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Thoughts for Shabbat: There must be cycles, there must be pauses


As usual, some of the best statements to come out of a particular religious tradition—in this case, Judaism—can, with a few word changes, be made to emerge from another tradition entirely. It’s hard not to imagine a Christian, Buddhist, or Muslim saying something just like this:

Now, today, as earlier Jews were conquered by Hellenism, so we have been conquered by Modernism. Not only conquered from without, by physical force—but more important, conquered inwardly. Persuaded.

      There are attractions, truths, in Modernism as there were in Hellenism. There are truths to science, industrialism, liberalism, socialism, nationalism. Their central truth is that the human race can master destiny, master the world. But it is only a partial truth. We are persuaded—but not wholly. It is also true that acting with total mastery will destroy our dominion—and thus annul, annihilate, our mastery. Acting totally as masters will total the world.

      Objectify the Earth, she will objectify us.

      Poison the world, she will poison us back.

      So we have become Modernists who know another truth: that to be only Modernists will destroy the world and ourselves. We need God-given Torah: the knowledge that we do not own the world. God does. There must be limits. There must be cycles. There must be pauses—Shabbos and Jubilee.

      So we need to wrestle with Torah as the rabbis wrestled with Torah. As they searched the white flame for new understanding, so must we. As they plunged into the darkness and the blankness to grasp the oral Torah, so must we. As they turned Destruction from a military or a cultural event into a cosmic event, so must we.

– Arthur O. Waskow, Seasons of Our Joy: A Modern Guide to the Jewish Holidays, 221