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The Sabbath: Its Meaning for Modern Man

4.34  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,169 Ratings  ·  194 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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Steven van Hasselt 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…moreElegant, 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 "architecture of holiness" that appears not in space but in time Judaism, he argues, is a religion of time: it finds meaning not in space and the material things that fill it but in time and the eternity that imbues it, so that "the Sabbaths are our great cathedrals."(less)

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Kilian Metcalf
Jan 19, 2014 Kilian Metcalf rated it really liked it
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
Mar 04, 2012 Julie Davis rated it really liked it
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
Michelle Jones
Jul 30, 2010 Michelle Jones rated it really liked it
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
Mary Alice
May 31, 2016 Mary Alice rated it it was amazing
I'll just post some quotes from the book to make you think:

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.

In our daily lives we attend primarily to that which the senses are spelling out for us: to what the eyes perceive, to what the fingers touch. Reality to us is thinghood, consisting
Sep 06, 2011 David rated it liked it
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
Joel Wentz
Aug 02, 2014 Joel Wentz rated it it was amazing
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
Lisa Feld
Apr 19, 2015 Lisa Feld rated it liked it
There is something both truly lovely and deeply frustrating about this book. In a way, it reminds me of my experience in reading Rumi: beautiful, transformative sentences, but the whole is so unstructured that it's impossible to point to any full poem (or here, a full chapter) as enjoyable, profound, or working well.

Heschel begins with an interesting premise, that humans spend their energy trying to control space, the physical world, while the Sabbath offers us a chance to step outside that para
Jan 01, 2016 Melanie rated it it was amazing
Brilliant. If I could give it more than five stars, I would.
Amar Pai
Aug 21, 2013 Amar Pai rated it liked it
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
Susan Jones
Feb 15, 2016 Susan Jones rated it really liked it
Editorial Reviews


"Clearly Heschel's most beloved book, The Sabbath is much more than a book about the Sabbath. It is, rather, our century's most illuminating study of the dynamics of Jewish ritual living." --Dr. Neil Gillman, author of Sacred Fragments

"Timeless. Read it, and be ready to be changed."--The Reverend Richard John Neuhaus, editor in chief of First Things

"Heschel's The Sabbath is easily the primary text for all subsequent American Jewish spirituality."--Rabbi Lawrence Kushner,
Dec 18, 2014 Hope rated it really liked it
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
Jul 01, 2014 Chad rated it it was ok
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
Aug 01, 2012 Jonathan rated it it was amazing
Shelves: judaism
Abraham Heschel who was Professor of Ethics and Mysticism at the Jewish Theological Seminary, wrote this, his most famous work on how the Shabbat appears not in space, but rather in time. That is to say that we experience holiness in time and the eternity that imbues it and not in material things or places. And the Shabbat is Judaism's greatest "temple." This slim volume is a spiritual rendering of the Shabbat's significance. A must for those who seek to understand Judaism and it's holy days.
Marty Solomon
May 14, 2015 Marty Solomon rated it it was amazing
The great Jewish classic by one of the greatest Jewish teachers of the modern era.

I have often wondered exactly what it is that constitutes a "classic" work. There is certainly something real and palpable about the experience when you are reading one. Although it is not written in the newest of prose and even though the eloquence is not that of the latest best seller, there is depth and profound meaning in each of its pages.

I found this to be the renewed experience reading this book. Even though
Jan 23, 2016 Glen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A thought provoking look at the Sabbath from an esteemed Jewish professor. Herschel wrote several instructive books on the Old Testament worldview. This particular work is concise and is built around the central premise that man's escape from the tyranny of "space" (i.e., material world) is through time - more precisely eternity contained in time.

For Heschel, the Sabbath is God's insistence that we not be preoccupied with work and worldly achievements every day of the week. He gives ample proof
Jul 08, 2016 Lauren rated it really liked it
What a beautiful, thoughtful explanation of the Sabbath. As a new, non-Jewish employee at a Jewish day school, I am learning all I can about the requirements of my job that seem foreign to me - this includes why we as a school close early on Fridays and refrain from work on Saturdays. Heschel provides such a lovely description of why this time is holy: "Judaism is a religion of time aiming at the sanctification of time... The meaning of the Sabbath is to celebrate time rather than space. Six day ...more
Oct 28, 2007 Erica rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: theology
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
Nov 19, 2015 Elijah Kinch Spector rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
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.
Mar 04, 2016 Jaci rated it it was amazing
Excellent meditation on what the Sabbath is and what it means.

