Sabbath Travel Problems
Two Neighbourhood Sabbaths and Defining Ones Place
Q. I live in Norway am planning to attend a Sabbath meeting with your congregation in Sweden (by travelling the day before) as I don't have one of my own to attend. Unfortunately, we don't have the sabbath on the same day owing to different New Moon conjunctions based on our location. A brother south of me in Sweden is in the same situation. For both of us, your sabbath is a day ahead of our own. What should we do? Since neither of us are able to attend a congregation in our home towns, does yours - which is the nearest - take 'priority', nullifying ours since we are travelling? Or are we not even supposed to travel to another area: "For Yahweh has given you the Sabbath...Let every man remain in his place; let no man go out of his place on the seventh day" (Ex.16:29, NKJV)? Or does this mean I should travel two days before the neighbouring congregation's sabbath, travelling the day before my own?
A. This is a very good question and I am glad you raised it. There can be no question of 'annulling' one sabbth to allow someone to travel to attend another location whose sabbath is the next day. Clearly you should not "go out of [your] place" to attend another one separated by a very large distance because that violates the sabbath where you are. And that's the point of the sabbath: it is defined in the Creation Calendar on the basis of where you are geographically. We cannot go inventing man-made rules for the sake of convenience. This will apply equally to travelling up to centres of assembly for pilgrim feasts that start on a Sabbath like Shavu'ot and Sukkot. So I'm afraid you will have to travel up a day earlier so as not to break the sabbath in the place where you happen to be at any one moment in time.
Since you have raised Exodus 16:29 I ought perhaps to say a word about what it means to "remain in his place" and "not go out of his place" on the Sabbath. There are some who interpret this to mean than a man shouldn't even leave his house and that therefore we are not to congregate with others on the Sabbath. This cannot possibly be true otherwise, for example, Yah'shua (Jesus) would not have acknowledged that it was permissible for a man to rescue one of his animals that had fallen in a ditch without breaking the Sabbath - unless (absurdly) the ditch ran through his house. So obviously a man can help out a distressed animal on his property or land which could conceivably be very large or extensive. Besides, Yahweh has explicity stated that the Sabbath is a "holy convocation (assembly)" (Lev.23:3) and you have obviously got to leave your own property to attend an assembly that doesn't happen to be on it. The question is: how far is permissible? The word "place" in Exodus can be translated 'home', 'camp', 'locale' or 'neighbourhood'. According to Matthew 24:20 and Acts 1:12 a Sabbath day's journey was 2000 cubits (which is about 0.57 mile) in one direction. However, this was a rule created by the Sanhedrin of the apostles' day which became incorporated into the so-called 'oral law' or 'tradition of the Elders' which Yah'shua (Jesus) condemned. It's not something stated in the Torah.
Accordingly there is no fixed distance a man may travel on the Sabbbath in order to fulfil the mitzvah (commandment) to assembly for worhip with fellow covenant believers. Clearly if the nearest assembly is further away than one's 'neighbourhood' and is in, say, a neighbouring town or even several towns away, then there is a potential conflict. In that case, which takes precidence? The mitzvah (commandment) not to move beyond one's locale or the mitzvah (commandment) to assemble with others?
As far as this ministry is concerned, it has to be a matter of personal conscience and revelation for we are not to add to Torah rules as the Jews have done. Let each person of family head be satisfied in his own mind that he is doing Yahweh's will in the matter. And if the journey from Norway to Sweden, in your situation, is not too great a distance (if it's just across the border and not a massively long journey), then even thouigh you would be travelling to 'another' sabbath the following day, then I can see how this might be permissible. But were you to plan travelling for many, many hours then I would personally (and it's just my opinion) have to question the appropriateness of such a journey. If in doubt, default to remaining in your place.
Clearly if you have to pay someone to travel (such as using a bus, train or plane) because you don't own a carl you should consider the fact that you would be breaking an additional mitzvah (commandment) which forbids working or hiring others to work for you on the Sabbath. Then the dilemma arises for those travelling locally too, who have no transport of their own, to decide which mitzvah (commandment) takes precedence - breaking the mitzvah (commandment) not to buy a ticket or obeying the one to assemble? Clearly assembling is important for discipling and fellowship and would seem to me to take precendence but I would not flay half way across a country on the Sabbath to do so
I cannot be the spokesman for other members' consciences but I would give my personal opinion that assembly on sabbath is important and is the prior commandment provided this is not used as an excuse to do other things like go shopping or visiting entertainment centres that charge admission. Clearly we might have to use hired travel to take care of a sick relative on the sabbath or other worthy exercise though every effort should be made, where possible, to have ones own transport.
The whole point of the New Covenant is that every man is expected to act responsibly and obtain personal revelation where no clear word is spoken in Scripture. He should not neglect that obligation by turning to man-made rules. Obviously congregations need in-house rules just as homes do but these should be kept to a minimum, in the same way that national government should be. Solutions to apparently difficult or even impossible problems are always forthcoming to those who seek Yahweh with all their hearts. If, for instance, you are too poor to own your own car, there may be someone from your locale with their own car travelling to assembly too who could give you a lift!
For related issues see Keeping the Sabbath Day Holy: Basic Rules For Observing the Weekly Sabbath.
This page was created on 28 September 2013
Last updated on 28 September 2013
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