June 26, 2019

In Israel, Saturday Wears Many Hats

“When a vital resource has to be shared by different groups of people who each need to use that resource in profoundly different ways, it’s only natural that each group will claim that resource as its own while trying to delegitimize the claims of all others. Great rivalry is sure to ensue as a result of this competition, as each group attempts to prove the validity of its claim by showing how this resource is integrally connected to the group’s value system.

In Israel we have a resource which different groups try to claim as their own – Shabbat. Shabbat is viewed in totally different terms by different groups in our society, who each try to prove to all others – unsuccessfully – that their philosophy of Shabbat is the valid one.

For some, Shabbat is expected to supply all the functions of a “weekend” in a Western society – a day for rest and relaxation, for shopping, for pursuing hobbies, for cultural and social activities, for get-togethers on a family, national and even international level. Then there’s another group that sees Shabbat as a spiritual, regenerative day, a day of turning inward to self, to family, to community. This group feels that the spiritual nature of Shabbat preserves the uniqueness of the Jewish people and is concerned that allowing the official national dilution of the essence of the day will divest the country of all vestiges of spirituality.

There’s clearly little room for compromise or sharing in this situation. But more importantly, it’s not healthy that Israelis should have to choose between one type of day or another. Relaxation, recreation, and spirituality fulfill different needs in a person, and Israelis mustn’t be forced to choose between them; rather they need to be able, if they wish, to choose all of them.

Shabbat is a wonderful spiritual day, but in the reality of our lives today, a relaxed Sunday following Shabbat is a basic necessity for all of us.”

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