I learned the other day that opening the fridge on the Sabbath can cause problems. It’s because of the refrigerator light. Apparently it’s related to Sabbath prohibitions associated with electrical switches. As far as I can determine it has something to do with the Sabbath day commandment against lighting a fire in a person’s home (Exod 35). Engaging a switch to complete an electrical circuit is apparently equated with lighting a fire in modern Jewish tradition.
Of course there are ways and means of getting around the fridge light problem, such as removing the light globe. Or maybe an easier way is using that indispensable product with 1001 uses: duct tape. A small strip can be used to hold down the switch, so that it remains in the closed-door position, thereby ensuring the light remains unilluminated.
So, what’s so important about this information and why do I mention it?
Firstly, I have nothing against Jews maintaining their own traditions, whether for religious or cultural reasons. I also have no objection to Messianic Jews continuing those traditions after they come to faith in their Messiah Jesus. It’s not up to a gentile like me to insist they have to abandon their cultural ways and adopt a “Christian” way of life, just as there is no need for any other cultural group to abandon non-sinful aspects of their lifestyles. And apart from the inconvenience to those personally involved, avoiding electrical switches on the Sabbath does no one any harm.
1) It is believed and promoted that the prohibition is a directive FROM God.
2) It is believed and promoted that observing the prohibition is doing something FOR God
3) It is believed and promoted that the practice PLEASES God.
4) It is believed and promoted that failure to comply with the practice is sinful and DISPLEASES God.
While the specific example of the fridge light may seem minor, it needs to be recognised that the association of light switches with fire starting is a REINTERPRETATION of scripture, and not an actual directive from scripture. And many problems arise when scripture is liberally re-interpreted to mean something other than what is actually written.
Adding extra conditions to Sabbath observance effectively CHANGES the significance and purpose of the Sabbath. In some cases, those conditions actually contravene the Sabbath, where observing man’s tradition DECREASES the rest from work that the Sabbath was supposed to provide. (I’ve heard of people climbing several flights of stairs rather than take the elevator, due to the same view of using electric switches.)
A choice to observe the Sabbath BIBLICALLY can lead to difficulties for some because scripture doesn’t go into great detail about how it should be done. There aren’t long lists of directions and procedures to follow. The instruction that IS given can more or less be condensed to two main aspects: 1) rest from work and 2) devote the day to God. But for some reason man DOES love to create, follow and enforce religious procedure and ritual.
The significance of a day of rest from work can be found by looking at WHEN the command to observe the Sabbath was first given, and TO WHOM that command was given. The following reference gives a clue:
“Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the Lord your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.” (Deuteronomy 5:15)
The Sabbath was given to Israel – a nation brought out of a life of slavery where there was no respite from work. The Sabbath was given to bless them with freedom from work for one day out of seven. It was not intended that they should be slaves to the Sabbath, and especially NOT slaves to man-made traditions that would increase work. This is what Jesus meant when He spoke of the Sabbath being made for man, not man for the Sabbath.
The Sabbath was intended to be a blessing, not a burden.