How Noahides should relate to the Seventh Day (Saturday)


Moses descendning from Mount Sinai with the Second Tablets on Yom Kippur

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I’ve been told that a Noahide must “mark” the Sabbath in some way. Is that correct, and could you give me examples of ways to mark the Sabbath in the manner of a Noahide?

ANSWER : A Noahide is allowed, but not required or obligated, to mark the significance of the Seventh Day in some ways. But there must not be a belief or conviction that he or she may – or is allowed to – take on any religious obligation to ritually abstain from productive activity on the Seventh Day, or on any other day. Nevertheless, there must be an intellectual recognition that G-d assigns a special significance to it as the Seventh Day of Creation, since that is part of the Torah of Truth.

Note: For Gentiles, there is no problem with simply acknowledging the special significance that G-d assigns to the Seventh Day. And there is no problem for them to do any normal activity in a nicer way, and having in mind to honor the Seventh Day by doing so. Here are a few examples of ways to “mark” or “acknowledge” the Sabbath Day, without violating the prohibition that Gentiles must not observe the Jewish ritual commandments for Sabbath observance:

– Just resting for the sake of one’s own physical rest and relaxation, or taking a day off from one’s job if permitted by the employer, or vacationing

– Eating a very nice meal after sunset on Friday and/or during the day on Saturday (which can include lighting candles on the table during either of those times to beautify the meal), as stated by Rabbi J. Immanuel Schochet o.b.m.

– Wearing nicer clothes.

Here are some additional suggestions for good ways that a Noahide may mark the Seventh Day, if he or she so desires (all expressly without a vow):

– Put in some extra or more quality time in learning appropriate Torah subjects, being sure to obtain translations from an observant Jewish publishing company. Suggestions for books to learn from: (1) the Hebrew Bible (Five Books of Moses, the Prophets, and the Holy Writings); (2) a book that teaches about proper observance of the Noahide Code; and works of Chassidic teachings from our list of recommended books. One may also read Torah-based perspectives and insights on subjects of nature and factual science, with the object of increasing his or her appreciation of the greatness and the miracles of G-d’s creation (but don’t waste your time on modern myths such as evolution).

– Put in some extra or more quality time for your prayers. (Note: Psalm 92 is specifically for the Seventh Day, and Psalms from chapters 120-150 are specially designated as appropriate to say on that day as well.)

– One may spend extra quality time with one’s family, strengthening the bonds of love and strengthening the family’s understanding of and commitment to the Torah-true Noahide values. (Note: “quality” time on any day presupposes that the TV will be off! Ask Noah supports the movement for TV-free homes.)

– A candle may be lit on the dinner table to beautify the Friday evening meal.


I’ve always thought that the observance of a Sabbath day was given in the Garden of Eden, and it is incumbent upon all mankind to keep it, and that the commandment to “remember the Sabbath” refers to this earlier time. But is it true that the Torah Law actually says that all Gentiles, including Noahides, are not commanded or obligated at all to observe the Sabbath?

ANSWER : To clarify this, let’s first review the Biblical history. At the onset of the Seventh Day of the first week (sundown on Friday of the Seven Days of Creation), G-d abstained [yishbot in Hebrew] from His “work” of creation. However, Adam and Hava (Eve) did not receive any commandments regarding a Sabbath observance. In fact, in Genesis 1:28, G-d told them that they and their descendants should focus their attention on their Divine mission to “subdue” the earth, which involves engaging in activities every day which leave an impression of human mastery, creativity and active involvement in the world (in contrast to Jews, who are commanded to withdraw in specific ways from involvement in the world during their Sabbath).

After the Flood, when the righteous man Noah (a “tzaddik”) and his family left the ark, G-d told them (Genesis 8:22) “As long as the earth lasts… day and night shall not cease [lo yishe’botu in Hebrew].” This statement has an additional meaning: “you shall not make a Shabbat [Sabbath],” as stated in the Talmud. As explained in the Torah Law from Mt. Sinai, this verse is a warning that a Sabbath of deliberative abstention from creative activity, or the observance of a day as a “holy Sabbath day,”  must not be observed by any Gentiles (the Children of Noah).

**Although it says in Genesis 2:1-3 that G-d designated the Seventh Day as holy and sanctified, don’t forget the basic principle that G-d did not limit Torah to always be a chronological account of events. In fact, G-d first dictated the book of Genesis to Moses shortly after the Israelites arrived at Mount Sinai. The first time there was any commandment about a special observance of a “Sabbath” was 4 weeks after the Israelites miraculously passed through the Sea of Reeds on dry land.

When they ran out of the matzah they took out of Egypt, G-d provided them with manna as food from Heaven. But no manna fell on the Seventh Day. G-d instead provided a miraculous double portion on Friday afternoon, and He commanded the Israelites to remain in their camp on the Seventh Day. Moses explained to them that they were, from that time on, uniquely commanded to observe the Seventh Day as a day of rest and a holy Sabbath (Exodus 16:23). Thus, at the first mention of the Seventh Day in the text of Genesis, as it was dictated at Mount Sinai, G-d told Moses to insert the information that He had (2 weeks earlier) blessed the Seventh Day (referring to the double portion of manna that fell on Friday afternoon for the Israelites), and He made it “holy” (kadosh = “separated”) when He prohibited the Israelites from leaving their camp on that day.

