The Shabbat Is For Whom?
Some would say that it is only the Jewish people today who should be celebrating the seventh-day Shabbat. This belief is interesting, especially in the light of the fact that G-d instituted the Shabbat before tribes of humanity were established, well before the time of Abraham—in the very Garden of Eden (Gan Eden). Some hold that Noah, a righteous biblical representative of the “non-Jew,” didn’t hold to the Shabbat, and therefore other non-Jews today also do not need to keep it (commonly referred to as “Noahide Laws”). This is an unfortunate speculation because Noah had a very good understanding of G-d’s laws including the idea of kashrut—the separation between clean and unclean, kosher and treif, so to speak; thus we have no reason to doubt that he had knowledge of the other laws of his Creator, including the Shabbat. G-d spoke to Noah, saying, “of every clean beast thou shalt take to thee seven and seven, each with his mate; and of the beasts that are not clean two [and two], each with his mate” (Bereshit/Genesis 7:2). Thus, Noah knew much of the laws of the Torah, which wasn’t officially given to Israel and the nations until much later.
In Shmot/Exodus 20:1, it says, “G-d spoke all these words.” The rabbis teach through midrash that when G-d spoke at Sinai, His words of Torah were heard in the seventy languages known at the time, symbolizing the whole world, as it were (Shmot Rabba 5:9). If the Torah were only for Israel, why would it need to be heard in all the known languages at the time? This implies that the law was given, again, to all the existing tribes, tongues and nations of the world.
In the Torah itself, the injunction is to “remember the Shabbat to keep it holy”
(Shmot/Exodus 20:8-11). Oddly enough, the
saying, or mitzvah, most forgotten in today’s society is the very one beginning with “remember.” Furthermore, not only is the hearer of the law to keep the Shabbat holy by doing no work, but the beasts of burden are also to rest. Even the “stranger that is within thy gates” is to observe the Shabbat. There is no mention of whether or not this stranger is Jewish (even with an assumption, correct or not, that the audience is solely Jewish). If the Author of the Torah forbids work for animals upon the Shabbat, how much more should all of humanity, creatures of His very image, rest upon this day?
Therefore we can conclude that the seventh-day Shabbat is not only timeless, as is our seven-day week, but universal as well. The Shabbat is for all creation, to include each nation, language, and tribe, to include the very animals that we employ. The Scriptures tell us that Shabbat is “everlasting” and eternal. This timelessness binds us today just as tightly as it bound our ancestors millennia ago as a sign for us to remember that our Creator is the one who sets us apart for Him (Shmot/Exodus 31:13).