p.xiii: Some religions build great cathedrals or temples, but Judaism constructs the Sabbath as an architecture of time.
p.13: Six days a week we seek to dominate the world, on the seventh day we try to dominate the self.
p.21: The Sabbath preceded creation and the Sabbath completed creation; it is all of the spirit that the world can bear.
p.79: The quality of holiness is not in the grain of matter. It is a preciousness bestowed upon th
Michael Benami Doyle
Jul 04, 2011 Michael Benami Doyle rated it it was amazing
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
Feb 21, 2015 Larry Piper rated it liked it
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
Dr. Sadaphal
Jun 24, 2016 Dr. Sadaphal rated it it was amazing
The bottom line: A paradigm-shifting look into the holiness of time that illuminates an alternative, theocentric reality.

The Sabbath seeks to find meaning of the weekly celebration for the servant of The Lord in a contemporary setting. This quest does not inject new meaning into the observance but persuades readers to take a step back and earnestly contemplate how an eternal God invites those whom He loves to sanctify time, who in turn therefore demonstrate their love for God.

In my opinion, the
Sep 14, 2015 Kathryn rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, jewish
Summary: A discussion of the Sabbath as seem from the point of view of Sabbath as a sanctification in time (rather than in space).

Why I Read This: I actually thought that it was a different book about the Sabbath from a Jewish rabbi.

Review: I enjoyed this and pulled some wonderful meditations from it. I did struggle with some of the aspects that were far off base from my own theological tradition. Still, those moments were few and far between. What I took out of my idea of the 7th day as a part
Dec 11, 2013 David rated it it was amazing
This is a beautiful and profound book. It is too bad that most people will miss it.
Feb 07, 2016 Alex rated it really liked it
Shelves: judaica
This is the second of Heshel's books I've read, the first being God In Search of Man. The Sabbath is significantly more mystical and less philosophical, and so as someone coming very much from a position of questioning I found it be more inaccessible than the more philosophic, argumentative God In Search of Man. He also spends at least a third of the book with obtuse and difficult rabbinic allegories, which I found neither helpful nor interesting. I was planning on giving it three stars until th ...more
Jan 16, 2016 Sarah rated it it was amazing
I am so glad I was introduced to Heschel during grad school. This book is a gem among his works. I am glad to have gotten around to reading it. The book has an alternate title - "Les bâttiseurs du Temps" which translates to "Architecture in Time". I believe this title suits the book better than the English title.

The goal Heschel has in writing this book is to show that mans task each week is to conquer space and to sanctify his time. Man gets too caught up in the "things" of this world and dist
Tamara Hill Murphy
Another book from my neglected book pile. Even though I'd always meant to read it because Abraham Joshua Heschel is quoted by almost every author I've ever read (usually from this book), I'll admit it was seeing an image of the cover art that finally got me to purchase the book. The prints of wood engravings by Ilya Schor on the cover and at the beginning of each chapter provide an elegance to Heschel's graceful words about the beauty of Sabbath time to Jewish faith and life. Heschel's words are ...more
Feb 06, 2016 Meltha rated it it was amazing
This is one of those books that is very difficult to describe in some respects, but the reader can feel it sort of blanketing their thoughts, raising questions, and making him or her think about things that really never would have otherwise occurred without reading the book.

In college, I took a course on literature that dealt with time theory. This would have been a perfect match because while Heschel centers on the concept of the Sabbath as sacred outside of the world of space (pretty much a sy
Aug 13, 2015 Carla rated it it was amazing
This is one of 7 books about Sabbath that I have on my reading list - 4 finished, 3 left to read. Sabbath is a subject I feel I need to work on in my spiritual life. Heschel says some things about Sabbath that helped me in my quest. Here are 3 of them:
"In our daily lives we attend primarily to that which the senses are spelling out for us: to what the eyes perceive, to what the fingers touch. Reality to us is thinghood, consisting of substances that occupy space; even God is conceived by most o
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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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“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.” 8 likes
“We may not know whether our understanding is correct, or whether our sentiments are noble, but the air of the day surrounds us like spring which spreads over the land without our aid or notice.” 4 likes
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