This is the subject of Rashi’s explanation of Genesis 2:3: “And [G-d] blessed the seventh day and He hallowed it…” [Rashi explains]: He blessed it with manna, for on all the days of the week, it descended for them [in the amount of] an omer per person, whereas on the sixth day,[each one received] a double portion. And He hallowed it with manna, that it did not descend at all on the Sabbath. This verse is written with reference to the future.” — [from Midrash Genesis Rabbah 11:2]

About 3 weeks later, the Israelites were told directly by G-d at Mount Sinai to keep a holy day of restraint on the Seventh Day as one of the “Ten Commandments” (Exodus 20:8-11), which began with the limiting statement: “I am The L-rd your G-d, Who took you out of the Land of Egypt, from the house of slaves.” The “you” here obviously applies only to the Jewish people, so they are the “you” to whom that entire set of Ten Commandments was addressed.

When the “Ten Commandments” were repeated by Moses in Deuteronomy, it was made even more explicit that the commandment of Sabbath observance on the Seventh Day of the week was addressed only to the Jewish people who had been slaves in Egypt: “Guard the Sabbath Day to “sanctify” [= separate] it, as The L-rd, your G-d, commanded you. … And you shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt …” (Deut. 5:12-15). (This Jewish commandment also serves, from that time on, as G-d’s testimony to the rest of the nations that G-d created the spiritual and physical realms in seven days).

After the Ten Commandments were given, Moses ascended Mount Sinai and spent many weeks learning the Oral Torah from G-d. He was told that the restraint G-d commanded for their Sabbath was to refrain from activities of “melakha,” which is loosely and inaccurately translated into English as “work.” The true definition of “melakha” can be learned from the verses Exodus 35:1-19. Here the Jews were commanded to make the Tabernacle in the desert, with all its vessels and priestly garments, as a temple for G-d’s Divine Presence. But at the outset they were commanded that they must only work on constructing the Tabernacle during the first six days of the week.

For the Seventh Day, their Sabbath, they were told to refrain from the specific creative activities required for building the Tabernacle and the articles associated with it. The Oral Torah explains that these amount to a total of 39 specific creative activities. (The Sages throughout the generations added some additional restrictions to keep a Jew from even coming close to performing one of these 39 forbidden actions.) If an emergency occurs on the Sabbath, G-d forbid, a forbidden “melakha” is allowed to be done if necessary for the preservation of life. Here are JUST A FEW examples of the Jewish Sabbath restrictions :

– A Jew must not light, increase, decrease or put out even the smallest “fire” on the Sabbath. On a simple level, electricity is included in the Torah’s definition of fire because electric current heats and cures the conductive metal it moves through. Maimonides stated the rule that the heat within a heated piece of metal is considered to be fire from the standpoint of Sabbath observance, and this includes adjusting or switching electric circuits (although Jews may set timers before the Sabbath to switch circuits automatically). Obviously, driving a motor vehicle is forbidden since this switches electricity and burns fuel.

– A Jew must not carry any object in the public domain on the Sabbath. So even though he may carry heavy furniture indoors to the point of exhaustion if needed on the Sabbath, he must not walk out of a private domain with so much as a tissue in his pocket.

– A Jew must not cook food on the Sabbath, so food must be pre-cooked before the start of the Sabbath (before sundown on Friday). Heating water is included, so no hot water can be used from the tap unless the water heater is turned off before sundown.

– Other actions forbidden to Jews on the Sabbath include: wringing out a wet cloth, dyeing, sewing, writing, erasing, tying a permanent knot, hammering, harvesting or pruning, buying or selling, and making a vessel (for example, by making an opening in a sealed metal can).

[To further emphasize the specialty that G-d places on the seventh in a sequence that relates to the Jews, note the following: (a) Jews are also commanded by G-d to keep a SABBATICAL YEAR once every seven years, in which plowing, sowing and reaping are forbidden on their property in the Holy Land of Israel for the entire year, and all personal loans between Jews are cancelled. (b) The seventh month of the Jewish calendar is the most holy, with the observances of Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Shemini Atzeres and Simchas Torah. (c) Moses received the Torah because he was the leader in the seventh generation from Abraham. (d) David was chosen to start the eternal patrilineal Jewish royal dynasty that will produce the Messiah, because he was the leader of the seventh generation from Moses.

To learn about pre-Sinai recognitions of the Seventh Day, one must turn to the Midrash, which gives the following information:

Abraham (who was the first Jew spiritually, but still a Noahide under Torah Law), prophetically knew of all the rules that would be given to the Jewish people in the future in the Written Torah and Oral Torah, as well as the future Rabbinical injunctions. On this basis, only he and his immediate family, as the precursors of the Jewish people, observed these on some level, either in practical physical terms (for practices that were allowed for them to do), or on a more abstract spiritual basis. This is what was passed down to Isaac and Jacob and their wives. However, since they still had the legal status of Children of Noah, they specifically did not keep a Sabbath as the Jewish people would after the revelation at Mount Sinai (as explained in the commentary of Nachmanides).


