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Sunday, August 11, 2013

The Sabbath: A Gift of Rest

Here's a book that pleasantly surprised me: Senator Joe Lieberman's, "The Gift of Rest: Rediscovering the Beauty of the Sabbath." As many of you know, not only is Joe Lieberman a former Vice Presidential candidate and a Senator from Connecticut, he is also an Orthodox Jew, who regularly observes the Sabbath, which in practical terms means he doesn't work from the beginning of the Jewish Sabbath on Friday afternoon until it's conclusion Saturday evening. And in this book he not only explains how an Orthodox Jew celebrates the Sabbath (which is different from how Conservative and Reform Jews and some Orthodox Jews celebrate the Sabbath), but also why. In short, his message is quite simple:
The truth is that we--and the world--will survive just fine if we stop working or shopping and stay home with our families one day a week. Our lives will continue. Our careers will go forward. Our families will flourish... The fact is that none of us is essential every minute of the week. I am here to testify that laying your work aside for one day a week is a responsible and ultimately productive choice. The big Sabbath lesson and insight may be as humbling and anxiety-producing for you as it used to be for me, but it is ultimately liberating (pp. 33-34).
How is it liberating? In one of those lovely paradoxes that crop up in life from time to time, Senator Lieberman notes how adhering to laws can set one free:
Our true freedom as human beings is dependent on our acceptance of the responsibility to serve God by obeying His laws. The laws of the Sabbath... may seem burdensome at first glance, but without them, the gift of rest that comes with the Sabbath would be almost impossible to enjoy... if there were not a divine law commanding me to rest, I would think of many good reasons to go about my normal routine on Friday night and Saturday. That is my nature. I am, for example, addicted to my Blackberry (p. 28).
I suspect there will be some who will not pick this book up because they disagree with Lieberman's politics. That would be a mistake. This is not a book about politics. It's a book about how it's possible for us, regardless of our political and theological leanings, to live full, productive, and enjoyable lives without giving in to the frenetic pace of today's world. That strikes me as a good thing.

P.S. I picked up this book because our church was invited to participate in a discussion of the book with a local Jewish congregation (Congregation Beth David). Because the discussion was held on the Jewish Sabbath, we had to turn our cell phones off, refrain from writing, and for those of us who read the book on a Kindle or a Nook, we had to leave "the book" at home (or at least turn it off!).

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