Monday, May 10th 2021   |



Abraham Joshua Heschel observed: “the Sabbaths are our great cathedrals.”

How so?

The Sabbath, like a great cathedral, provides sanctuary to wandering souls and spiritual searchers.

Like a great cathedral, faithful Shabbat observance promises a vivid sense of God’s majesty.

The vast, towering edifice of Sabbath Law is daunting in its scope, magnificent in its complexity, intricate in its artistry… too much to be absorbed in a single visit. We must return… thoughtfully to explore each nook and cranny, chapel, pillar, and buttress. That task can last a lifetime.

Great cathedrals take years… sometimes centuries to build. Each generation – entrusted by its forebears with the sacred trust – adds its own insights and style, new artistic interpretations and tributes, an evolving aesthetic sense to the process. Consider Manhattan’s Cathedral of St. John the Divine: the largest cathedral in the world… one of the five largest churches in existence. Begun in 1892, the Cathedral remains unfinished.

Shabbat – in many ways eternal – also continues to evolve with each passing generation. Each practitioner (while faithful to the visionary blueprint) offers unique contributions to the architecture of the masterpiece.

God rested on the first Sabbath because the work of Creation was complete. The Jewish People’s celebration of Shabbat remains a breathtaking work in progress.

“The Sabbaths are our great cathedrals.”

(Rabbi Joseph H. Prouser is the rabbi of Temple Emanuel of North Jersey and the former National Chaplain of the National Jewish Committee on Scouting.)

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