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Sabbath Cakes Brighten Lockdown for Elderly

Sabbath Cakes Brighten Lockdown for Elderly

The Sabbath is a day of rest, and the day before it, Friday, or Yom Shishi, Hebrew for “the sixth day,” is traditionally “preparation day.” For many Israelis, it’s a day off. But at the very least, it’s a day where work ends early; markets are jammed with shoppers getting last-minute items for their meals—prepared specially for Shabbat, the Hebrew word for Sabbath.

But preparing for the Sabbath has proven more difficult during the 2020 pandemic-related lockdowns. As this blog is being written, Israel is currently undergoing its second such quarantine. Among the hardest hit are isolated, elderly people living without any family members.

Sara Weinstein, an Israeli who survived the Holocaust, knows the pain of isolation: “Loneliness brings back the past, and it’s hard,” the 85-year-old resident of Yavne, a coastal city in central Israel, told News18, an Israeli news service.

Enter the “Sabbath Cake.”

The Sweetness of Shabbat

The report noted, “Each week ahead of the Jewish Sabbath, which starts on Friday at sundown, she gets a knock on the door that brightens her day: a home-baked cake delivered by one of thousands of volunteers bringing pastries to older Israelis living alone.”

Volunteer Sharon Yaron told the news outlet that visiting the elderly “gives them a sense of importance, to lessen the loneliness.”

Weinstein confirmed, “I know that there’s someone thinking of me; I’m not alone in the world. There’s someone thinking about sweetening Shabbat.”

That “someone” is Itamar Glazer, a 28-year-old baker in Tel Aviv who, in 2019, prior to the pandemic, started “Sweets for the Soul,” a weekly initiative for the elderly. Glazer wanted to bring some joy to shut-ins like Sara Weinstein.

“I always say that 90% of the world’s problems can be solved with a slice of a good cheesecake,” Glazer said, adding, “I want to create like a worldwide network to relieve loneliness with social interaction and cakes.”

Back in March, at the onset of COVID-19 in Israel, Glazer and his team paused “deliveries out of concern for the safety of older, higher-risk Israelis.” But it did not take long for people to start missing their weekly treat. Two weeks later, “Sweets for the Soul” was back at it again. The news report indicated that currently, the group delivers more than 1,000 cakes per week.

Doing Good on the Sabbath

This elderly initiative focuses on the day before the Sabbath, but did you know that Jesus Christ healed the sick and met the needs of others on the Sabbath day?

In the Messiah’s day, the Jewish leaders had mutilated the meaning of the Sabbath day by their stringent regulations. In Matthew 12, the Pharisees, in fact, chastised Jesus’ disciples for the “work” they did in plucking grain to feed themselves (vv. 1, 2). The Pharisees blamed Jesus for teaching His disciples to break the law.

Jesus’ response was rebuking: “If you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless” (v. 7). He concluded, “For the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath” (v. 8). The Pharisees would rather allow someone to go hungry—perhaps even to starve—than to bypass their traditions. This was not true observance of the Sabbath day, a day God set apart for communion with humanity. This was the Jewish leaders’ exaltation of themselves. Instead of rightly representing the character of God, as they claimed to do, their witness only made God out to be nothing more than they were: exacting, cruel tyrants.

Next, the Pharisees followed Jesus into the synagogue and presented to Him a man with a lame hand. “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?” was their question (v. 10).

Jesus again remonstrated them for devaluing human life at the expense of their own selfish gains. They would rescue a sheep on the Sabbath if the animal profited them but would not lift a finger to give aid to one suffering from malady. He then declared, “It is lawful to do good on the Sabbath” (v. 12), and then He promptly healed the man’s hand (v. 13).

Maybe it’s a friend or family member hospitalized or in a nursing home or other care facility. Maybe it’s the homeless in a nearby park. Or maybe it’s even just your next-door neighbor or the visitor sitting next to you at church. And we certainly can imitate the example of “Sweets for the Soul” and remember those who are discouraged and lonely.

A few years ago, Pastor Doug Batchelor explained the opportunity of doing good this way: “There will sometimes be unforeseen circumstances that arise on the Sabbath that call for our attention. … When people are suffering on the Sabbath and it is within our abilities to help them, shouldn’t we have a heart for them, even more than for an animal stuck in a ditch?”

This is not to excuse mundane activities that can be done prior to the Sabbath day. This is to uplift God, reverencing His day by lending a helping hand when others are in need. Point others to Jesus on His holy day. This is the purpose of all good deeds—not just to be nice to someone—but to share with others the love of God. Let them see the God whose Word is as bread for the soul (Matthew 4:4); let them see the God who is the Great Physician, the One who desires to heal us from the terminal illness of sin (1 John 1:9).

To learn more, check out the resources here on—especially the online Bible study lessons. See why the Sabbath matters and how to observe it!

This article contributed by Mark A. Kellner
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