I will get back to posting on my life soon. For now, though, I just wanted to let y’all know that there’s another excerpt up, this time on ZEEK, at Jewcy.com. You can read the whole thing here, but here’s a little preview of the excerpt of the snippet of the thingy:
One Tuesday night [a few years back], I sat at a local cafe with a cappuccino and my just-purchased copy of Abraham Joshua Heschelâ€™s The Sabbath; all of my reading for pleasure seemed to be about Judaism at this point. I had already begun to understand why, on the seventh day, Jews traditionally refrain from lighting fires or using telephones or cooking food or spending money or doing many other things understood to be either technically â€œworkâ€ or outside the spirit of rest that governs the day.
It seemed clear that abstaining from this stuff would create long stretches of silence and a freedom from distraction that could help a person access the most silent, hidden parts of the self. Heschel, however, explained that there was even more to it than that. He wrote,
To set apart one day a week for freedom, a day on which we would not use the instruments which have been so easily turned into weapons of destruction, a day for being with ourselves, a day of detachment from the vulgar, of independence from external obligations, a day on which we stop worshipping the idols of technical civilization, a day on which we use no money, a day of armistice in the economic struggle with our fellow men and the forces of nature-is there any institution that holds out a greater hope for manâ€™s progress than the Sabbath?
The irony is that human progress depends on saying no to technology and economic engagement, at least for a while. Heschel framed Shabbat as a way of returning to too-oft-neglected ways of being human-a way to help us remember what we have in common with the woman who got up at 4 a.m. to clean the office.
I sipped my drink and I chewed on Heschel. The idea of being free from commercial transactions on Shabbat was attractive. I thought through the implications: If I didnâ€™t spend money, I couldnâ€™t get the eggplant sandwich I loved from the deli up the street. I wouldnâ€™t be able to ride the bus, since I never had a monthly pass. I needed Friday-night money to tip bartenders, pay cover charges, pick up the tab on a date, get into a movie. The list seemed to be endless. No eggplant sandwich?
This, I realized later, connected to all that stuff about desire I found in countless books on spirituality. Carol Lee Flinders wrote, â€œas long as I believe in sex as a source of lasting happiness-or power or food or even long weekends in the mountain or anything finite-then no matter how much I want the mysterious something else that mystics speak of, I canâ€™t walk toward it because my consciousness is divided.â€[ii]
In Buddhism, desireâ€“uncritical servitude to our finite cravingsâ€“is considered the root of all suffering. The Ten Commandments tell us not to covet, not to desire greedily. Attempting to rein in my impulses, however, sounded terrible. The mere prospect of not being able to do what I wanted, exactly how and when I wanted to do so, was causing me no small amount of my own suffering. There seemed to be no winning.
Up until now, dabbling in Judaism hadnâ€™t demanded very much of me. I had time in my schedule for both Friday night services and clubbing, I could spare an hourâ€™s sleep every week or two for morning prayer and Torah class. Avoiding nonkosher food wasnâ€™t so hard-I hadnâ€™t eaten meat in years, and I wasnâ€™t really a fan of seafood anyway. But as I contemplated Shabbat, and what it might entail to deepen my practice, I began to realize that this spiritual discipline stuff was . . .well, more work than shooting energy out of the palms of my hands. If I wanted to move past the â€œrandom cool experiencesâ€ phase and into something more like Divine DSL, I had to actually do things to make that happen. I just wasnâ€™t sure that I was ready.
I wasnâ€™t alone in my hesitation to take this next stepâ€¦.
You know you want to keep reading. Go here for more.