The Ten Commandments
A book by Joseph Lewis
The Fourth Commandment
... chapter continued from previous file ...
The Magic Association of the Numeral "Seven" and the Sabbath
There can be no question that the reason for the observance of a Sabbath is based upon the superstitious principle of sympathetic magic. The "seventh" day was selected because of its supposed magical quality. It was believed that there was some homeopathic connection between its observance and good fortune, and that ill fortune would follow its violation. The orthodox Hebrew believed that if he observed the Sabbath he would be followed by a good angel, and that if he failed to observe it an evil angel would curse him. He also believed that by observing it strictly he would be blessed with riches and his sins would be forgiven. [*61] He had ample justification for his acts by Biblical authority. "Let no man go out of his place on the seventh day" was the warning injunction. [*62] If it rained on the Sabbath, it was considered a positive sign of God's displeasure with man's acts. [*63]
It is the contention of Tacitus that the satellite Saturn was responsible for the observance of the Sabbath by the Hebrews because "of the seven stars which rule human affairs, Saturn has the highest sphere and the chief power." [*64] Tibullus, writing before 18 B.C., describes his reluctance to undertake a journey which turned out unluckily on the seventh day of the week: "I often allege auguries and evil omens, or that I held the day of Saturn sacred." [*65] Even the color associated with Saturn was significant of evil. While gold and silver were the colors applied to the sun and the moon, black -- the color nearly always associated with misfortune symbolized Saturn. [*66] The Seven Ages of man are based upon the influence of the seven planets, and the last stage, dealing with old age, infirmity and death, is under Saturn, the "evil" planet.
It is quite probable that the superstitious origin of magic associated with the seventh day was derived from the belief in the seven planets of the sun. [*67] The Biblical story of creation was no doubt based upon the erroneous belief, each planet symbolizing a day of creation. The seventh day of the week, and particularly the number "seven," were regarded by the early Greeks as sacred to the god Apollo.
Thus it came to be believed that the numeral "seven" had some divine significance and that by abstaining from any activities on the seventh day, as God is supposed to have done, evil consequences would be avoided. The day was exclusively the Lord's day, and labor would be displeasing and disturbing to him. If God rested on the Sabbath, it was considered man's sacred duty to reverence that day by also "resting." The influence of this taboo prevails even today; any unusual noise is condemned as "disturbing" the Sabbath.
Particularly among the Biblical Hebrews, the number "seven" exercised a tremendous influence and played an important part in their religious system. It is mentioned more than five hundred times in the Bible, and its relation to the Sabbath is extremely significant. A partial survey of the number "seven" in the Bible follows:
There were seven days of creation; the seventh day was blessed and sanctified, for God rested on the seventh day; Lamech lived seven hundred and seventy years; Noah took "of every clean beast by seven" as well as "of the fowls also of the air by sevens"; after seven days it rained upon the earth; and after seven days "the waters of the flood were upon the earth"; the ark rested on the seventh month, on the seventeenth day; it was seven days after the dove's return when "he again sent forth the dove out of the ark, he waited another seven days and sent forth the dove."
Abraham took seven ewe lambs and Abimelech took these seven ewe lambs as a witness; Sarah was a hundred and seven and twenty years old; Jacob served seven years for Rachel; Laban pursued Jacob for seven days; Jacob bowed himself to the ground seven times; in Pharaoh's dream appear seven well-favored kine being consumed by seven ill-favored; the seven ears of corn on one stalk were consumed by seven "thin ears"; Joseph interpreted the dream as seven years of plenty and seven years of famine.
Bilhah, Rachel's handmaid, bore Jacob seven sons; Jacob lived "a hundred forty and seven years"; Jacob's sons mourned him for seven days; on the seventh day the Lord called unto Moses out of the midst of the cloud; the priest of Midian had seven daughters; the Feast of the Passover is seven days; also the injunction was given that "there shall be seven lamps"; holy garments are to be worn seven days; there shall be seven days of consecration; blood is to be sprinkled before the Lord seven times; a woman was unclean for seven days after the birth of a male child; for a female child it was twice seven; leprosy was determined by seven days of observation; seven days were required for purification.
The seventh Sabbath has special ceremonial significance; the first day of the seventh month was to be a memorial; seven times seven years was a Sabbath year; you were punished seven times more for your sins, and seven times more plagues were added; you were unclean seven days if you touched a dead body; all who entered the tent of the dead were unclean seven days; Balaam built seven altars, sacrificed seven lambs and seven oxen; seven nations were to be destroyed; seven years' service brought release; seven weeks from the Passover was planting time; the Feast of Tabernacles was to be observed seven days after the gathering of the corn; Israel's enemies were to flee seven ways; seven priests were to bear seven trumpets and on the seventh day encompass the city seven times; and this magic combination of seven caused the Lord to deliver the city to the Israelites; seven tribes of Israel were divided into seven parts.
