Rabbi Heschel and the Sabbath

August 16, 2013

Every week, Jody Hirsh, the JCC's Judaic Education Director, provides a Shabbat message that is featured at the top of the JCC's weekly email newsletter.

Rabbi Heschel and the Sabbath

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel (1907-1972) was a profound and thought provoking thinker who was one of the most influential rabbis of the 20th Century. A man of great moral convictions, he was probably as well known for his marching with Rev. Martin Luther King in the South as he was for his philosophical views. One of his most famous books was The Sabbath, which looks at the Shabbat from every possible angle and understanding. Even though the Torah explains that the Sabbath is an imitation of God who created the world in six days and rested on the seventh, and also as a commemoration of the redemption of the Israelites from Egypt, notice in the following observation that there is no reference to either God or the Exodus.

To set apart one day a week for freedom, a day on which we would not use the instruments which have been so easily turned into weapons of destruction, a day for being with ourselves, a day of detachment from the vulgar, of independence from external obligations, a day on which we stop worshipping the idols of technical civilization, a day on which we use no money, a day of armistice in the economic struggle with our fellow men and the forces of nature – is there any institution that hold out a greater hope for man’s progress than the Sabbath?

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.

-- Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Sabbath

 Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel

Rabbi Heschel, on the left, marches with Rev. Martin Luther King on the March from Selma to Montgomery, 1965.