The Sab­bath World: Glimpses of a Dif­fer­ent Order of Time

Judith Shule­vitz
  • Review
By – September 8, 2011
Judith Shulevitz’s The Sab­bath­World is pos­si­bly the best pop­u­lar work on the Sab­bath since Heschel’s immor­tal The Sab­bath (1951). While Hes­chel writes in sub­lime poet­ry and nos­tal­gic mus­ing, Shule­vitz writes ele­gant prose, and entwines her excel­lent dis­course on the his­to­ry, nature, and val­ue of the Sab­bath with her own sto­ry of strug­gle with Sab­bath obser­vance. While her declared intent to frame a val­u­a­tion of the Sab­bath inde­pen­dent of reli­gious rea­sons seems per­haps odd­ly quixot­ic, she does dis­play an amaz­ing gift for trans­lat­ing into con­cise and clear lan­guage the fun­da­men­tal ideas of Shab­bat as com­mu­ni­ty build­ing, Shab­bat as dis­ci­pline to embrace peace and tran­quil­i­ty, and Shab­bat as tem­po­ral con­struct to pro­mote holy space. Her expla­na­tion of the agen­da of the Rab­bis of the Tal­mud in mak­ing our Shab­bat into what it is, is a phe­nom­e­nal piece of com­pre­hen­sion in a non-aca­d­e­m­ic work. There is nobody who should not read this book. Those who do not have wide expe­ri­ence of keep­ing Shab­bat or deep edu­ca­tion in the his­to­ry and nature of Shab­bat will find this book infi­nite­ly edu­ca­tion­al, relat­able, and thought-pro­vok­ing. Those who do have such expe­ri­ence and edu­ca­tion will find the book warm, thought­ful, and prone to mak­ing one pause in pleased sur­prise as one sud­den­ly finds a new and fas­ci­nat­ing way to think about our Shabbat.
Ami­tai Adler is a Con­ser­v­a­tive rab­bi. He teach­es and writes in Los Ange­les, CA, and has been pub­lished in Sh’­ma and Jew­ish Bible Quarterly.

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