Seven parts of Israel did not receive their inheritance; for doing evil, the Lord delivered the children of Israel into the hands of the Midians for seven years; a seven-year-old bullock was sacrificed at the altar of Baal; Ibzan of Bethlehem judged Israel seven years; Samson demanded that a riddle be solved in seven days; he was bound with seven green switches; Delilah was to weave seven locks of his hair; seven locks of his hair were cut off and he lost his strength; seven hundred chosen men could sling a stone at a hairsbreadth and not miss.
A daughter-in-law "which loveth thee" is better than seven sons; the ark of the Lord was in the country of the Philistines seven months; after seven days tarry in Gilgal, the Lord promised a visit to Samuel; the elders of Jabesh asked for a seven days' respite; the seven sons of Jesse passed before Samuel; they fasted seven days at Jabesh; David was king in Hebron seven years; David slew the men of seven hundred chariots; seven sons were hung in Gibeah; Solomon took seven years to build the Temple; there were seven wreaths for one chapiter and seven for the other; the assembly of the men of Israel took place before King Solomon during the seventh month; Solomon had seven hundred wives.
Elijah's servant went seven times to behold the miracle of the cloud out of the sea; Ahab numbered the children of Israel as "being seven thousand"; on the seventh day they went forth to battle; the King of Judah and the King of Israel planned a seven days' journey; when the King of Moab saw that the battle was too strong for him, he took with him seven hundred men.
The child sneezed seven times; to wash in the Jordan seven times was the cure for leprosy; a sojourn of seven years avoided a seven years' famine; Johoash was seven years old when he began to reign in the seventh year of Jehu; unto the Lord were offered seven hundred oxen and seven thousand sheep; the Arabians presented Jehoshaphat seven thousand and seven hundred rams and seven thousand and seven hundred he-goats; Ahasuerus held a feast for seven days; on the seventh day he ordered the seven chambermaids to bring Queen Vashti before him; with the king were the seven princes of Persia; he gave Esther seven maids; she was taken into the king's house during the seventh year of his reign.
Job had seven sons; he also had seven thousand sheep; his friends sat down with him upon the ground seven days and seven nights; the Lord was praised seven times; the House of Wisdom has seven pillars. The just man falleth seven times; there are seven thousand abominations; seven women shall take hold of one man; the Lord shall smite the seven streams; the light of the sun shall be sevenfold, as the light of seven days; at the end of seven days the word of the Lord came unto Ezekiel; the weapons of war shall burn with fire for seven years; every day for seven days a goat was prepared for a sin offering; seven days shall they purge and purify the altar; from the commandment to restore the Temple shall be seven weeks; upon one stone laid before Joshua shall be seven years; there were seven pipes to seven lamps.
Ye shall wash your clothes on the seventh day; there were seven counselors; the furnace was heated seven times more; vengeance shall be sevenfold; Joseph was seventeen years old when he brought his father the evil report; Jacob lived in the land of Egypt seventeen years; in seven no evil shall touch thee.
"All sevens are beloved," says the Midrash. Even the name of God was supposed to have seventy-two syllables; God had seventy attributes; seventy names of angels were good for protection against all sorts of danger.
There were seven occasions which required the ritual washing of the hands; the anniversary of the destruction of the Temple is celebrated by seven "rain fasts" on Tisha B'ab. To recite the seven references to the voice of God [*68] was suggested to protect one who must drink water on a night when evil spirits are particularly active; mourners encircle the coffin seven times; the bride walks around the groom under the canopy seven times; the mezuzah contains the seven names of angels; magical results were obtained by repeating things seven times; draw seven circles on the ground and continue the performance seven days.
A classic illustration of the number seven in magic is this Talmudic prescription to cure a tertian fever: "Take seven prickles from seven palm trees, seven chips from seven beams, seven nails from seven bridges, seven ashes from seven ovens, seven scoops of earth from seven door-sockets, and seven pieces of pitch from seven ships, seven handfuls of cumin, and seven hairs from the beard of an old dog, and tie them to the neck-hole of a shirt with a white twisted cord." [*69]
In view of the recital of the numeral seven among the Biblical Hebrews one can well understand what magical results they associated with its use.
The only book of the Old Testament which does not contain the word seven is the Songs of Solomon, and that is the one book that Biblical scholars agree is not a Hebrew work!
