Wall Street Journal Saturday Essay: What We’ve Lost in Rejecting the Sabbath, by Sohrab Ahmari (Author, The Unbroken Thread: Discovering the Wisdom of Tradition in an Age of Chaos (2021)):
Setting aside one day a week for rest and prayer used to be an American tradition. In an age of constant activity, we need it more than ever.
The share of Americans who don’t identify with any religion continues to grow, and even many believers reject the concept of the Sabbath as a divinely ordained day of rest. Instead, we are encouraged to pursue lives of constant action and purpose, and we do. Smart devices allow white-collar professionals to freely mingle work and play. The gig economy and the Covid-19 work-from-home trend have further blurred the line between the two. The Sabbath doesn’t fit into the rhythm of our lives. It feels like an imposition—it is an imposition.
Americans’ turn away from the Sabbath has been going on for a long time. In the mid-20th century, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, one of America’s foremost Jewish thinkers, wrote about the Sabbath in terms of “the realm of time” and “the realm of space.” Modern life is all about conquering space: winning geopolitical territory, growing and prospering economically. But “the danger begins,” Heschel worried, “when in gaining power in the realm of space we forfeit all aspirations in the realm of time.” In that realm, “the goal is not to have but to be, not to own but to give, not to control but to share, not to subdue but to be in accord.”
Many of his American coreligionists in those days saw the ritual as an impediment to freedom: the freedom to shop, work and socialize as much as they wanted. For Heschel, this brand of freedom was missing something profound. It barred entry to an entire dimension of existence: namely, time, whose passage reminds us that everything is contingent, everything passes away—everything, that is, except God. The Sabbath, Heschel thought, is the guarantor of our “inner liberty,” while restless, Sabbath-less societies could easily descend into tyranny and barbarism. ...
The goal of a philosophy of religion, Heschel argued, shouldn’t be to understand “God” as an ancient idea or symbol, still less a disturbance in the ancient mind, but to understand human beings as the living God’s project and as partakers in the divine “pathos.”
May 9, 2021 in Legal Ed News, Legal Education | Permalink