Saturday, June 1, 2013

A book that does what it says

I've spent a little time re-reading The Sabbath, by Abraham Heschel. It is the best book that I know on the topic (and there are many such books). But that doesn't mean it is an easy read. The first few pages leave me in a fog. The rabbi's brilliant prose forces me to slow down, to ponder, to reflect, to imagine -- and then it dawns on me: this is exactly what Sabbath does.

There is no reason for me to summarize the book here. It is a wonderful work that every person of faith should read.  Heschel states that Jewish faith is a religion of time, not a religion of space. It matters what we do with our minutes and how we keep our time-appointed festivals. For Heschel, time-keeping is the primary human practice. It reveals our greatest priorities. We make our time holy by offering it to God.

For kicks, I have occasionally done a time survey of how I spend a day or a week. Not being prone to annotating every minute, this is a demanding chore for me. But it reveals so much. You see where you have been distracted. Or when you have been interrupted or called away. You discover how hard it is to follow a to-do list, and why it is often important to have that list. You look back in review and discover how much you have done.

What doesn't show up on the time survey, of course, is Sabbath time. We really have a difficulty with Holy Pauses. We avoid them, or consider them unnecessary or unproductive. It is hard for the Driven Person to sit in a chair. To put it in neutral and put on the parking brake. This, too, is what we can do with our time. We can direct it to God and offer our Sabbath as our response to God's invitation for Sabbath.

So I ponder this, thanks to Rabbi Heschel. And it occurs to me that it is time to pull my favorite Adirondack chair out of the back shed and point it toward the squirrels.

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