The Sanctity of the Sabbath
Orthodox Hebrews still consider the observance of the Sabbath the most essential part of their religious duties. In fact, to many the Sabbath is the holy bond between them and their God. As previously stated, the Sabbath is not only mentioned in all the different sets of Commandments, but appears in innumerable passages throughout the Bible as an additional warning of its importance. In Leviticus, Chapter 24, verse 8, we find:
8. Every sabbath he shall set it in order before the Lord continually, being taken from the children of Israel by an everlasting covenant.
And in the same book, Chapter 26, verse 2:
2. Ye shall keep my sabbaths, and reverence my sanctuary: I am the LORD.
Another indication of the Bible God's insistence that the Sabbath be observed is found in Ezekiel, Chapter 20, verses 12 to 20:
12. Moreover also I gave them my sabbaths, to be a sign between me and them, that they might know that I am the Lord that sanctify them.
13. But the house of Israel rebelled against me in the wilderness: they walked not in my statutes, and they despised my judgments, which if a man do, he shall even live in them; and my sabbaths they greatly polluted: then I said, I would pour out my fury upon them in the wilderness, to consume them.
14. But I wrought for my name's sake, that it should not be polluted before the heathen, in whose sight I brought them out.
15. Yet also I lifted up my hand unto them in the wilderness, that I would not bring them into the land which I had given them, flowing with milk and honey, which is the glory of all lands;
16. Because they despised my judgments, and walked not in my statutes, but polluted my sabbaths: for their heart went after their idols.
17. Nevertheless mine eye spared them from destroying them, neither did I make an end of them in the wilderness.
18. But I said unto their children in the wilderness, Walk ye not in the statutes of your fathers, neither observe their judgments, nor defile yourselves with their idols:
19. I am the Lord your God; walk in my statutes, and keep my judgments, and do them;
20. And hallow my sabbaths; and they shall be a sign between me and you, that ye may know that I am the Lord your God.
It could not be stated more emphatically than in verse 20, just quoted, that the Sabbath was the holy bond between the Children of Israel and the Bible Deity. They observed it not only to avoid the penalty for its violation, but to receive the rewards promised for its observance.
So strictly was the Sabbath to be observed that even to cook food on that day was prohibited. All meals which were to be eaten on the Sabbath had to be prepared the previous day. Exodus, Chapter 16 verses 23 and 24:
23. And he said unto them, This is that which the Lord hath said, To-morrow is the rest of the holy sabbath unto the Lord: bake that which ye will bake to-day, and seethe that ye will seethe; and that which remaineth over lay up for you to be kept until the morning.
As a matter of fact, the Sabbath was so holy that even putrefaction and decomposition were supposed to be suspended on that day! But despite the Bible statement, both processes continue wholly unmindful of the day of the week. The seventh is no exception; if it were, and if food were not subject to the laws of nature, then, indeed, there would be some justification for its observance. Nature, however, gives the lie to the Bible.
We quote Exodus, Chapter 16, verses 25 to 29:
25. And Moses said, Eat that to-day; for to-day is a sabbath unto the Lord: to-day ye shall not find it in the field.
26. Six days ye shall gather it; but on the seventh day, which is the sabbath, in it there shall be none.
27. And it came to pass, that there went out some of the people on the seventh day for to gather, and they found none.
28. And the Lord said unto Moses, How long refuse ye to keep my commandments and my laws?
29. See, for that the Lord hath given you the sabbath, therefore he giveth you on the sixth day the bread of two days: abide ye every man in his place, let no man go out of his place on the seventh day. [*70]
The statement "that there went out some of the people ... for to gather, and they found none" (meaning food), is false, for the earth knows no seventh day and the fruits of the fields no Sabbath. The grass grows, flowers bloom, fruit ripens, the winds blow, the sky is blue, the stars shine, the birds sing, love buds and blossoms on the seventh, just as on any other day of the week. The sanctity of the seventh day as a holy Sabbath is without validity. By observing such a day, man has robbed himself of a substantial portion of the joy of living. If Nature could give vent to her emotions, she would laugh at this stupidity of man.
In order to emphasize the importance of the observance of the Sabbath, we quote Exodus, Chapter 31, verses 12 to 17:
12. And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying,
13. Speak thou also unto the children of Israel, saying, Verily my sabbaths ye shall keep: for it is a sign between me and you throughout your generations; that ye may know that I am the Lord that doth sanctify you.
14. Ye shall keep the sabbath therefore; for it is holy unto you. Every one that defileth it shall surely be put to death: for whosoever doeth any work therein, that soul shall be cut off from among his people.
