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The Sabbath: Its Meaning for Modern Man

4.35  ·  Rating Details ·  2,392 Ratings  ·  215 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)

Community Reviews

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Kilian Metcalf
Sep 23, 2012 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.
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
Julie Davis
Mar 03, 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
Dec 31, 2016 Melody rated it really liked it
Shelves: religion
Heschel teaches me much about sacramentality and liturgy in my own Christian tradition by guiding me to a richer understanding of how the Jewish tradition understands the sacredness of time as a gift of divine presence in the lives of God's people. Lyrical and erudite, the book facilitates Sabbath: reflection on time as a gift rather than an enemy, the true, reliable indicator of God's goodness and presence in the world. "Creation is the language of God, Time is His song..." (101).
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
Jun 13, 2015 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
Oct 21, 2016 Homeschoolmama rated it it was amazing
This was probably one of the most inspiring books I've read. A short book, it is full of rich, deep truths and insights. Heschel talks at length about time and space, and leads the reader into some philosophical worlds which are exciting and new. The meaning of the Sabbath- rest, holiness, sanctuary and peace- is explored and delved into here, like no other book I've read on the subject. The only parts where I got a bit lost were when Heschel would quote from works by other rabbis- texts I was u ...more
Oct 06, 2015 Melanie rated it it was amazing
Brilliant. If I could give it more than five stars, I would.
Lisa Feld
Apr 12, 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
Amar Pai
Jul 05, 2007 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
Oct 20, 2016 Rebecca rated it it was amazing
Shelves: jewish
I'd read this book many years ago, right when I decided that I MIGHT be interested in keeping Shabbos. Picking it up at the library, I wondered how well it would hold up now that I'm Orthodox and have been keeping Shabbos strictly for 18 years.

It's a revelation. Not only does it really hold water for someone who is Orthodox - Rabbi Heschel was Conservative - but his writing is so poetic, I was in raptures. Just a lovely book.
Jun 24, 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.
Oct 09, 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 Spector
Jan 21, 2012 Elijah 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.
Michael Benami Doyle
Jun 30, 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.
Nov 02, 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 29, 2016 Heather rated it really liked it
Shelves: religious
I think there is a lot that we can all learn from Judaism, particularly about the importance, blessings, and purpose of observing the Sabbath. The way they honor the Sabbath is remarkable and causes me to pause and think about my devotion and commitment to God. This is a short and interesting book that contains some helpful insights into their beliefs.

I thought the discussion of space and time was particularly interesting. We focus so much on things and places in this life, but they can get in
Jan 29, 2017 Angela rated it it was amazing
Shelves: dharma
I had been meaning to read this ever since I heard The Distraction Addiction's author, Alex Pang, on the (now sadly defunct) Buddhist Geeks podcast, talking about a really good book about the Sabbath, written by Rabbi Abraham Heschel.

Inspired by Pang's book, I've been experimenting with taking 'digital sabbaths' for the past year or so: it usually means a full day of no screens (including the Kindle!). Driven by the panic that The Machine Stops induced, I try to aim for 2x a month: actually EXP
Dec 12, 2016 Peter rated it really liked it
Shelves: theology
I found this book transformative not only in the way I look at the Sabbath but also in how God relates to us in time and space.

To quote Abraham Joshua Heschel:

"Things created [the stuff of space] conceal the Creator. It is the dimension of time wherein mans meets God, wherein man becomes aware that every instant is an act of creation, a Beginning, opening up new roads for ultimate realizations. Time is the presence of God in the world of space..."
Joey Diamond
Dec 25, 2016 Joey Diamond rated it really liked it
"Time to us is sarcasm, a slick treacherous monster with a jaw like a furnace incinerating every moment of our lives. Shrinking, therefore, from facing time, we escape for shelter to things of space. The intentions we are unable to carry out we deposit in space; possessions become the symbols of our repressions, jubilees of frustrations. But things of space are not fireproof; they only add fuel to the flames.”
Jon Stephens
Aug 01, 2011 Jon Stephens rated it really liked it

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
Aug 24, 2015 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
Tanner Cooper-Risser
Dec 29, 2016 Tanner Cooper-Risser rated it it was amazing
Great read. Very deep and very good. I plan to refer back to this and will likely read many times. So much depth in such a short book. It definitely helps one understand the Jewish understanding of Sabbath. Analyzes the differences of time and space and how Judaism is a religion of time. So often we try to control space, but in the realm of time "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." Highly recommend. Great ...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
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
Nov 23, 2012 Sonny rated it it was ok
Shelves: theology
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
Larry Piper
Jan 18, 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
Mar 22, 2011 Olivia rated it liked it
Shelves: sheila
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.

Simcha Wood
Jul 29, 2011 Simcha Wood rated it it was amazing
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
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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.” 10 likes
“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.” 6 likes
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