The Sabbath as Antidote to the Modern Work Ethic

Sept. 21 2018

In a time when cell phones, email, and other technological advances, combined with economic changes, create situations in which work can pervade all of life, a revival of the Sabbath might be more necessary than ever, writes William Black:

In place of an economy built upon the profit motive—the ever-present need for more, in fact the need for there never to be enough—the Sabbath puts forward an economy built upon the belief that there is enough. The Sabbath’s radicalism should be no surprise given the fact that it originated among a community of former slaves. The Ten Commandments constituted a manifesto against the regime that they had recently escaped, and a rebellion against that regime was at the heart of their God’s identity, as attested to in the first commandment: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” When the ancient Israelites swore to worship only one God, they understood this to mean, in part, that they owed no fealty to the pharaoh or any other emperor.

It is therefore instructive to read the fourth commandment in light of the pharaoh’s labor practices described earlier in the book of Exodus. He is depicted as a manager never satisfied with his slaves. . . . The pharaoh orders that the slaves no longer be given straw with which to make bricks; they must now gather their own straw, while the daily quota for bricks would remain the same. When many fail to meet their quota, the pharaoh has them beaten and calls them lazy.

The fourth commandment presents a God who, rather than demanding ever more work, insists on rest. The weekly Sabbath placed a hard limit on how much work could be done and suggested that this was perfectly all right; enough work was done in the other six days. And whereas the pharaoh relaxed while his people toiled, the Lord insisted that the people rest as He rested: “For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and consecrated it.”

The Sabbath, as described in Exodus and other passages in the Torah, had a democratizing effect. God’s example—not forcing others to labor while He rested—was one anybody in power was to imitate. It was not enough for you to rest; your children, slaves, livestock, and even the “strangers” in your towns were to rest as well. The Sabbath wasn’t just a time for personal reflection and rejuvenation. It wasn’t self-care. It was for everyone.

You have 2 free articles left this month

Sign up now for unlimited access

Subscribe Now

Already have an account? Log in now

Read more at Aeon

More about: American society, Hebrew Bible, Religion & Holidays, Sabbath

For Israelis, Anti-Zionism Kills

Dec. 14 2018

This week alone, anti-Zionists have killed multiple Israelis in a series of attacks; these follow the revelations that Hizballah succeeded in digging multiple attack tunnels from Lebanon into northern Israel. Simultaneously, some recent news stories in the U.S. have occasioned pious reminders that anti-Zionism should not be conflated with anti-Semitism. Bret Stephens notes that it is anti-Zionists, not defenders of Israel, who do the most to blur that distinction:

Israelis experience anti-Zionism in a different way from, say, readers of the New York Review of Books: not as a bold sally in the world of ideas, but as a looming menace to their earthly existence, held at bay only through force of arms. . . . Anti-Zionism might have been a respectable point of view before 1948, when the question of Israel’s existence was in the future and up for debate. Today, anti-Zionism is a call for the elimination of a state—details to follow regarding the fate befalling those who currently live in it. . . .

Anti-Zionism is ideologically unique in insisting that one state, and one state only, doesn’t just have to change. It has to go. By a coincidence that its adherents insist is entirely innocent, this happens to be the Jewish state, making anti-Zionists either the most disingenuous of ideologues or the most obtuse. When then-CNN contributor Marc Lamont Hill called last month for a “free Palestine from the river to the sea” and later claimed to be ignorant of what the slogan really meant, it was hard to tell in which category he fell.

Does this make someone with Hill’s views an anti-Semite? It’s like asking whether a person who believes in [the principle of] separate-but-equal must necessarily be a racist. In theory, no. In reality, another story. The typical aim of the anti-Semite is legal or social discrimination against some set of Jews. The explicit aim of the anti-Zionist is political or physical dispossession.

What’s worse: to be denied membership in a country club because you’re Jewish, or driven from your ancestral homeland and sovereign state for the same reason? If anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism are meaningfully distinct (I think they are not), the human consequences of the latter are direr.

You have 1 free article left this month

Sign up now for unlimited access

Subscribe Now

Already have an account? Log in now

Read more at New York Times

More about: Anti-Semitism, Anti-Zionism, Hizballah, Israel & Zionism, Palestinian terror