15. Six days may work be done; but in the seventh is the sabbath of rest, holy to the Lord: whosoever doeth any work in the sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death.
16. Wherefore the children of Israel shall keep the sabbath, to observe the sabbath throughout their generations, for a perpetual covenant.
17. It is a sign between me and the children of Israel for ever: for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed.
This day was to be a perpetual covenant between the Bible God and the Children of Israel, binding them forever, and death was the penalty for its violation. If they kept the Commandments, they were to "know that I am the Lord that doth sanctify you." We shall see presently how much truth there is in either or both of these statements.
A strict interpretation of this Commandment forbids all work, all labor of any kind, "for whosoever doeth any work therein, that soul shall be cut off from among his people," and "whosoever doeth any work in the sabbath day, shall surely be put to death." It is almost impossible to describe the frightful paralysis that this taboo day had on the primitive mind. Intelligent people today know that there is no relationship whatever between the "violation" of the Sabbath and evil results. The best proof is the fact that millions of people now perform the same work on the so-called Sabbath as on any other day of the week, with identical results. Demonstrations are the best method of counteracting the unfounded fears associated with taboos and religious superstitions. The Christian who works on Sunday will suffer no more ill effects than will the Hebrew who labors on Saturday.
Let the Bible speak for itself regarding the punishment to be inflicted for "violating" the Sabbath. Numbers, Chapter 15, verses 32 to 36:
32. And while the children of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man that gathered sticks upon the sabbath day.
33. And they that found him gathering sticks brought him unto Moses and Aaron, and unto all the congregation.
34. And they put him in ward, because it was not declared what should be done to him.
35. And the Lord said unto Moses, The man shall be surely put to death: all the congregation shall stone him with stones without the camp.
36. And all the congregation brought him without the camp, and stoned him with stones, and he died; as the Lord commanded Moses.
On the advice of Moses, who was commanded by God, the unfortunate man who gathered some sticks on the Sabbath day was taken by the congregation outside the camp and stoned to death. This man did not commit murder, he did not steal, nor did he violate a maiden. His crime was far more heinous. He picked up some sticks on the Sabbath! Religious taboos can so pervert the mind that committing murder for an infraction of a taboo is considered justifiable, even though one of the provisions of the Decalogue specifically admonishes, "Thou shalt not kill."
The following passage -- Numbers, Chapter 15, verses 37 to 41 -- gives us further enlightenment:
37. And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying,
38. Speak unto the children of Israel, and bid them that they make them fringes in the borders of their garments, throughout their generations, and that they put upon the fringe of the borders a ribband of blue:
39. And it shall be unto you for a fringe, that ye may look upon it, and remember all the commandments of the Lord, and do them; and that ye seek not after your own heart and your own eyes, after which ye use to go a whoring:
40. That ye may remember, and do all my commandments, and be holy unto your God.
41. I am the Lord your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: I am the Lord your God. [*71]
So important were the Sabbath and its observance that the Bible God bade the Children of Israel make fringes in the borders of their garments, "and that they put upon the fringe of the borders a riband of blue," and that they look upon it "and remember all the commandments of the Lord." Before the invention of the calendar, the Hebrews separated the fringes on their holy garments in order to count the days of the week and determine which one was the Sabbath.
In order that the sacredness of this day might be still further impressed upon the Children of Israel, there were additional instructions -- Exodus, Chapter 35, verses 1 to 3:
1. And Moses gathered all the congregation of the children of Israel together, and said unto them, These are the words which the Lord hath commanded, that ye should do them.
2. Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day there shall be to you a holy day, a sabbath of rest to the Lord: whosoever doeth work therein shall be put to death.
3. Ye shall kindle no fire throughout your habitations upon the sabbath day.
Again the Lord emphasizes the importance and holiness of the Sabbath, making it without any doubt the most important of all the Commandments to be obeyed.
Whether Moses has again been in communication with the Lord or whether this is merely an elaboration of the Commandment given at a previous meeting with him, we do not know. But the injunction is very specific: "Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day there shall be to you a holy day, a sabbath of rest to the Lord: whosoever doeth work therein shall be put to death."
The following quotation is significant because it emphasizes the complete taboo associated with the Sabbath and the necessity for a cessation of labor on this day. It also presages the work that was to be prescribed -- Nehemiah, Chapter 13, verses 15 to 17:
15. In those days saw I in Judah some treading winepresses on the sabbath, and bringing in sheaves, and lading asses; as also wine, grapes, and figs, and all manner of burdens, which they brought into Jerusalem on the sabbath day: and I testified against them in the day wherein herein they sold victuals.
