The Sabbath: Its Meaning for Modern Man
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The Sabbath: Its Meaning for Modern Man

4.34 of 5 stars 4.34  ·  rating details  ·  1,227 ratings  ·  126 reviews
Elegant, passionate, and filled with the love of God's creation, Abraham Joshua Heschel's The Sabbath has been hailed as a classic of Jewish spirituality ever since its original publication-and has been read by thousands of people seeking meaning in modern life. In this brief yet profound meditation on the meaning of the Seventh Day, Heschel introduced the idea of an "arch
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Paperback, 118 pages
Published August 17th 2005 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published 1951)
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Julie Davis
Continuing my education on the third commandment and why we need to take it seriously. Ok, I'm already converted to the concept and live it to the best of my ability ... but I want to elevate it in my mind and heart (if that makes sense). I think Heschel would understand what I want to do because this book is obviously written for that concept. Although I have to admit that the three rabbis parable is leaving me a bit stranded as it goes on for some time.

I meant to add that observing the sacred...more
Kilian Metcalf
I could feel the gears shifting in my head as I read this Jewish classic on the importance of sanctifying time instead of space. I'm sure I barely scratched the surface of the concepts that Heschel wishes to communicate. To plumb the depths will require rereading and reflection. It's a small book, packed with meaning, and one I will revisit again and again.
David
This was selected by my Jewish philosophy book club, and on the whole our impression was favorable. However, we thought that it was a bit scattered: it couldn't quite decide whether it was a philosophy, inspiration, kabbalah, legalisms, or what have you. One of us described it as "a cute book."

Heschel's great insight which drives the book is that instead of sanctifying space, Judaism primarily sanctifies time - and the sabbath is the most obvious and clear example of that. He differentiates betw...more
Michelle Jones
This is the most poetic book that isn’t actually poetry I’ve ever read. Heschel was in love with the Sabbath. Seriously in love with it and its place within Judaism and the world. This 100 page book is love song to it. When I took the Big Dunk one of the questions my Beit Din asked me was what particular observance meant the most to me and I said Shabbat. At the time my Shabbat observance was only a fraction of what it is now but even then it really was a sanctification of time for me.

Now Shabba...more
Daniel
I really liked this book. As a Christian, reading a Jewish perspective on Sabbath, one that seemed to draw on so much of Jewish tradition that I didn't know of, was a very rich experience for me. At the same time, there were definitely parts I didn't understand, probably because I am looking in from the outside.

Heschel speaks of Sabbath as a "palace in time". In a world where we work with Space, using our time to create things, build, make, the sabbath is a time to cease in our obsession with s...more
Amar Pai
One nice thing about religion is that practicing it makes you very aware of the cyclical nature of time. You get attuned to the seasons. There are celebrations of renewal in spring, and festivals of light during the darkest days of winter.

Judaism especially is all about the sanctification of time. It’s been argued that Jews were without a nation for so long that they became “at home only in time.” What is the Sabbath if not an abstract cathedral erected each Saturday?

Heschel wrote the poetical b...more
Erica
A dear friend and mentor reccommended this book to me quite a while ago, and I've only now finished it. It's beautiful and thought provoking and quite often challenging all at the same time. A few gems: "Time to us is sarcasm, a slick treacherous monster with a jaw like a furnace incinerating every moment of our lives." "Eternity utters a day."
Elijah Kinch Spector
This is a beautiful little book, in that sort of beautiful language that often only comes to those who aren't native speakers.

It puts such a lovely emphasis on time, and letting it stand still, and on spirituality without going fully into mysticism. I think that even many who aren't Jewish, or aren't religious at all, could get a lot out of it.
Michael Doyle
Breathtaking. A love story about Shabbat, written in the most amazingly respectful and reverent language that easily communicates the hallowed feeling of the day, and why you might want to keep Shabbat, too.
Michael Johnston
This brief but wonderful book highlights the mystical significance of the Sabbath in Jewish life and theology. Herschel powerfully argues that the Sabbath is a sanctification of time as opposed to space. It is a reminder to us in a world dominated by "things" and electronic connections that the limited but remarkable time we have in this life is both a gift and an opportunity. To pause in our rush to meet deadlines or make meetings we can find great beauty in rest, in moments of awe that exist w...more
Simcha Wood
Abraham Joshua Heschel's The Sabbath is a beautifully poetic and profound meditation on the Sabbath and its continuing importance in modern life. This book is a rare jewel: a deeply literate and complex book that is, nevertheless, highly accessible and enjoyable to read. Heschel draws deeply from the wells of Judaism, not only from Torah but also from the generations of halachah, midrash, and mysticism. The result is an exquisite elucidation of the Sabbath as a sacred palace in time.

