What About Isaiah 58:13?
Another question that I receive constantly concerns Isaiah 58:13-14, which is typically translated into English as, “If you turn away your foot from the Shabbath, from doing your pleasure on my holy day, and call the Shabbath a delight — the holy of Yehowah — honorable; and shall honor him, not doing your own ways, nor finding your own pleasure, nor speaking your own words, then shall you delight yourself in Yehowah; and I will cause you to ride on the high places of the earth, and feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father. For the mouth of Yehowah has spoken it.”
Many Karaites who read the Tanach primarily in English, reason, from these verses, that one should refrain from doing the things that they enjoy on the Shabbath and that the Shabbath is supposed to be a day of the holding back of pleasures.
The problem here is that the standard English translation of the Hebrew is horrible. If we look at the original Hebrew, we see that what is really going on in Isaiah 58:13 is that the thing that Yehowah is asking us to hold back from on the Shabbath is חפצך (transliteration: ha-fa-tzeh-cha). A more accurate translation of this word would be “that which you so like to do”, or “that which your heart lusts after”, and is not at all a reference to pleasurable things, but, rather, to the various forms of melachathat Israel is required to refrain from on the Shabbath, but which they take such pleasure in doing anyway — primarily, business.
Thus, a more accurate and expressive translation of Isaiah 58:13 would be, “If you [Israel] would only hold back your [straying] feet on the Shabbath, and from doing [those forbidden activities] which [in your rebelliousness] you so like to do on my Holy Day, and [instead] would call the Shabbath a delight and a sanctification of Yehowah — an honor; and honor it by [refraining from] doing your [evil] ways, and from seeking out [all those forbidden activities] which you so like to do, and from discussing words [of business], then shall you delight yourself in Yehowah; and I will cause you to ride on the high places of the earth …”