16. There dwelt men of Tyre also therein, which brought fish, and all manner of ware, and sold on the sabbath unto the children of Judah, and in Jerusalem.
17. Then I contended with the nobles of Judah, and said unto them, What evil thing is this that ye do, and profane the sabbath day?
The above text is in direct contradiction to the statement made in Exodus, Chapter 16, verse 27. There it was stated that no food was found on the Sabbath, while here it says that food in abundance was not only found and prepared, but even "sold on the sabbath unto the children of Judah, and in Jerusalem," and apparently consumed with great satisfaction and no evil results!
Not only did picking up sticks and kindling a fire constitute a mortal sin, but buying food was condemned as a "profanation of the Sabbath day." What a monstrous crime that was! I continue with Nehemiah, Chapter 13, verses 18 to 22:
18. Did not your fathers thus, and did not our God bring all this evil upon us, and upon this city? yet ye bring more wrath upon Israel by profaning the sabbath.
19. And it came to pass, that when the gates of Jerusalem began to be dark before the sabbath, I commanded that the gates should be shut, and charged that they should not be opened till after the sabbath: and some of my servants set I at the gates, that there should no burden be brought in on the sabbath day.
20. So the merchants and sellers of all kind of ware lodged without Jerusalem once or twice.
21. Then I testified against them, and said unto them, Why lodge ye about the wall? if ye do so again, I will lay hands on you. From that time forth came they no more on the sabbath.
22. And I commanded the Levites, that they should cleanse themselves, and that they should come and keep the gates, to sanctify the sabbath day. Remember me, O my God, concerning this also, and spare me according to the greatness of thy mercy.
The Children of Israel kept the Sabbath as specified in this Commandment and in other passages of the Bible. They observed it with the same fanatical devotion as the previous Commandments and with much the same results: they paid in blood, tears, torture and humiliation.
If picking up sticks and lighting a fire on the Sabbath were punishable by death, surely other acts must likewise be condemned. Is it any wonder, then, that with such a taboo attached to the Sabbath there were formulated detailed provisions of what could and could not be done?
The patriarchs were ingenious in their reasoning. Moses has said, "These are the words." The arithmetical sum of the Hebrew letters composing the words is thirty-six. They valued "the words" as three, making a total of thirty-nine articles to be prohibited on the Sabbath. But thirty-nine prohibited articles gave entirely too much leeway to violate the Sabbath, and so these "inspired" patriarchs multiplied thirty-nine by thirty-nine and arrived at the "infallible" number of 1521 separate and distinct acts that were not to be permitted on the Sabbath! [*72] They then proceeded to enumerate them. If they failed to include anything, the credulous made up for any lack of their imagination.
Naturally, we cannot here enumerate all the things that were specifically mentioned as forbidden on this sacred day. Under the thirty-nine provisions, which touch every branch of human activity, the laws founded upon this Commandment were invoked. The reader may get an idea of the comprehensiveness of the prohibitions from the following acts forbidden on the Sabbath: plowing, sowing, reaping, binding sheaves together, threshing, winnowing, bolting, sifting, kneading, baking or cooking, shearing, bleaching or beating fleece, dyeing, spinning, braiding, knitting two loops crosswise, weaving two strands, separating two strands, knotting, unknotting, sewing two stitches, rending for the purpose of sewing two stitches, snaring, slaughtering or flaying a deer, salting, marking or erasing the mark or cutting the skin, writing two letters, erasing for the purpose of writing two letters, building, breaking down, extinguishing, kindling, beating with a hammer, carrying from one place to another.
Some of the 1521 prohibited acts follow: It is forbidden to fast on the Sabbath for the express purpose of fasting, even for a very short time, and to fast until noonday is forbidden, at any rate, even if not done for the purpose of fasting. Squeezing lemons is forbidden. It is forbidden to milk an animal on the Sabbath. A woman to whom the abundance of milk in her breasts causes pain is permitted to let the milk out upon the ground. It is forbidden to scrape snow or hail or crush it into small portions in order to extract the water, but it is permissible to put it in a cup of water and let it melt.
It is forbidden to wring out a garment which has absorbed any liquid. If water is spilled, it is forbidden to wipe it up with a cloth about which one is particular, as there may be the temptation to wring it out; nor should it be wiped up with a sponge unless there is a handle; the handle might possibly guard against its being wrung out, as it is impossible to keep from wringing it if it has no handle. It is forbidden to shake out a garment which has been soaked in water, or upon which rain has fallen; it is even forbidden to handle it for fear of wringing it out. It is forbidden to shake from a black garment rain, snow, dust or feathers that have fallen upon it.