Heschel argu...more
Jon Stephens
http://jonathanstephens.wordpress.com/

Abraham Joshua Heschel (1907-1972) was a scholar, author, activist, and Jewish theologian. While browsing on amazon.com for books on the sabbath I came across this one. Let me say from the start that although Heschel comes from a fairly different point of view when it comes to God and the Bible, and uses extra-biblical sources to build his theology on sabbath, I took a great deal from this book.

From the start Heschel pushes his readers to take their eyes off...more
Kyra
Genius is overused, like all superlatives I guess. Like Awesome, like love. Heschel is a poet, a master, absolutely a genius. Reading this book was like swimming into a waterfall. It felt soothing and exhilarating all at once. Read him even if you aren't a Jew, or particularly religious or even because you don't read books about spiritual matters, just to be difficult to yourself.

What we have with The Sabbath is an exploration of the distinction between space and time; the divisions that remain...more
Daniël Mok
Een bundel godsdienstfilosofische essays van de Duits-Amerikaanse rabbijn en hoogleraar (1907-1972).
Het wezen van de joodse godsdienst is naar zijn woorden de betrokkenheid op de dimensie van de tijd. Niet de ruimtelijke zaken staan in het middelpunt, maar de 'heiliging' van de tijd. De sabbat is het teken en het voorbeeld van die beleving en is, zo stelt Heschel in het eerste essay van zijn indrukwekkende boek 'een paleis in de tijd'. Vanuit dit thema wordt de verhouding met God, de eeuwigheid...more
Sabrina Jennings
Beautiful writing. I enjoyed the contrast made between time and space.

my only criticism is that while beautiful, it is perhaps a bit simplistic, avoiding discussion of what happens when humans co-opt time and turn it into a new foundation upon which to set law and commandments.

Quotes I liked:
The world has our hands, but our soul belongs to Someone Else. ( 13)

Labor is a craft, but perfect rest is an art. (14)

In spite of our triumphs, we have fallen victims to the work of our hands; it is as if...more
Krista
Thoughtful book about the importance of the Sabbath because it is about "time" not about "space."

"There is a realm of time where 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. Life goes wrong when the control of space, the acquisition of things of space, becomes our sole concern."

"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...more
Olivia
Again, this was recommended by my rabbi friend, and because I'm not Jewish obviously some parts of this were more and less resonant with me. But I did grow up in a Christian household, where we had a similar Sunday concept (I realise not the same for lots of reasons, but this sense of the Sabbath or Sunday as a holy space), so there was a fair amount of resonance. I liked the writing because it is Heschel, and I liked the idea of the Sabbath as an encounter with the divine.

--- QUOTES I LIKED --...more
Ramón
It has been nearly a decade since I read Jewish mystical texts with Drs. Keshavarz and Nelson at Washington University in St. Louis, and I find myself just as fascinated now as I was then. However, my experience this time was greatly enhanced by being unchained from the fundamentalist drive toward apologetic which marred much of my undergraduate experience. I was glad to take Heschel as he came without feeling the need to construct an effective counterargument.

As for the book itself, it is a de...more
Robin
I am so glad I finally sat down and read this book. I am both refreshed and challenged after reading it. I have been feeling for to long that I am moving through life way too fast with rarely the moment to stop and simply "be still and know that I am God." (Psalm 46:10) In my pride I operate under the assumption that God needs me to keep doing stuff and conquering space so that He can accomplish what He wants/needs to accomplish. While it is true that God wants me to work hard at everything I do...more
Lorri
The Sabbath is 101 pages long, plus there are a few pages of prologue and notes, and it is an extremely compelling 101 pages. Heschel shows us how the Sabbath is an aspect of “sacred time”, and not “sacred space”. He demonstrates within the history of the Sabbath, how Jews have built a foundation of “sacred days”, and how time is sanctified through the Sabbath.

Time is an extremely important element in Judaism, from seasons to agriculture, to holidays and rituals, time is the force behind everyt...more
Trevor Durbin
I started this book long ago, got within three chapters of finishing it, and put it down for months. I took the opportunity of a beautiful day off to head to a park and go ahead and finish it.

