Should Noahidim Observe Shabbat?

By Rabbi Shlomo Nachman © January 14, 2019


"More than the Jewish People have kept the Sabbath, the Sabbath has kept the Jews."
-- Ahad Ha'am, one of the foremost pre-state Zionist thinkers.

"Though I have set a limit to 'the end,' that it will happen in its time
regardless of whether [the Jews] will do teshuvah or not...
The scion of David [i.e. HaMashiach, the son of David] will come
if they keep just one Shabbat [properly], because the Shabbat is equivalent to all the mitzvot."

-- Shemot Rabba 25:121; Yerushalmi, Ta'anit 1:10

As we look towards the coming of HaMashiach ben David, perhaps in our lifetime, perhaps in a generation not so far away, we are witnessing amazing things. Some of these things, like the obvious acts of divine intervention in partially restored Israel, fill us with awe and joy. Others, like new potentially prophecy-fulfilling technologies fill us with both excitement for what they are empowering us to do, and fear because of how these technologies could, and in some cases already are, being used to enslave us. But one thing remains constant: HaShabbat, the Sabbath.

Sadly, HaShabbat, our day of rest, is, in a sense, under attack today on many fronts. Most Jews today do not even attempt to be shomer Shabbat, observant of the Sabbath. Others are missing its point by heaping so many rules and regulations on the day that they remove all joy from it. According to Shemot Rabba 25:121; Yerushalmi, Ta'anit 1:10 above, are we not failing to welcome HaMashiach through both extremes?

Among the potentially positive prophecy-fulling things we are witnessing today is the coming forth of a great many Gentiles who saying "We will go with you for we see that G-d is with you" (Zechariah 8:23). We typically refer to these people as Noahides or B'nei Noach. This a growing throng is seeking to attach themselves to the G-d of Israel and His people for righteousness.

At the same time we are also witnessing an unprecedented attack by those of another religion that is seeking to usurp Judaism and our Covenant with HaShem through coercion, assimilation (Hellenism), and deception. These people, apparently frustrated by their inability to convert Jews to their Paganized belief system, are actively seeking to infiltrate us, to usurp our holy Traditions, and to replace us as the Elect of G-d, may HaShem protect us all. They seek to convert the world to their religion, as they say, "The Jew first, and then the Gentiles." Make no mistake, we are in their cross hairs! Both of these groups, the Noahides and the Missionaries, with some exceptions, are confused about who should observe HaShabbat and why.

So, for those Jews who are not shomer Shabbat, for those who have forgotten the joy of HaShabbat, for the Noahidim who are so earnestly seeking to understand their relationship with HaShabbat and our people, and for those who are being led astray by the Missionary enemies of our people, let's consider these important questions.

According to Jewish Law and Tradition, is it acceptable, discouraged or totally unacceptable for a Gentile (which includes Noahides) to keep the Sabbath according to the regulations spelled out in the Torah and the Talmud and expounded upon by the Rabbis?
A non Jew is not allowed to keep Shabbat. Period. To do so is a serious crime against our people as we will see below. HaShem will not look with favor upon such forbidden practices.

Those who are in the process of converting and who therefore attend services etc. under the direction of their mentoring Jewish friend, should be sure to do at least one thing that is not allowed in order to indicate that he/she is not seeking to observe HaShabbat "like the Jews." For example they might carry something in their pocket which is a violation.

Those who are Noahides should likewise be sure to do at least one thing that is not allowed in order to indicate that he/she is not seeking to observe HaShabbat "like the Jews." Those Noahides who are not in the process of conversion must not give the appearance that they are observance HaShabbat.

The Torah is clear that. "The Children of Israel shall observe HaShabbat, to make HaShabbat an eternal covenant for their generations. Between Me and the Children of Israel it is a sign forever that in a six-day period HaShem made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day He rested and was refreshed." (Exodus 31:16,17). HaShabbat is a sign of the Creator's eternal Covenant with Israel alone. While none of us are perfect and few are completely shomer Shabbat, it is incumbent upon all Jews to honor HaShabbat. If we Jews would collectively observe two Shabbatot properly HaMashiach ben David would come.