Can a Noahide pursue his regular course of employment on a Saturday?

ANSWER : Yes. All weekday activities are permitted to a Noahide on Saturday, whether for business or recreation. If your employer is flexible and will allow you to take some or all Saturdays as one of your weekly days off, that is fine. But as a Gentile, you should not tell your employer that you are requesting Saturday off as a religious obligation (and anyway that should not be your intent).


Is it permissible for a Noahide to purchase items (spend money) and travel on the Sabbath?

ANSWER : Yes. All activities that are permissible on weekdays can be done by Noahides on the Sabbath.


The fourth commandment of the 10 Commandments for the Jews says the seventh day is the Sabbath. How do the Jews know the Sabbath is on Saturday?

ANSWER : There are several answers to this question. Here we will just give two straightforward answers:

(1a) After the Jewish people left Egypt in the Exodus, they had to travel in the wilderness for 40 years before G-d allowed them to enter and take possession of the Land of Israel. During those 40 years, they were sustained by the manna that fell from Heaven on every day of the week EXCEPT for their Sabbath day (Saturday). Since the Jews had to observe their Sabbath restrictions every Saturday, a double portion of manna was miraculously provided every Friday, and none fell on Saturday. So the entire nation (several millions of people) knew exactly which day was the Saturday Sabbath, as established by this ongoing miracle from G-d. Also, the Oral Torah relates that the 10 Commandments were spoken by G-d to the entire nation on a Saturday morning. This was incorporated into the Hebrew calendar. May centuries later, the leaders of the Roman empire imported the Jewish seven-day week into their calendar.

(1b) [A continuation of (1a)] Part of the Jewish observance of the Sabbath is that one of the daily morning prayers is to count the number of days until the next Sabbath. On Sunday one says, “Today is the first day to the Sabbath,” and so on, until Friday when one says, “Today is the sixth day to the Sabbath.” (In Hebrew, the first six days of the week do not have names, only numbers – “First Day,” “Second Day,” etc.) So from the time that the manna stopped approximately 3300 years ago, the Jews have been counting the days of the week. Even if a few individuals or an entire community might have lost count at some point, there were always millions of Jews who were faithfully keeping an accurate count. This count of the seven days of the week was incorporated into the Jewish calendar and from there into the Roman calendar.

(2) Among the Jewish people there have always been special righteous individuals in every generation who were blessed with prophetic insight and enhanced spiritual vision. Although the spiritual light of the Sabbath is not consciously perceived by most of us, it shines openly in the Heavenly realms. These prophetic individuals know precisely the moment when the Sabbath arrives, when they see this spiritual light beginning to shine. Here is an occurrence that illustrates this point (as published in “L’Chaim,” no. 316, 6 May ’94):

When the Rizhiner Rebbe was a small child he was learning a tractate of Mishna with his teacher. The teacher explained that the subject matter dealt with a situation when, for some reason, a person forgets when Shabbat is.

“But how can a person possibly forget?” asked the boy, totally amazed at the idea.

The teacher began to detail some possible reasons: “A person might have gotten lost in a desert or forest and lost all track of the time,” he explained.

But his pupil would have none of it. “It’s absolutely impossible to forget,” he protested.

It didn’t matter how many examples the teacher provided; the boy stubbornly reiterated his protest that it was an impossibility.

Finally, the teacher asked him, “Why is it that you find this idea so hard to accept?”

“It’s very simple. On Shabbat the sky looks different than it does the whole week, so if a person isn’t sure what day it is, all he has to do is to look up at the sky, and he will know at once if it is Shabbat or not.”


Since G-d created the Sabbath just shortly after He created Adam, why wasn’t the 4th of the 10 Commandments for the Jews (the Sabbath) included in the 7 Commandments?

ANSWER : Please see the answer to Question 2 above.

The general answer is that G-d assigned to the Jewish people (Jews by birth, and righteous converts) an exclusive task of connecting with a deeper spiritual dimension, while living in the same physical world as the Gentiles. This did not change the important mission that He assigned to Gentiles, which is to improve the world – and their own character – by faithfully observing the Noahide Code.

It is critical for Gentiles to recognize their 7 specific commandments, given through Noah and then through Moses at Mount Sinai, as being their main obligation from G-d, which is not 8 or only 6 commandments (as pointed out above, that the number 7 is beloved by G-d). Gentiles can also serve G-d every day by learning about the details and offshoots of their 7 Commandments, praying to G-d, saying blessings or thanks to G-d before and after eating, doing acts of goodness and kindness, and observing their logical and moral obligations (many of which have corresponding Jewish commandments, such as honoring parents and giving proper charity). That’s the perfect system that G-d, in His infinite wisdom, established for all mankind.

Relevant discussion threads in our Q&A Forum: