Concerning Sabbath observance, the Mishnah lists 39 primary kinds of labor that were not allowed on the Sabbath day (Shabbath 7. 2, Soncino ed. of the Talmud, pp. 348, 349). The first 11 of these were steps leading to the production and preparation of bread: sowing, plowing, reaping, binding sheaves, threshing, winnowing, selecting, grinding, sifting, kneading, and baking.
The next 12 apply to similar steps in the preparation of clothing, from the shearing of sheep to the actual sewing of garments. These are followed by 7 steps in preparing the carcass of a deer for use as food or for leather. The remaining items listed have to do with writing, building, the kindling and extinguishing of fires, and the transportation of articles from one place to another.
In addition to these major regulations there were countless other provisions concerning the observance of the Sabbath. Most commonly known is the so-called “sabbath day’s journey” of 2,000 cu.— somewhat less than 2/3 mi.
It was also counted as Sabbath breaking to look in a mirror fixed to the wall (Shabbath 149a, Soncino ed. of the Talmud, p. 759), or even to light a candle. Sadly, these same regulations permitted an egg laid on the Sabbath to be sold to a Gentile, and a Gentile to be hired to light a candle or a fire.
The Pharisees were continually employing the letter of man-made laws to destroy the spirit of the law of God. The Sabbath, was designed by God to give man an opportunity to know his Maker and to reflect upon His love, mercy and bountiful blessings. But instead of it reflecting the character of God, it became a reflection of the cruel character of Pharisees and scribes.
The Lord teaches that regarding Sabbath rules, whatever draws us closer to Him, helps us to understand His will, and leads to the happiness and well-being of others—this would be true Sabbath observance (Isa. 58:13; Mark 2:27, 28).
In His service,