In our family we are beginning to try to see what Sabbath might look like for us. Not being confined by Jewish law we wonder what things might be significant for us to restrict and change.
We instantly become aware that even though lockdown has restricted our lives and we are nearer to the stillness that I wrote about in my previous post on the Sabbath, we are still engaged in the ‘subduing of the earth’ and ‘technical civilization’ in many ways.
So, do we turn off technology, refrain from using the car, prepare our food for the day the night before, not watch TV in the evening? Definitely no washing or cleaning !! But can we garden?
Restrictions need to be rational… for a good reason and to facilitate the art of Rest. For the sake of true Freedom.
Interesting…. this will take a while to experiment with and all the time our focus shifts towards God who gives this Day Holiness.
(Time to get off the computer!!!!!!!!!)
Technical civilization is the product of labour, of human beings exertion of power for the sake of gain for the sake of producing goods. It begins when humans dissatisfied with what is available in nature become engaged in a struggle with the forces of nature in order to enhance their safety and to increase their comfort. To use the language of the Bible, the task of civilization is to subdue the earth to have dominion over the beast.
How proud we often are of our victories in the war with nature, proud of the multitude of instruments we have succeeded in inventing, of the abundance of commodities we have been able to produce. Yet our victories have come to resemble defeats in spite of our triumphs, we have fallen victims to the work of our hands; it is as if the forces we had conquered have conquered us.
Is our civilization on the way to disaster, as many of us are prone to believe? Is civilization essentially evil to be rejected and condemned? The faith of the Jew is not two not a way out of this world but a way of being within and above this world; not to reject but to surpass civilization. The Sabbath is the day on which we learn the art of surpassing civilization.
To set apart one day a week for freedom, a day on which we do not use the instruments which have been so easily turned into weapons of destruction, a day for being with ourselves, a day of detachment from the vulgar, of independence of it an external obligations, the day on which we stop worshiping the idols of technical civilization, a day on which we use no money, a day of armistice in the economic struggle with our fellow humans and the forces of nature – is there any institution that holds out greater hope for humanities progress than the Sabbath?
Abraham Joshua Heschel