It is especially forbidden to wash one's head on the Sabbath, because that would transgress many prohibitions. It is forbidden to pare the nails or remove a hair or an ulcer either with the hand or with an instrument, either from oneself or from others. It is likewise forbidden to comb the hair with a comb or hairbrush on the Sabbath, as it is impossible that hair should not be torn out. It is forbidden to pull out even one gray hair from among the black on one's head so as not to appear old.
If a fly falls into an edible or beverage, one should not remove the fly itself, but should throw some of the edible or beverage out along with it.
It is forbidden to rub off mud from a garment or scrape it off with the fingernail. One must not write; even carrying a pencil is prohibited. A writer must not carry his pen, or a tailor his needle. It is not permitted to carry money on the Sabbath. Shining one's shoes is forbidden.
False teeth had to be removed on Friday, and false hair could not be worn on the street on the Sabbath. Wadding that fell out of the ear on that day had to be left out. [*73]
Simeon ben Yohai regarded too much talking as inconsistent with a proper celebration of the Sabbath. [*74] Loud noises were a violation; clapping one's hands, striking with a hammer, music of any kind, and any demonstration of joy were condemned as impious.
Although it was contended that every animal carries itself and it would not be a burden if it carried a man, still a man should not ride an animal for fear that if he did he might cut a switch in order to whip the animal to make it go.
If an act is permissible but the result of that act should lead to another that is prohibited, the former is considered a violation of the Sabbath. If an act is prompted by a good motive and results in a good deed, the perpetrator is nevertheless guilty if the thing he did is prohibited.
Extinguishing a light is forbidden, even if done for the purpose of conserving oil. [*75] It is better to permit the consumption of oil uselessly than to violate the Sabbath by putting out the light!
Reading on the Sabbath was permitted provided you were not too close to the light. To get the full benefit of the light would be a violation. You must suffer difficulty in being able to see! [*76]
Tying or untying knots was prohibited. One rabbi said that a knot that could be untied with one hand was permissible, while another said that if the knot was not intended to be permanent it would not violate the Sabbath.
If there be a stain on an article made of leather, it is permissible to pour water on it, but it is forbidden to wash it.
Broken windows or doors, even though they be hanging on their hinges, cannot be removed on the Sabbath. One must not carry an umbrella. The leg of a broken chair must not be replaced. It is forbidden to put laces in shoes if the holes are too small and there is difficulty in putting them in. A dull knife must not be sharpened.
If a burning candle or sparks fall upon a table, it is permitted to shake the table, but not with the intention of extinguishing the sparks. It is forbidden to open a door to let the wind extinguish a candle or a fire.
Removing the bastings which a tailor has temporarily placed in a garment is prohibited. Tearing paper is prohibited. [*77]
To carry a child is forbidden. If the child is too small to walk, the parent must make some semblance of its walking by letting its feet touch the ground. However, to drag the child is considered the same as carrying it, and hence forbidden.
One should especially abstain from carrying a watch. If a handkerchief is carried, it must be around the upper garment. Since making two knots on the Sabbath is prohibited, care should be taken that only one knot is made in order that it may remain on the garment.
The application of saliva to the eyes is supposed to have a curative effect, and is therefore forbidden. On the Sabbath you may put a plaster on a wound to prevent it from getting worse, but not for the purpose of its getting better or well. Broken bones may not be set on the Sabbath; that would be considered curing. Not even the dislocated limb of a child may be set. A surgical operation must not be performed. Emetics must not be given.
It is unlawful to kill a flea on the Sabbath. To pluck a blade of grass is forbidden. It is unlawful to wear any garment which one might take off and carry in the hand, for this would be a burden. [*78]
Fruit that ripened on the Sabbath is taboo. Fruit found under a tree on the Sabbath must not be handled, for perchance it may have fallen on that day. Eggs laid on the Sabbath are likewise taboo. Ringing a bell is prohibited. Making mental calculations on the Sabbath is a violation. Reading letters is prohibited.
If one is ill but is able to get about, he cannot take medicine to relieve his pain. An aching tooth must continue to ache until the Sabbath is over before it may be treated. You may, however, use vinegar to allay the pain, provided you drink it, as it is then considered food. To spit it out would classify it as medicine, and that is prohibited. Binding an open wound is prohibited, as the cloth may be colored by the blood that flows, and that is prohibited. If cold water would bring relief to a sprained ankle, it may not be used. [*79]
It is a violation to attempt to save anything from a burning house. Sacred books, however, are an exception, provided they are not of another religion and do not mention the name of God. [*80]
Could there be a day that more nearly required suspended animation in order that all of its insane restrictions and prohibitions might be observed? How can a system of religion whose God provides a day that so paralyzes the brain of man be productive of good to the human race?
