Book Review | The Sabbath

The Sabbath by Abraham Joshua Heschel has been quoted and referenced in so many conversations, podcasts, articles, and sermons I have run across that I decided it was finally time to read the whole thing myself! And I’m so glad I did! I enjoy getting up early on Sunday mornings before church to enjoy coffee and reading before the rest of the house wakes up. One Sunday morning I was up a bit earlier than usual and picked up The Sabbath to read. I read the whole thing before church one morning and just had so many aha moments about what Sabbath is truly all about. Since then, I’ve tried to incorporate some of the Sabbath practices that Heschel and his family celebrate.

I highlighted several things while reading and have posted those notes below…

  • The Sabbath comes like a caress, wiping away fear, sorrow, and somber memories. p. viii
  • Six days a week we live with a fury of acquisitiveness, he writes; Shabbat reviews the soul and we rediscover who we are. p. xiv
  • We must not forget that it is not a thing that lends significance to a moment; it is the moment that lends significance to things. p. 6
  • The meaning of the Sabbath is to celebrate time rather than space.  Six days a week we live under the tyranny of things of space; on the Sabbath we try to become attuned to holiness in time.  It is a day on which we are called upon to share in what is eternal in time, to turn from the results of creation to the mystery of creation; from the world of creation to the creation of the world. p. 10
  • 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. p. 14
  • Unlike the Day of Atonement, the Sabbath is not dedicated exclusively to spiritual goals.  It is a day of the soul as well as of the body; comfort and pleasure are an integral part of the Sabbath observance.  Man in his entirety, all his faculties must share its blessing. p. 18
  • “The Sabbath is a reminder of the two worlds–this world and the world to come; it is an example of both worlds.  For the Sabbath is joy, holiness, and rest; joy is part of this work; holiness and rest are something of the world to come.” p. 18
  • It is one of life’s highest rewards, a source of strength and inspiration to endure tribulation, to live nobly.  The work on weekdays and the rest on the seventh day are correlated.  The Sabbath is the inspirer, the other days the inspired. p. 22
  • How proud we often are of our victories in the war with nature, proud of the multitude of instruments we have succeeded in inventing, of the abundance of commodities we have been able to produce.  Yet our victories have come to resemble defeats.  In spite of our triumphs, we have fallen victims to the work of our hands; it is as if the forces we had conquered have conquered us. p. 27
  • The solution fo mankind’s most vexing problem will not be found in renouncing technical civilization, but in attaining some degree of independence of it. p. 28
  • Unless one learns how to relish the taste of Sabbath while still in this world, unless one is initiated in the appreciation of eternal life, one will be unable to enjoy the taste of eternity in the world to come.  Sad is the lot of him who arrives inexperienced and when led to heave has no power to perceive the beauty of the Sabbath. p. 74
  • We must conquer space in order to sanctify time.  All week long we are called upon to sanctify life through employing things of space.  On the Sabbath it is given us to share in the holiness that is in the heart of time.  even when the soul is seared, even when no prayer can come out of our tightened throats, the clean, silent rest of the Sabbath leads us to a realm of endless peace, or to the beginning of an awareness of what eternity means.  There are few ideas in the world of thought which contain so much spiritual power as the idea of Sabbath.  Aeons hence, when many of our cherished theories only shreds will remain, that cosmic tapestry will continue to shine.  Eternity utters a day. p. 101

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