The implementation of the Olam Haba (ie the Messianic Age to Come) is dependant upon the righteousness or unrighteousness of the Jews as I discuss elsewhere, especially on our level of Shabbat observance. For this reason all non-Jews are forbidden by our law to observe HaShabbat or to make a Sabbath of their own. This law is codified in the Mishneh Torah, Laws of Kings 9. Before sharing this I want to note that Jews do not put people to death as literally demanded by this Law. Capitol punishment is only applicable in Israel when it under a Halachic government, which has not been the cast in over 2100 years. Such legal rulings however do demonstrate the severity of the crimes it is applied to:

A gentile who studies the Torah is obligated to die. They should only be involved in the study of their seven mitzvot.
Similarly, a gentile who rests, even on a weekday, observing that day as a Sabbath, is obligated to die. Needless to say, he is obligated for that punishment if he creates a [religious] festival for himself.
The general principle governing these matters is: They are not to be allowed to originate a new religion or create mitzvot for themselves based on their own decisions. They may either become righteous converts and accept all the mitzvot or retain their statutes without adding or detracting from them.
If a gentile studies the Torah, makes a Sabbath, or creates a religious practice, a Jewish court should beat him, punish him, and inform him that he is obligated to die. However, he is not to be executed.
On the first point, other Rabbinic rulings modify or enlarge upon this prohibition permitting Noahides (righteous, "Godfearing" Gentiles, to study the entire Tanach (or Hebrew Bible) for the purpose of developing their relationship with HaShem and the furtherance of their observance of the Seven Laws. The first of these seven laws forbids avodah Zarah or non-Jewish worship. Once who has not renounced the other religions is forbidden by Jewish Law to study our Holy Scriptures, not that they observe this of course, but they will be held accountable by HaShem depending on their intentions and accurate knowledge. He will judge, we should not. What is forbidden therefore is for those of the other religion to study OUR Torah for their own misguided purposes.

We have the following from Sanhedrin 58b

And Reish Lakish says: A gentile who observed Shabbat is liable to receive the death penalty, as it is stated: “And day and night shall not cease” (Genesis 8:23), which literally means: And day and night they shall not rest. This is interpreted homiletically to mean that the descendants of Noah [ie all humans but modified only by the commandments to the Jews] may not take a day of rest. And the Master said (57a) that their prohibition is their death penalty, i.e., the punishment for any prohibition with regard to descendants of Noah is execution. Ravina says: If a descendant of Noah observes a day of rest on any day of the week, even one not set aside for religious worship, e.g., on a Monday, he is liable.

So there really is no question Hallachicly All Jews are commanded to observe HaShabbat and all non-Jews are prohibited from doing so. Those in the process of converting will be guided by their mentors in the observances and should follow their instructions, while maintaining the practice of doing something to demonstrate that one has not joined the family such as carrying keys in ones pocket and so on.

Rebbe Nachman of Breslov encourages all Jews with regard to HaShabbat:

Be very careful to feel only joy on Shabbat. There is nothing to compare with the greatness and holiness of Shabbat. The key to honoring the Shabbat is joy. Don't show even a hint of depression or anxiety on Shabbat.
Treat yourself to all kinds of delights in the food you eat, what you drink, your clothes... whatever you can afford. The food of Shabbat is completely holy. It is purely spiritual and filled with Godliness. It rises to a totally different place from that of the food of the six working days.
Make an effort to feel the joy of Shabbat and you will find true happiness (Likutey Moharan II, 17).
And again:
Only through the joy of Shabbat can we elevate fear of God to the level of awe. You may be stringent in what you practice, but this is elevated only through Shabbat joy.
Do everything you can to bring yourself to joy on Shabbat. All of a person's income is decreed from the beginning of the year, but what he spends on Shabbat and festivals is not included in the decree (Beitzah 16a). Even a simple family can make themselves happy with tasty food such as fish and good soup.
Sing many songs at the Shabbat table. Pay no attention to any obstacles. Others at the table may show little desire to sing, but you should still do your part. Make a determined effort to sing happily. Conduct the Shabbat table in a happy mood, because the main thing is the joy of Shabbat (Sichot Haran #155).

