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On This 1st Day, Consider the 7th

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How can freshly-sliced time call to you?

tumblr_menx8pHQcS1ru2zzso1_1280-12102012It’s Monday and that is bummer enough. But take a minute and think with me about how time works—it may make a difference for next weekend. We’ll do this by looking at The Sabbath by Abraham Joshua Heschel.

Heschel’s The Sabbath feels like an old book though the first printing was only in 1951. (Some of you will say, “Yeah: old.”) But the thoughts, the pacing and even the language mark it as something way older and way more out of sync with our current urgencies. In this case, the medium mirrors well the topic, which is a day set apart—a day out of time. [One note: My understanding is that the Jewish observance of Shabbat extends from Friday sundown to Saturday evening. The Christian observance of Sabbath is a Sunday. It’s not the exact time I want to look at, but the concept.]

There is no end to the mystery Rabbi Heschel presented as he talked about the observance of the seventh day as a day of rest. Many of us innately understand the point of Sabbath though few of us practice it. We get that a day away from work is a good thing. We can be convinced that not working for a time makes us sharper for when we are working. For us—especially in the U.S. around Christmas—the Sabbath is a useful day for practicing our American religion of acquisition.  But maybe there was some wisdom in those old out-of-sync rules that forced merchants to close for a day.

The heart of Heschel’s book is a quote from the Torah, where God rested from all his work on the seventh day and called that day “holy.” Many of us associate that word with church and religion and boring sentimental stuff. But Heschel’s first interesting point is that it was a day that was holy. Not a place. Not a thing. Not a people. But a day. And that day recurred. Every week or so. (Well, every week).

That a slice of time would be separate and somehow different is a wildly different way of looking at life. Especially as we push toward always-on-24/7/365 connection. It raises the expectation that something different can/should/will happen in that time slice devoted to rest. Heschel does a heartening job of building out the possibilities—indeed, that is his point: time devoted to, well, transcendence. But with a God-shaped denouement.

The second interesting thing Heschel said is that rather than seeing the day of rest as a reward for a week of hard work, this freshly-sliced time becomes an anticipated climax to the week. All of our thinking, our relating and collaborating, all the working pieces of life somehow move toward this festive laying down of the keyboard/pen/steering wheel/hand truck in rest. So…not a reward for a week’s work but the week’s work serving to outline the great difference of a day set apart to contemplate and celebrate relationships.

There’s lots more to this, of course. And generations of smart people have written volumes on the topic. But just laying a different story arc on this week’s work may make this Monday different.


Image credit: laurabfernandez via 2headedsnake

Written by kirkistan

December 10, 2012 at 7:38 am

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