Today on Krista Tippett’s show about religion, she had poohbahs of three major religions on stage, and Rabbi Jonathan Sacks of England told a story about how great Sabbath is and said that the sabbath is hallowed by all three religions. Giant applause.
I know how fabulous the sabbath is in West Jerusalem. You love it when life shuts down. And I spent months in Tonga, where they have the Christian sabbath, and life shuts down there for a day too. The sweetness of the sabbath, as a friend of mine once wrote.
I was lamenting the absence of a Sabbath in modern secular American culture when it struck me that we have our version of the Sabbath, the weekend. In Sabbath cultures, they only get one day off. In America, we get two days off, and though life doesn’t shut down, it certainly slows to a crawl.
Sacks’s story is nostalgic. The problem with Sabbath is that if you have a diverse and open society, you can’t celebrate all three Sabbaths, on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Society would shut down. Certainly our weekend reflects a mingling of Jewish and Christian tradition, accommodating the two major participants in the meritocratic society. Maybe it’s an improvement. Maybe we should stop lamenting the attenuation of certain religious traditions (the ones that gave us priestly child abuse and self-centered Zionism) and respect the evolved traditions of our own culture.