Did You Know?
By Rabbi Fabian Werbin
That Shabbat is the seventh day of the week is a fact we all know. That Shabbat is different from the other days of the week we all know… That we rest on Shabbat to emulate G-d’s attitude during creation we all know… That Shabbat is the day we are not supposed to work is something we all know…
What is probably not very well known is that the Talmud and other sources tell us about a special river that rested on Shabbat. Yes, your eyes are not deceiving you… You read right… A river that rested on Shabbat…
There are at least two different legends that tell that this river stopped flowing on Shabbat:
- “The River Sambation proves it [the superiority of Saturday] because during the week-days it runs and causes stones to drift, but on Saturday it ceases to flow.” (Sanhedrin 65B)
- At the fall of night a cloud descended and enveloped the Sons of Moses and all who belonged to them. They were hidden from their enemies, while their own way was illuminated by a pillar of fire. The cloud and the pillar vanished at break of day, and before the Sons of Moses lay a tract of land bordered by the sea on three sides. For their complete protection G-d made the river Sambation to flow on the fourth side. This river is full of sand and stones, and on the six working days of the week, they tumble over each other with such vehemence that the crash and the roar are heard far and wide. But on the Sabbath the tumultuous river subsides into quiet. As a guard against trespassers on that day, a column of cloud stretches along the whole length of the river, and none can approach the Sambation within three miles. (Legends of the Jews, Page 317)
There are differing opinions about the people which the river surrounds and the location of the river. We read that the river surrounded the Israelites when they were in the wilderness but another source says that Sambation was the river beyond which the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel were exiled by the Assyrian king Shalmaneser V. “The tribes of Judah and Benjamin were not exiled to the same place as the ten tribes; for the latter were transported beyond the River Sambation,” (Gen. Rabah. 73.). Regarding to the location of the river, Nachmanides identifies it with the Gozan of the Bible. Others say the river is located in Ethiopia while others say it is in India or near Bagdad. Never mind… We don’t know exactly where it is, we don’t know exactly which people it surrounded but at least we learned about another source that teaches us to rest on Shabbat.