LORD, Keep judgment, and do justice; for My Yeshua / Salvation is near to come, and My righteousness to be revealed. Happy is the man who does this, and the son of man who lays hold on it; who observes the Shabbat and does not profane it, and keeps his hand from doing any evil.” Happy is the man who observes the Shabbat and does good in it. But reading further we discover something striking: ”Do not let the son of the stranger, who has joined himself to the Lord, speak, saying, 'The Lord has completely separated me from His people;' nor let the eunuch say, 'Behold, I am a dry tree.' For thus says the Lord to the eunuchs who observes My Shabbats, and choose the things that please Me, and take hold of My covenant; And to them will I give in My house and within My walls a memorial and a name better than sons and of daughters; I will give them an everlasting name, that shall not be cut off. Also the sons of the stranger, who join themselves to the Lord, to serve Him, and to love the name of the Lord, to be His servants, everyone who observes the Shabbat and does not profane it, and all who hold fast to My covenant; even them will I bring to My holy mountain, and make them joyful in My house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted upon My altar; for My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.” God did not give a religion for the Jews (Talmudic Judaism) and one for the Gentiles (Christianity), but one, Torah-true Judaism. God’s house of worship includes everyone. The Shabbat should be observed by everyone. The mystery of the Brit Chadashah’s Ekklesia (the body of believers, the ones called out from paganism) is revealed right here. Yeshua will come to bring the good news and a Shabbat of rest to all people who join themselves to the LORD. This is the mystery of the Gospel - we all can come and together worship the God of Creation.
This seventh day of worshiping God did not change with the advent of the Messiah and it will never change. Yeshayahu writes in 66:22: ”For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before Me,” says the LORD, “so shall your seed and your name remain (that is the Jewish name). And it shall be from New Moon to New Moon (Rosh Chodesh to Rosh Chodesh), and from Shabbat to Shabbat, all flesh will come to worship before Me, says the Lord.” This is God's word and if you say that you believe in Him then you must believe this Scripture who says clearly that we will observe the Shabbat when He comes back as King.
On the one hand we claim that we are the sons – and daughters – of Avraham and we are entitled to the blessings that come with it written in the Torah, but on the other hand we claim that we are not “under” the Torah, but under grace and thus disregard the writings of the Torah, such as the observance of the Shabbat. But do we really understand what it means when we say that we are not “under” the Torah? The Bible says that no one was saved by the works of the Torah but by grace – even Moses. But, was not Moses "under" the Torah? Then what is the role of the Torah? The apostle Shaul writes in Galatians 3:24: ”Therefore the Torah has become our tutor to lead us to Messiah, that we may be justified by faith.” If we do not understand that Torah is about Yeshua, do we not subconsciously give to this word, “Torah,” a negative connotation, when it is of such a vital importance? The apostle Shaul says that without Torah one cannot come to know Messiah, we cannot come to salvation, we cannot be justified, we cannot enter into the eternal Shabbat. Yeshua came to be an atoning sacrifice for us based on the requirements of the Torah. Without Torah it would be no salvation.
Whatever God wants from us it is written in the Torah, which by extension is the whole Bible. Believe in the word of God because Yeshua said that it is about Him (John 5:39, 46). Believe in the Torah and you will come to believe in Yeshua's words and you will receive a shalom that surpasses all understanding. You will want to observe the Shabbat, not to be saved, but because you are saved.