A New Film Explores the American Sabbath

Reflecting on her own childhood Sunday mornings spent in church, Casey Cep considers Martin Doblmeier’s documentary Sabbath:

In Sabbath, Doblmeier moves swiftly about the country, consulting with thoughtful sociologists and theologians, capturing the beauty and delight of summer camps and community gardens, talking with the clergy and parishioners at places such as Life Adventist Church of Berkeley; the Stephen Wise Free Synagogue, in Manhattan; South Jackson Seventh-day Adventist Church, in Mississippi; the Islamic Center at New York University; and La Iglesia de Nuestra Señora la Reina, in Los Angeles.

Ammiel Hirsch, a Reform rabbi who appears in the film, argues that the fourth commandment was “a revolutionary concept” that “changed human history,” because it is believed to be the first time a religious or political authority, instead of requiring work, had required rest. Romans were contemptuous of the practice, maligning Jews as lazy. . . .

That sense of the Sabbath’s profound importance is part of what brought the Puritans to America. Their strict Sabbatarian beliefs put them in conflict with the English authorities, especially after King James published The Book of Sports, in 1617, in which he encouraged his subjects to follow Sunday-morning worship with dancing, games, and recreation in the afternoon. For the Puritans, such encroachments clearly undermined the fourth commandment, and when they could, they passed Sabbatarian laws to protect the Lord’s Day—in Virginia, as early as 1610, it was decreed that “no man or woman shall dare to violate or break the Sabbath by any gaming, public or private abroad, or at home.”

If we regularly took an entire day off from the work and the worry of our lives, we might think about doing it more often; moreover, we might think about how much more others need time to rest, too. Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel once wrote that for Jews, whose sacred architecture isn’t only physical but temporal, “Sabbaths are our great cathedrals.” “Six days a week,” he observed, “we wrestle with the world, wringing profit from the earth; on the Sabbath we especially care for the seed of eternity planted in the soul.”

Read more at New Yorker

More about: Abraham Joshua Heschel, American Religion, Film, Judaism, Shabbat


Ordinary Gazans Are Turning against Hamas—and Its Western Sympathizers

In the past few days, difficult-to-confirm reports have emerged of unrest in the Gaza Strip, and of civilians throwing stones at Hamas operatives. A recent video from Al Jazeera showed a Gazan declaring that “God will bring Qatar and Turkey to account” for the suffering of Palestinians in the current war. Being an agent of the Qatari government, the journalist turned away, and then pushed the interviewee with his hand to prevent him from getting near the microphone. Yet this brief exchange contributes much to the ongoing debate about Palestinian support for Hamas, and belies the frequent assertion by experts that the Israeli campaign is only “further radicalizing” the population.

For some time, Joseph Braude has worked with a number of journalists and researchers to interview ordinary Gazans under circumstances where they don’t fear reprisals. He notes that the sorts of opinions they share are rarely heard in Western media, let alone on Al Jazeera or Iran-sponsored outlets:

[A] resident of Khan Younis describes how locals in a bakery spontaneously attacked a Hamas member who had come to buy bread. The incident, hardly imaginable before the present war, reflects a widespread feeling of “disgust,” he says, after Gazan aspirations for “a dignified life and to live in peace” were set back by the Hamas atrocities of October 7.

Fears have grown that this misery will needlessly be prolonged by Westerners who strive, in effect, to perpetuate Hamas rule, according to one Gazan woman. Addressing protesters who have taken to the streets to demand a ceasefire on behalf of Palestinians, she calls on them to make a choice: “Either support the Palestinian people or the Hamas regime that oppresses them.” If protesters harbor a humanitarian motive, she asks, “Why don’t we see them demonstrating against Hamas?”

“Hamas is the destruction of the Palestinian people. We’ve had enough. They need to be wiped out—because if they remain, the people will be wiped out.”

You can watch videos of some of the interviews by clicking the link below.

Read more at Free Press

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Palestinian public opinion