We have recently heard reports that one Jewish group or another has declared that the Gentiles should observe Shabbat and in this was hurry the coming of HaMashiach. Such reports are almost always taken out of context. For example Rabbi Schwartz of the nascent Sanhedrin wrote:

A Noahide should not observe the Shabbat in the manner that a Jew does. Nor should he make a point of abstaining from hard physical work on the Shabbat. A Noahide should not give occasion for a Jew to break the Shabbat.
There are those who say that every Ger Toshav (a non-Jew living in Eretz Yisrael in the time of the Jewish Temple, who has formally accepted the obligation to observe the Noahide laws in front of a Jewish court) has to uphold and keep the Sabbath (Rashi, Kritot 9, Yevamot 40). There is room to suggest that the Noahides, even nowadays, by accepting to fulfill the seven commandments, are in the same category as a Ger Toshav and should, according to Rashi, be required or at least allowed to keep the Shabbat...
Note that Rabbi Schwartz begins by saying "A Noahide should not observe the Shabbat in the manner that a Jew does..". In this piece the Rabbi is pondering the difference between modern Noahides and the Ger Toshav living during the foundations of Israel. These Ger Toshav were living fully within the Jewish communities and carefully following the instructions of the Jewish leaders in compliance with the Jewish community. This is a much different situation than we have today where a Gentiles comes to believe Derech Noahide is his/her preferred path. This is a holy and righteous decision however it is not on the same level as the biblical Ger Toshav. Many of our laws are different for those living in Israel and those living in the Diaspora, for both Jews and non-Jews. The government of Israel today is a secular republic, not a theocracy. For this reason too the situation today dictates against this notion within Israel as it does without it.

There are certain religious charlatans today who are preying on gullible Gentiles. These people are becoming very wealthy and powerful within their circles by trying to create a Noahide religion, selling books, rasing funds, and so on. Such things are clearly forbidden by Jewish Halacha! Through such efforts large 'donations' are finding their way into the pockets of certain rabbis who are, seeking to accommodate these cultists and earn profits, are approving of things they ought not approve of. Sadly, as the saying goes, "Money talks." Money can not however buy HaShem's approval nor alter His Torah.

Derech Noahide is NOT a religion. It is a moral and ethical code incumbent upon all those who love our Creator and who wish to live in harmony with His Torah. The Jews are called to be the Nation of Priests (Exodus 19:6). The Noahidim are our "laity." The laity have different rules than this priesthood (7 Laws rather than 613). The avarage Jew has different rules than the Coheinim and Levites. The Coheinim and Levites have different rules that the Cohain Gadol. The Cohain Gadol has different rules than HaMashiach (may he come soon!) and HaMashiach will serve at the pleasure of HaShem. All life serves the pleasure of HaShem. HaShem has made each of us according to His good pleasure and purposes. Those who are wise find their proper place within this divine arrangement and declare Baruch HaShem! You have me according to YOUR Will and Purposes.

Every person must minimize his own honor and maximize G-d's honor. One who pursues worldly honor will not be worthy of experiencing G-d's glory. Even if he attains some worldly status, people will constantly look at him askance and want to know who he is that he should be accorded such respect. But one who flees from honor - minimizing his own honor and maximizing that of G-d - will attain G-d's glory (Rebbe Nachman, Likutey Moharan I, 6).

Ben Zoma says: Who is the wise one? He who learns from all men, as it says, "I have acquired understanding from all my teachers" (Psalms 119:99). Who is the mighty one? He who conquers his impulse, as it says, "slowness to anger is better than a mighty person and the ruler of his spirit than the conqueror of a city." (Proverbs 16:32). Who is the rich one? He who is happy with his lot, as it says, "When you eat [from] the work of your hands, you will be happy, and it will be well with you" (Psalms 128:2). "You will be happy" in this world, and "it will be well with you" in the world to come. Who is honored? He who honors the created beings, as it says, "For those who honor Me, I will honor; and those who despise Me will be held in little esteem" (I Samuel 2:30).

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