I have mixed feelings about the book (which is part of the reason I didn't finish it all the way through initially). On one hand, there were many wonderful gems within the book, but I often felt like the work required to "push through" to find them was a little more than I could take. Alternatively, I imagi...more
Elizabeth Amber
I loved this book right from the introduction. He explores so much in terms of rest, work and that the Sabbath is not a simply a place, it is a place in time that we come into. He explores the parameters of rest on the Sabbath taking it to new depths that seem extreme on one hand, like not thinking or discussing things like politics, not arguing or allowing yourself to get mad on the Sabbath. Can you really keep yourself from getting mad on a specific day? Perhaps you can. Maybe its more than th...more
Josh Meares
This is my first book of modern Jewish theology. I chose to finish it on a book on the Sabbath on a Sunday mostly for the irony factor (here's to you Terry Hoitz of the Other Guys!) I find some of Heschel's points worthwhile, but the method of argumentation, while rhetorically beautiful, is unusual. I especially like that he argues against the view that the Sabbath is made to fulfill our need to rest. I'm not sure it is true, but I like it anyway. As for the rest of the book, I feel like I could...more
Bea
I have wanted to read this book for a long time, but somehow never could get into it. Yet, now I have.

This is a beautiful meditation on the meaning of the Sabbath. Its primary premise is that the Sabbath is a sanctification of time and thus an experience (small as it may be) of eterminty. Heschel makes the point that the rest of human life is involved with things (space) and that only the Sabbath allows us the chance to experience the true holiness of time, which we cannot control or possess.

Th...more
Micah
This book is just beautiful. Heschel forgoes his more philosophical leanings in this book and simply meditates on the meaning and beauty of the Sabbath for 100 pages. It's easy to see why this is the most read of his works as it's the simplest to read and is more inspiring rather than thought-provoking although that's not to say it isn't the latter as well. A great introduction to Heschel's work, but if you read this, please don't stop here. One of the greatest and most beautiful religious think...more
Lisa
A philosophical love story about the Sabbath and it's observance. It separates time between the time for space and the time for the Sabbath. I love the poetry and the concept that G-d spent six days giving the world things and the seventh giving it a soul. I will be rereading this.
Jackie Griffin
this is a beautiful lyrical book. of all the books I read while converting, this is the one that speaks to me very daft my ice.
Megan
For starters, Heschel is an amazing writer. His use of words and his flow from topic to topic is wonderful and makes such a heavy book seem like an easy read, until you realize that you will have to read it several more times to truly get to the crux of what he is writing about.

While I do not agree with all of his views on The Sabbath, I was at least able to follow his argument and I could see his point of view.

If you want to better understand the meaning behind the Sabbath and ways to think a...more
Winn
Shocked. I'm still reeling from the fact that I only gave this 2 stars. I've been so looking forward to it (had it on my "must read" shelf for several years). There are a number of stunning lines in here as well, truly beautiful and wrenching. But, in the end and on the whole, it was entirely too abstract. I may have to read this again in several years and during a different season. I'd like to think I will, but I don't know that I'd take the odds. I'll tell you this, though, I think that Sabbat...more
leighcia
Heschel is a Jewish theologian and this short book is his reflection on the role of Sabbath in Jewish religious life. The Sabbath is a day of holiness, a palace of time, a way to commune with God. While I found most of this book less applicable to me as a Christian (though it did help me start to understand better Jewish culture), the first two chapters and the last one are absolutely phenomenal. In these chapters, Heschel reflects on society’s tendency to devalue time, which it cannot so easily...more
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Heschel was a descendant of preeminent rabbinic families of Europe, both on his father's (Moshe Mordechai Heschel, who died of influenza in 1916) and mother's (Reizel Perlow Heschel) side, and a descendant of Rebbe Avrohom Yehoshua Heshl of Apt and other dynasties. He was the youngest of six children including his siblings: Sarah, Dvora Miriam, Esther Sima, Gittel, and Jacob. In his teens he recei...more
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“The Sabbath is the most precious present mankind has received from the treasure house of God. All week we think: The spirit is too far away, and we succumb to spiritual absenteeism, or at best we pray: Send us a little of Thy spirit. On the Sabbath the spirit stands and pleads: Accept all excellence from me …” 1 likes
“To gain control of the world of space is certainly one of our tasks. The danger begins when in gaining power in the realm of space we forfeit all aspirations in the realm of time. There is a realm of time where 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. Life goes wrong when the control of space, the acquisition of things of space, becomes our sole concern.” 0 likes
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