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The Sabbath: Its Meaning for Modern Man

4.38  ·  Rating details ·  4,305 ratings  ·  413 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
Paperback, 118 pages
Published August 17th 2005 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published 1951)
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Steven 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 spiritual…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
Sep 23, 2012 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. ...more
Michelle Jones
Jul 30, 2010 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
Oct 21, 2016 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
Soren Schmidt
Feb 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Heschel presents a stunningly simple and profound thesis: it is not in space, but in time, that we find God's likeness. In a few short passages this book changed the way I think about not only the Sabbath, but the nature of God and my relationship with Him. This is an absolute must-read for anyone trying to understand and experience holiness. ...more
Julie Davis
Mar 03, 2012 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
Aug 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Overall, this was a wonderful book, and I must thank Rabbi for recommending it to me. R. Heschel makes this book, and the idea of Shabbat, accessible for those of all faiths (or even none). On page 14 he cites Philo's excellent use of terms that the ancient Greeks already understood, those of athletics, to explain his concept, but points out on page 18 that even in Rome, bread and circuses were not enough. Mankind needs sacred time as well. I love the idea of 6-winged angels, and the ideas of pa ...more
Dec 31, 2016 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). ...more
Apr 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This was like approaching a piece of art; all aspects carefully considered.

Not just the content, but the font, the spacious formatting / amazing design, concise but dense chapter lengths, the wood engravings accompanying each chapter... the style of writing which is as beautiful and elegant as a poem, with so many literary devices: metaphors. Parallel comparisons. The repetition of themes throughout the book that reinforce his ideas in a way that develops and emphasizes, but not in a redundant
Mary Alice
Jun 13, 2015 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
Joel Wentz
Aug 02, 2014 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
Aug 14, 2018 rated it liked it
3.5 stars

In many ways this is a wonderful book. However, after the first couple chapters, the poetic language starts to get a bit much. And while there are interesting thoughts in each chapter, all the way through to the end of the Epilogue, it gets quite repetitive at times. Especially considering that the text itself (setting aside the footnotes) is a mere 101 pages.

Worth a read, but perhaps in very small (no more than a chapter) bits, and spread apart over time.
John Larrabee
Oct 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
A very positive message, but a little too repetitive for me.

Thanks, Payson, for the recommendation!
Nov 09, 2020 rated it liked it
Stunning and elegant wording to unpack the gift of Sabbath.
Lydia Griffith
Nov 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
If I didn’t already love the Sabbath, this book would have changed that.
Rhidge Garcia
Apr 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sep 06, 2011 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
Feb 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
I've had a holy envy of the Jewish Sabbath ever since being at the Western Wall on a Friday evening in Jerusalem. The joy and celebration, especially the dancing, with which the Jewish people there greeted the coming of the Sabbath was something I'd never before experienced, let alone associated with religious observance. Heschel's book captures the philosophical underpinnings of that sense of joy, if not the joy itself. I especially liked his descriptions of space and time, how the Sabbath is a ...more
Nathaniel Spencer
This is one of those deep epistemological books that will help critique modernity's pallid, anemic view of religion and holiness (an easy read, so don’t let that bit of high-mindedness dissuade you). Heschel describes the Sabbath as what I believe Christians would call the "sacramental" presence of eternity. This "hallowed time," so central to Judaism, is contrasted with every other ancient religion and most modern ones, which are heavily concerned with hallowing space and/or objects. To revere ...more
Michael Doyle
Jun 30, 2011 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.
Oct 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Brilliant. If I could give it more than five stars, I would.
Jeremy Gutner
May 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I was looking for a book on spirituality in Judaism or theology and I really loved this short book that I found and finished today. The Sabbath is all about the seventh day of the week and what it means and how best to observe it. Heschel is an excellent writer and I plan to read more of his works. He can be confusing to read at times, but that’s really because his work can get really dense with meaning. I found the first third of the book especially interesting an the middle third not as inter ...more
Josh Cheng
Jul 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A thought provoking and meditative book. As a Christian, I heard about this book from a sermon from Bridgetown Church on the Sabbath which completely changed my understanding of what the Sabbath is supposed to be. Most Christians unfortunately think of Sabbath practice as part of Jewish "legalism", as if the only reason one would practice the Sabbath is to try and earn one's way into God's favor. But this sort of perspective is historically inaccurate and also misses the robust theological meani ...more
Sep 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
4.5 stars. Having a book like this assigned for my major religions class was a dream come true. Religion is one of my favorite topics.

Heschel was an absolutely beautiful writer. As a teacher and scholar in Hasidic Judaism, an Orthodox branch, he was incredibly well informed on his subject and brought that to light in the text. However, his book is understandable and respectful to those not of this faith.

The way the Sabbath was presented is a new experience for me, but helped me to understand a
Jan 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I read this for a class on Judaism, but it didn’t feel at all like homework. I became completely mesmerized by it. The ideas in it are potent. Though I will not be making sabbath a part of my weekly rhythm, I have definitely re-examined how I spend my time and how to prioritize rest.

His juxtaposition of space and time were brilliant
“Time, that which is beyond and independent of space, is everlasting; it is the world of space which is perishing.”
“We must conquer space in order to sanctify time.
Carson Kline
Dec 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I really felt this book captured the lost art of talking about something which can seem ethereal without trying to create a pragmatic practice of it. The Sabbath can be one of these things that even the best thinkers on spiritual formation talk about today and immediately try to put into practical steps for us to “live out” in our overstimulated, post modern world. The separation Heschel has from our world is, what it seems, gives him the privilege to let something mystical stay mystical, let so ...more
Moses Hetfield
Sep 12, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Jews
In this short text, Heschel provides an excellent framework for understanding Shabbat and its significance. The Sabbath: Its Meaning for Modern Man was easy to read and contains insights useful for Jews of all denominations and levels of practice. Much more accessible and enjoyable than Heschel's God in Search of Man: A Philosophy of Judaism , which I read earlier this year, even though I gave both books a 4-star rating. ...more
Dec 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all their multitude. And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation. Genesis 2:1-3 NRSV

Considered a classic of Jewish spirituality, The Sabbath: Its Meaning for Modern Man is an elegant and beautifully-written treatise seeking to renew a sancti
Steven C Hill
Feb 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
Beautiful and poetic love letter to the Sabbath from a Jewish theologian and scholar. Heschel is well sourced with Biblical and rabbinical teaching and includes occasional anecdotes from personal experience practicing and enjoying the Sabbath for decades. The compelling introduction (in my version, at least) was written by Heschel's daughter after his death. This little book is extremely timely for our day in which busyness is lauded about as a badge of honor. ...more
Nov 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: jewish-thought
I am really pleased that I managed to re-start and complete the book. I particularly enjoyed the last few chapters and the epilogue. Useful to be reminded of the sanctity of time, rather than the materials. Overall, it describes a standard of appreciation of Shabbat to aspire to. I suspect I will need to re-read again ...
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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.” 22 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.” 12 likes
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