We are reading:
Abraham Joshua Heschel
Facilitator: Tamara Hill Murphy
Tamara compiled the following discussion questions, and will be facilitating our conversation in the comments below.
These questions are intended to get conversation rolling. Please feel free to ask your own questions, or make your own observations, about this week’s reading in the comment section below.
- Does the metaphor of Sabbath as a foretaste of eternity (ch. VII) add dimension to the previous metaphors we’ve seen as Sabbath as bride and Sabbath (ch. VII) and Sabbath as one being greeted by the groom-figure (man carrying myrtle in ch. III)? How do these metaphors inform each other? In what ways do these metaphors resonate with you? In what ways do they cause dissonance for you?
- Read (out loud, if possible) the Song of Songs Rabbi Heschel transcribes in Chapter VII. He describes this as the “greatest of all songs” and a “chant of love for God, a song of passion, nostalgia, and tender apology.” After reading the words and maybe sitting with them in silence, consider what the ancient song evokes for you. In what way does the poem reflect your understanding of God’s gift of Sabbath?
- How did you feel when you read the “punchline” of the legend in the opening paragraphs of chapter XIII? Describe your initial reaction to the the Sabbath as a good representation of the world to come.
- Consider Exodus 31:17 and Mark 2:23-28 in reference to the holiness Rabbi Heschel describes as the essence of the Sabbath. In what way does the Christian understanding of Incarnation – God, the sacred, becoming Man, the profane – add to an understanding of holiness? How could a robust theology of the Sabbath better form our appreciation for Incarnation? How does it all fit within the metaphor of “foretaste”
- Chapter IX digs more deeply into Jewish philosophy of holiness as it relates to space and time. Consider also comments Heshel makes about the space and symbols of worship employed on the Sabbath. How might you consider these statements through a Christian understanding of God as initiator and man as responder in worship? Respond to what Heschel seems to be saying about man’s role in sanctifying the time of Sabbath.
Logistics of our Conversation:
Our conversation will unfold in the comment section below. Feel free to answer any of the above questions or to ask your own questions or add your observations about the reading. If you are adding a new question / observation, please do so as a new comment, not as a reply to another comment. If you are responding to someone else’s comment, please use “REPLY” instead of responding in a new top-level comment.
If you have not left a comment on the ERB website before, your first comment will have to be moderated, and may take up to 24 hours to appear. But once you have an approved comment, you will generally be able to post without moderation.
Feel free to disagree with other participants, but do so with gentleness and respect. Comments that do not follow this rule of thumb may be deleted.
Check in often to see how the conversation is going. (Unfortunately, we do not have the technological capacity to email you when new comments are added)
About our facilitator:
Tamara Hill Murphy lives with her husband Brian, an Anglican priest in Bridgeport, CT. Her writing has also appeared in Plough, ThinkChristian, and Art House America. She is currently working toward her certification as a Spiritual Director and learning how to parent her four adult children. Find her at www.tamarahillmurphy.com or at Tamara Hill Murphy-A Sacramental Life on Facebook.
C. Christopher Smith is the founding editor of The Englewood Review of Books. He is also author of a number of books, including most recently How the Body of Christ Talks: Recovering the Practice of Conversation in the Church (Brazos Press, 2019). Connect with him online at: C-Christopher-Smith.com