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The Sabbath: Its Meaning for Modern Man

4.35  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,997 Ratings  ·  177 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
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
...more
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
...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
David
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
...more
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
...more
Melanie
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
...more
Hope
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
Chad
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
Jonathan
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
...more
Glen
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
...more
Erica
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 Spector
Nov 19, 2015 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.
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
Meltha
Sep 19, 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
...more
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
...more
Kathryn
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
...more
David
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.
Sarah Basciano
Jan 16, 2016 Sarah Basciano 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
...more
Carla
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
...more
Abby
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
...more
Sonny
Jan 06, 2015 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
Michael Johnston
Feb 24, 2014 Michael Johnston rated it really liked it
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
Aug 20, 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
...more
Jon Stephens
Aug 01, 2011 Jon Stephens rated it really liked it
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
Jan 25, 2013 Kyra rated it it was amazing
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
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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.” 6 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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