The Sabbath Is an End in Itself, Not a Path to Inner Peace

March 21 2019

In his 2011 book The Gift of Rest, then-Senator Joseph Lieberman extolled the virtues of the Jewish Sabbath, focusing on its ability to give respite in the present age of ’round-the-clock work and technological interconnectedness. Contrasting the book with Abraham Joshua Heschel’s celebrated The Sabbath: Its Meaning for Modern Man, Shalom Carmy notes that Lieberman succeeds better at conveying some of the burdens of Sabbath observance—for instance, in relating how he once trudged four miles to the Capitol in torrential rain to cast his vote on a Friday night. Carmy nonetheless raises questions:

Many of Lieberman’s observations about the natural human good of Sabbath rest can seem attractive to people looking to deepen their private and communal lives. Nonetheless, one can raise three skeptical questions. First, as we all know, the day-of-rest ideals of domestic and communal togetherness do not appeal to all individuals, families, or communities. For the Jew, the laws of Sabbath must be obeyed, and the social practices that form around them are hard to avoid, even by those who are not attracted to or enchanted by them. We all know this, but we do not always factor in the gap between the ideal and the reality, a gap that more often than not is overcome only by the power of obligation rather than good intentions.

Second, at least in my experience, the beauty of the Sabbath and its restrictions grow with familiarity and habit. The songs, the food, the rhythm sustain us to the degree that we take them for granted. . . . A lifetime of observance molds patterns of meaning and pleasure. Lastly, as Lieberman notes openly when he praises the opportunities and quality of Sabbath intimacy in married life, it doesn’t work unless you believe your observance is obligatory. It is not sufficient to adopt the Sabbath as one passing therapy among others. The day is an end in itself, not the means to other ends such as attaining inner peace or building strong relationships. . . .

Recovering our intimate relation with God, building community with family and friends, and freeing ourselves from dependence on mechanical connectedness and informational flooding require patience, persistence, frequent inconvenience, occasional suffering, and the consciousness of being commanded. Few of us look forward to long walks in drenching rains, but without the readiness to do so when it is demanded, the prospect of “heaven and everything else” [promised by Heschel] is liable to remain wishful thinking.

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Read more at First Things

More about: Abraham Joshua Heschel, Joseph Lieberman, Religion & Holidays, Sabbath

Why Is Iran Acquiring Property in Venezuela?

In June Tehran and Caracas concluded a major twenty-year cooperation treaty. One of its many provisions—kept secret until recently—was the transfer of 4,000 square miles of Venezuelan land to Iranian control. Although the territory is ostensibly for agricultural use, Lawrence Franklin suspects the Islamic Republic might have other plans:

Hizballah already runs paramilitary training centers in restricted sections of Venezuela’s Margarita Island, a tourist area northeast of the country’s mainland. The terrorist group has considerable support from some of Venezuela’s prominent Lebanese clans such as the Nasr al-Din family, who reportedly facilitated Iran’s penetration of Margarita Island. . . . The Maduro regime has apparently been so welcoming to Iranian intelligence agents that some of Hizballah’s long-established Latin American network at the tri-border nexus of Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay has been overtaken by Hizballah activities on Venezuela’s Margarita Island.

Iran’s alliance with Venezuela most importantly provides Tehran with opportunities to target U.S. interests in Latin America and potentially the southern United States. Iran, along with the Chinese Communist Party, is in the process of strengthening Venezuela’s military against the U.S., for instance by deliveries of military drones, which are also considered a threat by Colombia.

While air and seaborne arms deliveries are high-profile evidence of Iran’s ties with Venezuela, Tehran’s cooperation with Venezuelan intelligence agencies, although less visible, is also intense. The Islamic Republic’s support for Hizballah terrorist operations is pervasive throughout Latin America. Hizballah recruits from Venezuela’s ten-million-strong Lebanese diaspora. Iran and Hizballah cooperate in training of intelligence agents and in developing sources who reside in Venezuela and Colombia, as well as in the tri-border region of Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina.

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Read more at Gatestone

More about: Iran, Latin America, Venezuela