Sabbath

Night is the Sabbath of mankind, to rest the body and the mind.

Take a fresh look at celebrating the Sabbath. Consider spending one day a week being childlike, consciously breaking the deliberate, patterned life you have adopted. Without this destructuring, spiritual life becomes too serious and goal-oriented. Throughout the week, we live in the world of becoming, always striving to perfect ourselves spiritually. On the Sabbath, we drop all forms of becoming and inhabit the world of being, living in the end-state of all practice as if it had already occurred. From this most crucial of spiritual practices flows the inspiration to carry us through the entire week.

The law of the Sabbath is the keystone of the arch of public morals; take it away, and the whole fabric falls.

Without a Sabbath, no worship; without worship, no religion; and without religion, no permanent freedom.

The Sabbath is the link between the paradise which has passed away, and the paradise which is yet to come.

The first creation of God in the works of the days was the light of the sense; the last was the light of the reason: and His Sabbath-work ever since is the illumination of the spirit.

A world without a Sabbath would be like a man without a smile, like a summer without flowers, and like a homestead without a garden. It is the joyous day of the whole week.

The meaning of the Sabbath is to celebrate time rather than space. Six days a week we live under the tyranny of things of space; on the Sabbath 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.

To be a Jew is to affirm the world without being enslaved by it; to be a part of civilization and to go beyond it; to conquer space and to sanctify time. Judaism is the art of surpassing civilization, sanctification of time, sanctification of history. Civilization is on trial. Its future will depend upon how much of the Sabbath will penetrate its spirit.

In reverence will w speak of those who woo
The ear divine with clear and ready prayer;
And while their voices cleave the Sabbath air,
Know their bright thoughts are winging heavenward too.
Yet many a one,--"the latchet of whose shoe"
These might not loose--will often only dare
Lay some poor words between him and despair--
"Father, forgive! we know not what we do."

A friend, an intelligent lapsed Jew who observes the Sabbath for reasons of cultural solidarity, describes himself as a Tooth Fairy Agnostic. He will not call himself an atheist because it is in principle impossible to prove a negative. But agnostic on its own might suggest that he though God's existence or non-existence equally likely. In fact, though strictly agnostic about God, he considers God's existence no more probable than the Tooth Fairy's.

Another fundamental Jewish idea is of turning or returning, called Teshuvah. The high holy days, this time of the year, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, have that theme. We come back to our attention, our own sense of being worthy or being beloved or in God’s presence. Coming back to attention is meditation practice. It describes how the mind moves away from attention and needs to be brought back. It is natural to turn away. How can we cultivate the willingness, the desire to turn us back to attention?

So those are some examples of what you might call “Jewish mindfulness.” Judaism is mindful; mindfulness is also Jewish. That’s how I think of it and that’s the way we teach it.

The kinds of spiritual practices we can undertake are limitless. However, ultimately the form is less important than these factors: the commitment to practice, the ability to keep returning to the intention, the attitude one brings to the uncontrollable and the ability to transfer the benefits of the practice into how we live our lives, how we relate to ourselves and others, how free we become to embody the values and ideals we embrace in our minds, how we deal with temptations of all sorts. In other words we practice to live with the wisdom and compassion, which we already possess. We practice to actualize the pure soul, which God has planted with us.

A person can do other things against his will; but belief is possible only in one who is willing.

We are spiritually dead without the Spirit indwelling, and spiritually asleep without the Spirit influencing....The former, praying, is like a ghost walking and talking; the latter, like a man speaking through his sleep.

No sun—no moon—no morn—no noon, no dawn—no dusk—no proper time of day, no warmth—no cheerfulness—no healthful ease, no road, no street, no t’ other side the way, no comfortable feel in any member— no shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees, no fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds, November!

Imagination is a danger thus every totalitarian regime is frightened of the artist. It is the vocation of the prophet to keep alive the ministry of imagination to keep on conjouring and proposing alternative futures to the single one the king wants to urge as the only thinkable one.

If we believe that this particular pain is the one that will push the baby out of the womb and into our arms, we somehow try to make a place for that pain in our heart. Pain is still there: excruciating, terrible pain. But at the moment of birth, we rarely feel betrayal or rage; we somehow feel that this is simply pain that has come with life.

Our civilization canonizes desire as the engine that drives our monetary system, which is sad because desire, by definition, is based on dissatisfaction. When you're satisfied, your desires melt away. When you have a nice meal, your desire to eat more disappears. When you have a relationship with someone you love, the desire to run off and meet somebody else naturally falls away. Whenever we're satisfied with what we have, desire dissolves of its own accord. We place desire on the altar of our civilization.

Some of us have a hard time believing that we are actually able to face our own pain. We have convinced ourselves that our pain is too deep, too frightening, something to avoid at all costs. Yet if we finally allow ourselves to feel the depth of that sadness and gently let it break our hearts, we may come to feel a great freedom, a genuine sense of release and peace, because we have finally stopped running away from ourselves and from the pain that lives within us.