So fanatical did the Hebrews become regarding the observance of the Sabbath that they even refused to defend themselves from their enemies on that day. To fight in self-defense was prohibited. [*81] Josephus states: "They avoided to defend themselves on that day because they were not willing to break in upon the honour they owed the Sabbath, even in such distress...."
When the enemy nations of the Hebrews learned about this, they took advantage of their stupid "day of rest" and concentrated their attacks on the day they feared to "labor." Plutarch commented: "They so lay still until they were caught like so many trout in the dragnet of their own superstition."
The general of Antiochus Epiphanes, in the second century B.C., took advantage of the law of the Sabbath of the Hebrews, and put to the sword 1000 unresisting Jews who were engaged in worship. [*82] Their strict, literal interpretation and observance of this Commandment, the fear of breaking a taboo day even in defense of their lives, is one of the most amazing phenomena of religious superstition.
During the time of the destruction of the eagles and the protest against the use of ensigns and flags by the Romans in the Jewish provinces, Apion used as one of his strongest arguments against the Jews their fanatical observance of the Sabbath day. A "Sabbath" -- a cessation of all work and the devotion of the entire day to prayer -- was then unknown to either the Greeks or the Romans and indicated to them an unbalanced mind. [*83] What must be said of modern Christians for imitating this superstition?
But even the fanaticism of the early Hebrews could not forever be maintained in the face of wanton destruction. The result of this strict observance of the Sabbath would have meant complete annihilation because of their refusal to obey the laws as prescribed by the emperor of the Roman Commonwealth. It was therefore decided, after much needless sacrifice, that the Sabbath was not to be binding when it was necessary to defend themselves from attack. Mattathais, their leader, advised them that unless they defended themselves "they would become their own enemies, by observing the law [so rigorously], while their adversaries would still assault them on this day and they would not defend themselves, and that nothing could then hinder but they all must perish without fighting." This speech persuaded them; and this rule continues to this day -- "that if there be necessity, we must fight on Sabbath days." [*84]
Although the Hebrews had dedicated themselves to a strict observance of the Sabbath, they found it necessary, as a means of preservation, to violate this prohibition. Unable any longer to permit the unmerciful slaughter and frightful decimation to continue, they finally decided that in times of war and in defense of themselves, the Commandment could be violated. To succor the ill, however, to help one in distress, to do a good deed that required labor, to work for the benefit of others, even to pick up a stick, were all condemned as the worst of sins if performed on the Sabbath, punishable with death by stoning; but to kill as a means of defense in warfare was declared permissible.
Either the whole concept of the Sabbath should be repudiated or they should suffer the consequences for the observance of those provisions which they believe their God imposed upon them, even if it means annihilation.
If the Hebrew God wanted the Children of Israel to observe this Commandment literally, as the many texts in the Bible indicate, why did he not exercise his omnipotent power and prevent his "chosen people" from being attacked by enemies, at least on the Sabbath?
If it were necessary to violate the literal interpretation of the Fourth Commandment so as to prevent complete destruction, does it not follow that each and every Commandment is subject to the same elastic interpretation when a similar crisis presents itself, and when its enforcement presages disastrous results? If that is true, what is to be the standard by which these exceptions are to be determined? And do not these exceptions in effect nullify the validity of the Commandments?
To emphasize again not only the importance of observing the Sabbath, but also the penalties to be inflicted for its violation, I quote Exodus, Chapter 35, verses 1 to 3:
1. And Moses gathered all the congregation of the children of Israel together, and said unto them, These are the words which the Lord hath commanded, that ye should do them.
2. Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day there shall be to you a holy day, a sabbath of rest to the Lord: whosoever doeth work therein shall be put to death.
3. Ye shall kindle no fire throughout your habitations upon the sabbath day.
The refusal of the Hebrews to light a fire on the Sabbath day, because of this injunction, caused them frightful suffering, particularly during the Spanish Inquisition. When the terrible edict of expulsion was put into effect, thousands upon thousands went through the formality of renouncing their faith and becoming Christians rather than suffer the tortures and misery of dispersion for believing, practicing and observing the "Laws of Moses." They were called Conversos and Marranos. Conversions are not easily accomplished, and, believing discretion to be the better part of valor, they gave the semblance of assent. But the Spanish Inquisitors had a method of detecting the genuineness of the conversion. They watched for the slightest indication of the observance of the Sabbath. One way they could discover this was when the weather made heat necessary in the house. Because of the strict observance of this Commandment to "kindle no fire throughout their habitation" on the Sabbath, the Inquisitors observed that no smoke came from the chimneys. On this evidence, they accused the Conversos of practicing the tenets of their presumably abandoned religion, which to the Inquisitors justified arrest and trial and subjection to the Inquisitorial methods of torture.
