Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Keep the Sabbath Day

Oliver Sacks wrote "Sabbath," discussing his frum childhood and the basic ritual we observant are all familiar with. What I found to be illuminating was this
During the 1990s, I came to know a cousin and contemporary of mine, Robert John Aumann, a man of remarkable appearance with his robust, athletic build and long white beard that made him, even at 60, look like an ancient sage. He is a man of great intellectual power but also of great human warmth and tenderness, and deep religious commitment — “commitment,” indeed, is one of his favorite words. Although, in his work, he stands for rationality in economics and human affairs, there is no conflict for him between reason and faith.
He insisted I have a mezuza on my door, and brought me one from Israel. “I know you don’t believe,” he said, “but you should have one anyhow.” I didn’t argue.
In a remarkable 2004 interview, Robert John spoke of his lifelong work in mathematics and game theory, but also of his family — how he would go skiing and mountaineering with some of his nearly 30 children and grandchildren (a kosher cook, carrying saucepans, would accompany them), and the importance of the Sabbath to him.
The observance of the Sabbath is extremely beautiful,” he said, “and is impossible without being religious. It is not even a question of improving society — it is about improving one’s own quality of life.”
In December of 2005, Robert John received a Nobel Prize for his 50 years of fundamental work in economics. He was not entirely an easy guest for the Nobel Committee, for he went to Stockholm with his family, including many of those children and grandchildren, and all had to have special kosher plates, utensils and food, and special formal clothes, with no biblically forbidden admixture of wool and linen.
When I read articles about the joys of a peaceful "digital sabbath," or how great Shabbos is for the family unit, or how the Sabbath enriches personal relationships, I think that is missing the point. 

One side of the luchos bears the laws betwixt man and God; the laws on the other side are those between man and man. "Guard the Sabbath day" is bein adam l'Makom, not bein adam l'chaveiro.  

Shabbos was the day that Hashem ceased to create, and so we cease to create. I'm not fussing with the light timers and pre-tearing paper towel because I'm trying to remove unnecessary distractions from my life and be mellow for 25 hours. I'm doing that prep because Shabbos is the day that we announce: "Hey, the Eibishter formed us all. Word." 
Shabbos isn't about replicating the "togetherness" of Thanksgiving on a weekly basis, tables groaning with food and friends. It's a day to give a shout-out to the Above. Although the tables groaning with food and friends is a fun side benefit.


Daniel Saunders said...

Very true. There is a tendency among some Orthodox Jews to stress the bein adam lechavero side of things - probably a necessary corrective to people who think that ritual perfection is everything, but act terribly unethically cf. certain unfortunate scandals over the last few years. But Judaism is a fairly meaningless as a religion without the mitzvot that allow us to come closer to HaShem.

That said, if I wanted to be chutzpadik, I would point out that the repetition of the asseret hadibrot in Va'etchanan notes a bein adam lechaveiro aspect to Shabbat, that slaves and maidservants can rest like free people.

Btw, I believe Aumann is one of only two frum people to win a Nobel, the other being the writer S. Y. Agnon.

Princess Lea said...

I seem to have misplaced my slaves and maidservants . . . bummer.

I think mysticism is is being mistaken for bein adam l'makom, as opposed to what is actually commanded. As for bein adam l'chaveiro, it's much simpler than many realize.

Daniel Saunders said...

You are probably right about people mistaking mysticism for bein adam leMakom. It's sad, really.

Surely you have droids instead of slaves?

Princess Lea said...

C3PO is a hysterical mess, R2D2 has a messiah complex. Can't find a good droid nowadays.