Sabbath: bread

The next element in our Sabbath ritual is the bread. Sweet, braided loaves of challah are traditional in Jewish homes, but of course any bread is suitable to serve on the Sabbath. For Passover, only unleavened bread is eaten — baked with stripes and pierced with holes, wrapped in a linen cloth.

On the Sabbath, a blessing is said over two loaves, symbolizing the double portion of manna that God gave the children of Israel in the wilderness each Shabbat. When God provided manna in the wilderness, he said, “by this I will test whether they will observe my Torah or not.” (Exodus 16:4b CJB) Would they gather only what they needed for the Sabbath day, or would they fail to trust God and hoard extra manna just in case? There are so many lessons we can learn from this alone, and on the Sabbath we eat bread to remember to trust.

So they said to him, “What should we do in order to perform the works of God?”
Yeshua answered, “Here’s what the work of God is: to trust in the one he sent!”
They said to him, “What miracle will you do for us, so that we may see it and trust you? What work can you perform? Our fathers ate [manna] in the desert — as it says in the Tanakh, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”
Yeshua said to them, “Yes, indeed! I tell you it wasn’t Moshe who gave you the bread from heaven. But my Father is giving you the genuine bread from heaven; for God’s bread is the one who comes down out of heaven and gives life to the world.”
They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread from now on.” 
Yeshua answered, “I am the bread which is life! Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever trusts in me will never be thirsty.” (John 6:28-35 CJB)

Bread represents work, since work is tied so closely to our survival. For many of us in the States, food is plentiful and we don’t have to work every day in order to afford it (of course there are exceptions — I am generalizing here), but even so, I think it can be challenging for us to take a step back from work and recognize that it is God who sustains us.

There is even a lesson to be learned about “work” in a more philosophical sense — trying to earn love by our actions, trying to force ourselves to “be” better. Much of the self-improvement advice masquerading as positive (“productivity,” “growth mindset,” and so on) is really a stand-in for a works-based paradigm that says we have to do it all.

Lately I am pondering how God does this work, too, just as he did the full work of redeeming our souls. We are all so different in personality and bent, we all think, believe and act so differently. Yet God can work with all of it (and created much of it!). Why then strive and contort to fit into an ideal? The washing of water and the Holy Spirit changes us — all at once and day by day. This is enough. In our obedience that comes through trusting, God does all the work to change and equip us. We only need to rest in him.

This Sabbath, as we thank God for the double portion of bread, let us remember that Yeshua has done all the work needed to redeem us. Let us trust him, and by so doing, in obedience, enter into his rest.

We bless you, Lord our God, King of the universe, who gives us bread from the earth.