Abraham Joshuah Heschel "The Sabbath"
“Judaism teaches us to be attached to holiness in time, to be attached to sacred events, to learn how to consecrate sanctuaries that emerge from the magnificent stream of a year. The Sabbaths are our great cathedrals; and our Holy of Holies is a shrine that neither the Romans nor the Germans were able to burn; a shrine that even apostasy cannot easily obliterate: the Day of Atonement. According to the ancient rabbis, it is not the observance of the Day of Atonement, but the Day itself, the "essence of the Day," which, with man's repentance, atones for the sins of man.
Jewish ritual may be characterized as the art of significant forms in time, as architecture of time. Most of its observances--the Sabbath, the New Moon, the festivals, the Sabbatical and the Jubilee year--depend on a certain hour of the day or season of the year”
"More than the Jews have kept Shabbat, Shabbat has kept the Jews"
The laws of Shabbat are set aside where there is danger to life, as is the case with the mitzvot. Therefore, a sick person who is in danger may have all his needs taken care of on Shabbat (even when doing so violates the laws of Shabbat), if it is so ordered by a doctor. If there is some question as to the seriousness of the illness (as in the case where one doctor says there is danger and another says there is not), then Shabbat is set aside on the principle that when there is any doubt about danger to life, we set aside Shabbat in order to save a life.
(Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Shabbat 11:5)
A great pianist was once asked by an ardent admirer: “How do you handle the notes as well as you do?” The artist answered: “The notes I handle no better than many pianists, but the pauses between the notes, ah, that is where the art resides.”
In great living, as in great music, the art may be in the pauses. Surely one of the enduring contributions that Judaism made to the art of living was Shabbat, “the pause between the notes.” And it is to Shabbat that we must look if we are to restore to our lives the sense of serenity and sanctity that Shabbat offers in such joyous abundance.
(Likrat Shabbat) Worship, Study, and Song For Sabbath and Festival Evenings 2004
Six days a week we humans use time. We value it as a means to an end. Time “well spent” for us is time that helps us acquire something.
Yet to have more does not mean to be more. Indeed, 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, becomes our sole concern.
The seventh day rights our balance and restores our perspective. It is like a palace in time with a kingdom for all. It is not a date, but an atmosphere.
The seventh day, we celebrate time rather than space. Six days we live under the tyranny of the things of space; on the seventh day we try to become attuned to holiness in time.
It is a day on which we are called upon to share in what is eternal in time: to turn from the results of creation to the mystery of creation, from the world of creation to the creation of the world.
(Adapted from Abraham Joshua Heschel)
How, above all, do we show our dominion over the earth? In that we can fashion all things in our environment to our own purpose—the earth for our habitation and source of sustenance; plant and animal for food and clothing. We can transform everything into an instrument of human service. We are allowed to rule over the world for six days with God’s will. On the seventh day, however, we are forbidden by the divine behest to fashion anything for our purpose. In this way we acknowledge that we have no rights of ownership or authority over the world. Nothing may be dealt with as we please, for everything belongs to God, the Creator, who has set human beings into the world to rule it according to the divine word. On each Sabbath day, the world, so to speak, is restored to God, and thus we proclaim, both to ourselves and to our surroundings, that we enjoy only a borrowed authority.
(Adapted from Samson Raphael Hirsch).