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The Sabbath: Its Meaning for Modern Man

4.34 of 5 stars 4.34  ·  rating details  ·  1,676 ratings  ·  149 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 ...more
Paperback, 118 pages
Published August 17th 2005 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published 1951)
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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.
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
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
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
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
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
The fourth commandment is often unheeded by today’s Christians because of our understanding that we are free from Jewish laws. Yet I wonder if we aren’t missing something vital to our well-being by ignoring it. Why is it listed with the other ten commandments (“essential rules for living”) if it has no purpose? I have read many books through the years that have given me an appreciation for the gift of the Sabbath day, but probably none has been more influential than Abraham Heschel’s The Sabbath ...more
I came across The Sabbath while reading The Rest of God by Mark Buchanan. I enjoyed the first half of the book (particularly Heschel's observations about space and time), but I was hoping for more practical advice for how some of these principles should be applied (however, I fully acknowledge that I may have been looking for answers that the text never intended to answer). Also, I enjoyed Heschel's poetic style, but it sometimes covered the reality that he wasn't really saying much at times or ...more
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."
Joel Wentz
This is a classic for a reason, or rather, for many reasons. Rabbi Heschel's reflection on Sabbath-keeping is poetic, philosophical, and mystical. Even the act of reading it is a peaceful, meditative experience, and this is one that I could easily see myself returning to year after year, simply to keep the insights within it fresh and present. The central contention of his argument is that the Jewish tradition poses an alternative to the religions, governments, philosophies of the world. This al ...more
Elijah 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.
Larry Piper
This is a short, rather interesting reflection on the institution of the Sabbath, as in "remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy". It was written by a Jewish scholar, so is specifically related to the Sabbath as celebrated by Jewish people. But, it has some interesting ideas and concepts that people of other faiths might find helpful as they try to understand and relate to their Creator.

The lives of men, according to Heschel, are primarily lived on a structural (physical) plane, i.e. we build
This is a beautiful and profound book. It is too bad that most people will miss it.
I remember first having a conversation with my dad about eternity and infinity (illimitable time, illimitable space) when I was pretty young, and I remember straining so hard to wrap my head around it. It was such a crazy feeling in my brain--like I was trying to pick up a twelve-story building with my bare hands, convinced I could do it if I just tried hard enough. My father gave me a Stephen Hawking book to resolve the conversation.

Heschel's ideas about time and eternity make so much sense. I
My expectation in reading Heschel’s book on “The Sabbath” was to gain insights into the Sabbath day from a Jewish perspective. I was sorely disappointed. Heschel is more philosopher than theologian. Consequently, many of his expressed thoughts do not have the support of Scripture. Heschel does not claim that the book is an exposition of Old Testament teaching on the Sabbath; in fact, his statements often are in direct contradiction of the Bible. He uses Scripture only when it highlights his thou ...more
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
Jon Stephens

Abraham Joshua Heschel (1907-1972) was a scholar, author, activist, and Jewish theologian. While browsing on 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
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
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
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
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
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.

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
I'm not one for religious readings generally, but I really enjoyed this. I read one chapter each sabbath, which gave me time to savor and debate the reading. Some chapters I completely disagreed with. Others reminded me of science fiction in its coming to grips with time. Well worth reading. Interesting companion reading to Wouk's "This is my God," as the two authors are contemporaries, and I happened to be reading them at the same time.
Jean Marie Angelo
Abraham Joshua Heschel was a Polish-born man who lost family members in the Holocoust. He became a scholar and a rabbi. He famously marched for civil rights with Martin Luther King, Jr. The Sabbath is only one of his respected books on Jewish teachings. This is a thin volume — and an easy read — filled with perspective on why a Sabbath, whether a religious observance, or a state of soul, is important to our lives.

I have some passages that stood out for me:

One of the most distinguished words in
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
Spider Goddess
This book is so beautifully poetic. The author captures the heart of the Sabbath, and makes the reader feel the holy and sacred that is kept in observing it. Perhaps it was in this book, perhaps not, but I once read that observing tradition for the sake of tradition, without understanding of the reason and meaning, was perversion. Heschel remembers the meaning of the Sabbath, and shares it simply and profoundly.
Ben Bartlett
I read this book while on a retreat of silence at Abbey of Gethsemani, the monastery where Thomas Merton lived and wrote. It was the perfect setting to meditate on the Sabbath. Heschel's writing is beautiful, but the beauty is not meant to obscure... he has concrete things to say about the way we structure our time in a way that worships God.

Short, powerful, valuable, and highly recommended.
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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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“Gallantly, ceaselessly, quietly, man must fight for inner liberty” to remain independent of the enslavement of the material world. “Inner liberty depends upon being exempt from domination of things as well as from domination of people. There are many who have acquired a high degree of political and social liberty, but only very few are not enslaved to things. This is our constant problem—how to live with people and remain free, how to live with things and remain independent.” 4 likes
“Zion is in ruins, Jerusalem lies in the dust. All week there is only hope of redemption. But when the Sabbath is entering the world, man is touched by a moment of actual redemption; as if for a moment the spirit of the Messiah moved over the face of the earth.” 3 likes
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