The misery and suffering that the Children of Israel endured for observing this Commandment cannot be told more poignantly than by merely mentioning historical facts. In the whole story of religious persecution there is no bloodier page. The fanatical Spanish Christian butchered and slaughtered the Jews in a manner unparalleled in history. So intense was the hatred in the hearts of the Inquisitors that "a kindness to a Jew was a sin against God." [*85] A Christian was forbidden to drink wine in the house of a Jew. [*86] Was this one of the blessings that the Bible God conferred on them for keeping his Commandments? Did ever a people suffer such atrocities as the direct cause of the observance of their religion which their God imposed upon them under threat of death? Could the punishment for violation of this Commandment have been as terrible as the suffering they endured for its observance?
The most ingenious devices were used by the believers in the Mosaic law to observe the Sabbath and at the same time avoid the suspicion of the Inquisitors. One of the methods of concealment was for the mother and daughters of the house to sit with reels or spinning wheels before them on the Sabbath so that if anyone came, they could pretend to be at work. [*87] These ruses, however, were not often successful.
In the public autos-da-fé of Cordova, from 1655 to 1700, out of three hundred and ninety-nine persons brought forward, three hundred and seventy-four were those who tried to follow literally the provisions of the Fourth Commandment. In Toledo, from 1651 to 1700 there were eight hundred and fifty-five cases of which five hundred and fifty-six were for Sabbatical observances. In Valladolid, in 1699, out of eighty-five accused, seventy-eight were for this "crime."
For observing the Sabbath, not for violating it, Antonio Lopez, at Valladolid, in 1648, was tortured from eight o'clock in the morning until eleven at night, and was left with a crippled arm. Unable to stand the terrific pain he was suffering as a result of the torture he had endured, he endeavored to strangle himself, and died within a month. After being confined for ten months in the inquisitorial dungeon and suffering numerous tortures, among which was having an arm broken and a toe wrenched off, Engracia Rodrigues, a woman of sixty, finally confessed her diabolical crime of Sabbath keeping and Jewish practices. [*88]
For confession under torture, and for revoking the confession when relieved, Miguel de Castro, at Valladolid, in 1644, had an arm dislocated and lost two fingers. He was to be tortured again, when the physician and surgeon declared him unable to endure it. However, after he confessed and begged for mercy, he received a final punishment of a hundred lashes.
At Toledo, in Spain, in the year 1567, there lived Elvira del Campo, who was of Converso descent and married to a respectable Christian. She was charged with observing the Sabbath, refusal to eat pork, and keeping other Mosaic rituals. She was also charged with putting on clean linen on Saturdays, and not working. Although her friends and neighbors testified that she was a Christian who attended mass regularly, made confession, and gave all outward signs of being devout, she was nevertheless brought to trial. It was admitted that she was a good woman, kind and charitable, and never spoke ill of anyone. Her trial was vigorously pushed, but had to be delayed because of her pregnancy. On the strength of the evidence, some by witnesses she had never known, she was subjected to inquisitorial torture in order to force a confession. [*89]
The priests of the Holy Roman Catholic Church lost no opportunity to wreak their vengeance upon these "miserable relics of Judaism," the "unhappy fragments of the synagogue," these "detestable objects of scorn." And for what? Were they guilty of unmentionable crimes against others? Did they butcher innocent children or rape virgin girls? No. Their crime was that they believed that this Commandment was God's divine message. They believed the words of this Commandment to be true. That is all. The innocent blood of millions of the Children of Israel had been shed for the observance of this Commandment. And yet a fundamentalist minister has the brazen effrontery to say that "Nothing marks their [the Hebrews'] later decadence in morals or in practical righteousness more than their constant evasion and desecration of the Sabbath day"! [*90] What a mockery!
Around the day designated on the calendar as the Hebrew Sabbath there should be a band of mourning in memory of all those who died because of the brutal fanaticism that accompanied the observance of this lunatic day of religion.
In making a superstition of the Sabbath, with its masochistic ritual, the Children of Israel inflicted self-strangulation upon themselves. Never have a people suffered so much for so invalid a reason. Their day of freedom will come only when they completely emancipate themselves from the superstitious tyranny of the delusion of the Sabbath day.
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