Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Heschel and the Sabbath

As I go about my weekly business I sometimes wonder how non-Jews and the non-religious go without Shabbos.I was not always religious, but I can’t imagine living life without Shabbos. I feel like I’m writing a Gila Manolson type book, but it’s really how I feel.

This brings up Heschel. Heschel maybe the most under used theologian in Orthodox circles. Does the Conservative movement have a patent on his works? No, they hardly use him either (outside of JTS that is).
To the biblical mind, however, labor is the means toward an end, and the Sabbath as a day of rest, as a day of abstaining from toil, is not for the purpose of recovering one’s lost strength and becoming fit for the forthcoming labor. The Sabbath is a day for the sake of life. Man is not a beast of burden, and the Sabbath is not for the purpose of enhancing the efficiency of his work. “Last in creation, first in intention,” the Sabbath is “the end of the creation of heaven and earth.”
According to Heschel Shabbos is a necessary element of life in general, that life is not complete without it. If not to be a day of rest, then what is the purpose of Shabbos? Heschel continues...
The Sabbath is not for the sake of the weekdays; the weekdays are for the sake of the Sabbath. It is not an interlude but the climax of living.
The "climax of living" that's a pretty powerful statement. Life is good, and should be used to the fullest potential, but nothing is as good as Shabbos. Now, if this were so painfully obvious to everyone else, there would be more Shomrei Shabbat than their are now.

Heschel ends this section with another impressive idea
Labor is a craft, but perfect rest is an art. It is the result of an accord of body, mind and imagination. To attain a degree of excellence in art, one must accept its discipline, one must adjure slothfulness. The seventh day is a palace in time which we shall build. It is made of soul, of joy and reticence.
Heschel's view on Shabbat should be required reading, maybe this isn't a Chiddush but I like this idea nonetheless. Read The Sabbath and figure it out for yourself.

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