The Lost Meaning of the Seventh Day

I just picked up this new book — The Lost Meaning of the Seventh Day — by Seventh-Day Adventist Sigve K. Tonstad. He’s on the Religion and Medicine faculty at Loma Linda University.

I’m thinking about the title. I don’t think the meaning of the Seventh-Day is lost. Jews have been keeping it for thousands of years. In the two renditions of the Ten Commandments in the Torah, one tells Jews to remember the Sabbath as a reminder of Creation, and the other tells the Jews to observe the Sabbath as a memorial to the Exodus from Egypt.

The Sabbath has certainly lost its meaning to Christians. Very early on in Christian history, the followers of Jesus Christ took to observing the Sabbath on Sunday to distinguish themselves from the Jews.

Today Sunday is no different for Christians than the other days of the week except that they are more likely to go to church. Otherwise they feel free to shop or to watch football or to make money.

So what does Judaism have to say about non-Jews who try to observe the Sabbath as Jews do?

Well, for at least 2,000 years, the rabbis have been clear that non-Jews should not try to observe the Sabbath in the same way that Jews do.

I was raised a Seventh-Day Adventist. I did not have any friends outside of the church until I was 14. So everyone I knew growing up observed the Sabbath.

But what does “observe” mean?

No religion outside of Judaism observes the Sabbath as Torah Jews do. Seventh-Day Adventists believe they observe the Sabbath (just as they believe they worship one God), but it is not observance of the Sabbath as the Torah commands (no lighting a fire, etc).

Without a strict behavioral code combined with a successful way of life and a pure commitment to monotheism, Adventists don’t challenge the world the way that Jews do. There’s no Adventist-hatred. There haven’t been pogroms against Adventists.

It is very easy for a group to develop unique practices and theologies, but these only become significant to the world when they lead to a higher quality of life and influence. The Amish and the Adventists are interesting but they don’t shape and shift the world.

Seventh-Day Adventist observance of the Sabbath is a curiosity to many non-Adventists but this observance does not create people who rise to the top of their professions at anything like the rate that Jewish observance produces excellence. Harvard, Yale and Stanford are not getting overrun by Adventists.

I remember growing up Adventist and wondering why none of the great people in the world or in history were Adventist. I remember feeling irrelevant and helpless as a child and vowing to change that once I became an adult.

Evil people understand that Adventists pose little threat. That’s why there are few churches that need to station security guards outside to protect themselves. Virtually all synagogues need such guards to make sure that Jews can gather unmolested.

Evil people hate Jews. They go to Jewish schools and shoot at children. They go to Holocaust museums and Jewish institutions and start shooting. Evil people don’t target Seventh-Day Adventists. They don’t go to Adventist schools and start shooting. Hitler did not target Seventh-Day Adventists for extinction.

Much of the reason for the disproportionate Jewish influence on this world is that Judaism is the most this-world oriented of the world’s religions. All the other religions in the world say the next world is more important than this world. For instance, the essence of Christianity, particularly Protestant Christianity, is individual salvation to the next world. This theme is absent from Judaism. We’re not focused on the individual. We’re focused on the community.

At the end of his preface, Dr. Tonstad writes about “the sabbatarian premise that separation is contrary to God’s intent and will come to an end.”

This type of thinking jars me. Judaism holds strongly to the absolute and eternal separation between man and God. Judaism holds that it is more important to do one mitzvah in this life than to spend all eternity with God (what’s the famous Talmudic citation to this effect?).

This reminds me of a story about Napoleon, after a great victory, summoning three of his bravest soldiers. He promises them anything they want. The Catholic soldier says that he wishes for all humanity to join the one true church. The Protestant soldier says he wishes for all humanity to accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. The Jewish soldier says he’d like a tuna fish sandwich.

Afterwards, the Christians soldiers berate the Jew for asking for so little.

The Jew responds, “I’ll get my tuna fish sandwich.”

This mystical notion of dissolving ourselves in the divine, overcoming the absolute separation between God and man, is contrary to Judaism’s strict monotheism and the Torah’s insistence that God can never take human form.

Judaism’s sacred texts are all about separation, separation between man and God, between man and women, between adults and children, between human and animal, between the Sabbath and secular time, and between Jews and non-Jews.

Here’s the first sentence from the first chapter of this new book by Sigve K. Tonstad: “The seventh day is like a jar buried deep in the sands of time, preserving a treasure long lost and forgotten.”

It’s only lost to Christians. Jews have observed the Sabbath for thousands of years. Even though there are far more Sabbath-keeping Christians in the world than Jews when the world thinks of the Sabbath it rightly thinks first of the Orthodox Jew..

My dad published a book on the Sabbath called The Forgotten Day.

He concludes in this 1996 essay: “The Sabbath of Judaism, with its oppressive laws and its rituals applying to sacrifice and temple, has gone forever. So have the additional laws that surrounded most of the Ten Commandments as found in the Torah. But the Sabbath of Eden remains. It was for the first man and woman; it is for the last man and woman, and it is for every man and woman of all time.”

Oh man, how I’d love to write about this, but he’s my dad. I’m not going to critique his words. I’ll just link to them.

I don’t see how the Sabbath or any deed can ever be of primo importance to any form of Christianity because, as Paul of Tarsus points out in the New Testament, if good works could bring salvation, then Christ died in vain (Galatians 2:21).

The whole appeal of Christianity is that what you believe is more important than what you do.

Dr. Tonstad deals forthrightly with the long running Christian hatred of Jews. He sees in the seventh-day Sabbath “a window through which we catch a glimpse of what went wrong.”

He grasps that while Jews suffered in the Holocaust, it is the survival of Christianity that is called in to question by Christendom’s widespread participation in “The Final Solution.”

Dr. Tonstad writes on page 150: “…Isaiah’s vision implicitly disavows the notion that the Sabbath is the peculiar preserve of ethnic Jews.”

“Ethnic Jews”? Jews are an ethnic group like the Ferrari is a sports car. Yes, they are an ethnic group, but an ethnic group with a difference. Unlike other ethnic groups, Jews allow anyone to join (through conversion). Jews are an ethnic group defined by their religion.

A white man can’t convert to black, nor a Latino to Asian, but a goy can become a Jew by getting a halachicly (Jewish law) valid conversion from a Jewish law court of three Orthodox rabbis.

The Torah places the obligation to observe the Sabbath on Israelites. Many laws in the Torah are universal but most are for this particular people.

The law commanding capitol punishment for murder is universal (and is reaffirmed in each book of the Torah). The admonition that man-on-man sex is an abomination is also universal. By contrast, the verses that describe the eating of non-kosher seafood as an abomination carefully say “an abomination for you (the Israelites).” It is not an abomination for non-Jews to eat shrimp, nor is it an abomination for them to treat the Sabbath as any other day.

Judaism has very little to say about what non-Jews should do religiously. Abstaining from violating the seven laws of the sons of Noah scarcely makes for a fulfilling spiritual life.

It may be a good thing that the goyim have Christianity, Islam and MTV to keep them busy or who knows how much trouble they would get into. Goldman Sachs has suffered enough.

It’s important that the goyim stay busy so that Jews can keep ruling this world.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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