Susannah Heschel, the daughter of Rabbi Abraham Heschel, says that Friday evening was always the best night of the week in their home. “My mother and I kindled the lights for the Sabbath,” she explains, “and all of a sudden I felt transformed, emotionally and even physically.”(1) To her, Sabbath was an atmosphere she entered into every week. It was a foretaste of paradise. “The Sabbath,” her father said, “comes like a caress, wiping away fear, sorrow and somber memories.”(2)
Wouldn’t it be great to have one day a week that created this kind of atmosphere in your own home? In addition to special prayers and a wonderful meal, Sabbath in the Jewish tradition is also a time for refraining from work, a time in which a person can simply relish being in the presence of God along with friends and family.
When Susannah was growing up, her father pointed out that just as it was forbidden to light a fire on the Sabbath (because it’s considered a form of work), it was also forbidden to kindle the fires of righteous indignation. “In our home,” she says, “certain topics were avoided on the Sabbath—politics, the Holocaust, the war in Vietnam—while others were emphasized.”(3) Sabbath was not a time for dwelling on all that was wrong in the world but for creating a sense of celebration and restfulness, a taste of the life to come.
Why not consider having your own Sabbath celebration? You can put together a short liturgy of prayer by selecting readings from the Old and New Testaments that speak of God’s work of deliverance. Enjoy a festive meal with family or friends. Celebrate God’s goodness by remembering what he has already done and what he has promised to do. On this one special day, remember to avoid talking about topics that will kindle a fire of righteous indignation in your heart.(4)
1. Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Sabbath (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1979), vii.
2. Ibid., viii.
3. Ibid., xiv.
4. For more information on the Sabbath and ideas for celebrating it, read chapter 7 of my book The Peace God Promises (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011).
(Image courtesy of Boaz Yiftach at freedigitalphotos.net)