View Full Version : Three Cheers for the Sabbath!

07-26-2012, 04:19 PM
I had originally posted this on one of the Chick-Fil-A threads, but I was afraid it would get lost. The academic trade paper (The Chronicle of Higher Ed) has posted this unusual article on Sabbath observance. I was struck by it considering how much our buddies at DU seem to despise Chick-Fil-A for allowing their employees to observe the Sabbath by remaining closed on Sundays.

An interesting article on Sabbath observance: by an academic paper, no less. The article interviews different professors for their views on the Sabbath.


A Day of Rest
July 24, 2012, 11:00 am
By Amy Cavender


For a few years now, I’ve been drawn toward paying more attention to sabbath observance. Though my faith’s expectation of communal worship has always been an important part of my approach to the day, of late I’ve been trying to sort out for myself what more I might want to make a part of my observance. Going to Mass and brunch, calling my family, then jumping right back into ordinary work just hasn’t been cutting it for me. Something’s been missing.

What I’m really looking for is both a greater sense of connection and a greater awareness that, though my work is important (at least, I’d like to think so!), it isn’t so necessary that I can’t take one day away from it each week to enjoy life and to focus on the relationships and non-work activities that add greater meaning and depth to it.

To do that effectively, I think I need to step away from a number of my day-to-day activities on Sundays. I don’t expect that I can do that all at once, so I’m starting small: the computer stays off on Sundays, and my plan is to stay away from email and social media as well. For me, that’s neither an arbitrary rule nor a suggestion that the relationships I maintain in those venues aren’t real and important; they are, but social media can quickly become very distracting and very time-consuming for me. For one day each week, I want to step back from them, and instead devote that time to face-to-face relationships, leisure reading, and/or a good long walk or run.


I am a religious Jew, and celebrating the Sabbath (Shabbat) is central to my religion. During Shabbat, we are commanded to rest; and a violation of Shabbat, no matter how small, is considered to be a denial of the existence of G-d.

We celebrate Shabbat completely and absolutely, according to Jewish law. Shabbat starts about one hour before sundown on Friday, and extends to about one hour after sundown on Saturday.

There are a total of 39 forbidden activities on Shabbat, and the rules are so complex that volumes and volumes of heavy Jewish tomes have been dedicated to it. However, the simple answer for what it takes to celebrate Shabbat properly is this: we cannot be involved in any creative activity. We cannot do things such as cook, use a phone, light a fire (including using anything electric), ride in a car, garden, draw, write, sew, or carry anything (even a tissue in our pocket) outside a “private area” such as a house.

To us, the only thing more important than Shabbat is life itself. In fact, it is a Halacha (law) of Shabbat that we may not keep the other laws if life is in danger—for example, if we need to rush ourselves or someone else to the hospital.

It sounds pretty strict, and it is—but within the structure of Shabbat, I find freedom. For 25 hours a week, I cannot go on the internet, drive to a meeting, or write or grade a paper. There is nothing “more important” than spending time with my family–praying, eating, talking, reading, and playing with the kids.

Even when I attend a conference or a THATCamp, I keep Shabbat. On the face of it, many would regard attending a technology conference without one’s computer to be a waste of time. However, I have discovered that spending the day talking to others and really paying attention to what they are saying as they describe a project has allowed me to focus better than if I were following-along with my computer.

Shabbat is an amazing gift from G-d, a gift that I cherish more and more as I get older and my life becomes more and more technological. It’s a day away, a day dedicated to reflection and celebration of the gifts G-d has given us, and it keeps me balanced.


Rather than focusing on the religious aspect of sabbath observance, in my contribution, I have been thinking about the sabbath in a decidedly more secular way. For me, of late it has become important to take a few hours of each week to unplug: that means no internet, no computer, no smartphone, no iPod....


With a few exceptions, my wife and I (and now our daughter) have spent all our Sundays at church and with the people of the church. But in between these gatherings, I have usually mixed in writing a page here, correcting a handful of papers there. Perhaps others can manage this leavening better than I, but it has often led me to resent religion for intruding on work, and work for intruding on religion.

Just recently—in the past month—my wife and I have come to the conclusion that observing a Sabbath is a commandment, not just an option, even for us as Christians. Unlike some of the others who are writing for this post, for whom I have some “holy envy,” we are not heirs to a detailed tradition or even a clear idea about what it means to observe a sabbath. I’m not sure we can even call what we do observing the Sabbath. I’ve been reading diverse sources, from early Christian writings to Abraham Heschel, to gain a clearer idea. For now all we know is that from Saturday evening to Sunday evening, we refrain from acts of creation (as the Pentateuch commands) and try instead to do acts of mercy (as the Gospels give examples).

Our particular practice is obviously idiosyncratic (which irks me) and particular to our family (which brings me joy), and I certainly would not press it on anyone else’s conscience. So perhaps it would be more useful to explain the meaning we’ve found rather than the method we use.

We’ve undertaken observance of a sabbath not because we expect to be more productive on the other six days, or even in the first instance because we expect it to improve our wellbeing. Rather, we feel our consciences bound to observe the Sabbath in obedience to the God who commanded the Sabbath and Himself rested. Sanctifying one day to God is an acknowledgment that he is Lord of all seven days. Keeping one day holy regardless of the demands of our labor is a way of keeping the command to have no other gods before God.

Perhaps that seems austere and theological. But I can say from our short experience that observing a sabbath is indeed restful. “The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath,” meaning that the sabbath is God’s gift, which we’ve only recently come to receive.....

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