Journalist Shulevitz presents a sometimes intriguing, sometimes tortured, exposition on the idea of the Sabbath, from both Jewish and Christian perspectives.
Though the idea of a day of rest seems simple enough, the author reveals layers of complexity that make the Sabbath a formidable topic of study, including history, social structures, economics and the idea of time as something people measure in increments. For instance, in simply trying to define the Sabbath, the author points out that it is social, legal, cultural, political and holy in character. Perhaps in part because of its complexity, the concept is at its most effective in promoting social solidarity, and indeed has been a rallying point within communities for centuries. Nevertheless, the Sabbath is also a troublesome reality for those exposed to it, a tradition “designed to make life as inconvenient as possible.” Shulevitz goes to great lengths to describe her lifelong struggle with the Sabbath—and perhaps with faith itself—in a narrative that demonstrates how living with the Sabbath is often difficult. Never quite at home among observant Jews—“I was a fraud, an imposter, a cliché”—the author nonetheless felt drawn to the tradition of the Sabbath and what it represents in a world that often forgets to slow down. Too often Shulevitz crosses the line by indulging in her own story at the expense of her topic, but she presents a welcome introduction to the idea of Sabbath. Most readers will be challenged to rethink what Saturday or Sunday really means to them.
A worthwhile discussion of a day we take for granted.