I recently finished The Sabbath by Abraham Joshua Heschel, a Jewish theologian who was also active in the civil rights movement in the sixties.
Heschel showed me the beauty and the grandeur that exists in the Sabbath. Observance of the Sabbath is not a legalistic practice. Rather, it is one that orients us toward the future Sabbath, when a time of rest will once again permeate the earth. But, this orientation does not come naturally. It is difficult to live in this time and place and remember the world to come. Everything shifts our focus to the here and the now. Or to the next 10 years. We read the newspaper and wonder if this sort of Sabbath can actually come to fruition because creation seems to be going backwards, towards the chaos and darkness we find in the beginning. This is why Heschel calls the practice of rest on the Sabbath an art form. He writes, “To attain a degree of excellence in art, one must accept its discipline, one must adjure slothfulness. The seventh day is a palace in time which we build. . . . In its atmosphere, a discipline is a reminder of adjacency to eternity.” Sabbath as a palace in time. We must build this palace, this time of remembrance, this time of re-orientation to the Sabbath that is to come.