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Ahad Ha'am and the Shabbat

March 28, 2014

Every week, Jody Hirsh, the JCC's Judaic Education Director, provides a Judaic message that is featured at the top of the JCC's weekly email newsletter. Below is the Shabbat message for Friday, March 28, 2014.

Ahad Ha’am and the Shabbat

The great Hebrew philosopher Ahad Ha’am (1856-1927) is often referred to as “The Secular Rabbi.” Yet, he was an influential Zionist thinker and criticized Theodor Herzl and others for being not Jewish enough! According to his biographer, Steven Zipperstein (Elusive Prophet: Ahad Ha’am and the Origins of Zionism), in the midst of his smoke filled Friday night Zionist salons, his wife would light Shabbat candles in another room! In his famous 1898 essay, “Shabbat and Zionism,” he wrote:

Anyone who feels a true bond in his heart with the life of the nation over many generations, simply will not be able – even if he believes neither in the World to Come nor the Jewish State – to imagine the Jewish People without Shabbat Malketa [the Sabbath Queen]. It may be said without exaggeration that more than the Jewish People have kept the Shabbat, the Shabbat has kept the Jewish People.

Even for the agnostic Ahad Ha’am, Shabbat remained a central institution that sustained him as it sustains the Jewish People.

Shabbat Shalom