“He who wants to enter the holiness of the day must first lay down the profanity of clattering commerce, of being yoked to toil. … Six days a week, 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. The world has our hands but our soul belongs to Some one Else. Six days a week, we seek to dominate the world; on the seventh day, we try to dominate the self.”
~ The Sabbath, Abraham Joshua Heschel
Every day, it seems that there is a new story or an old one revisited about race, racism, prejudice and/ or stereotypes: the trial of George Zimmerman for the death of Trayvon Martin, celebrity chef Paula Deen’s use of the racial slur nigger and monthly, sometimes weekly reports, of racism on college campuses and universities. It is justified and yet or fault, the truth and yet a lie, the reason and yet the excuse for why we continue to have the same conversations. Still, we cannot come to an agreement and it is because race is inherently unjust as the law and the lawgiver, the creature and the creator. We have made it and yet, we are enslaved to it, ensnared by it.
Race is used to explain it all while providing no real answers. We are and it is this way because of race and based on race. It is because we are black/ white/ red/ yellow/ brown/ beige and yet the reason why we need to disown the socially constructed identity altogether. Let’s lose sight of color and become color- blind. But, we really want to see it because we feel that we need it. We believe that race is the reason for everything, that it provides answers to the who and what and when and why and how of our lives. But, it doesn’t and it never will.
While Zimmerman and Deen’s stories have prompted increased dialogue about our belief in stereotypes, the practice of prejudice and employment of racial slurs, it seems that the conversation concerning all of these things has not changed. We still don’t know what to say or do about race. We speak as if it is impossible to avoid it, as if we are “yoked” to it. And we only talk about it in cases like Zimmerman and Deen. Apart from such incidents and if there is no public outcry, then we remain dangerously and ignorantly and sinfully silent.
Heschel writes of the Sabbath, “it is a day of independence of social conditions.” God’s creation of the Sabbath reminds us that time does not belong to us as it is not a possession. It is not something to be owned. Time cannot be bought or sold; it does not go on sale, cannot be reproduced or purchased in bulk. Time is not our own; we cannot control it. But, time belongs to God and there is a time when and a time for the throwing off of the yoke of social conditions. This is possible because there is Some One who is outside of and not dependent upon the right time or the perfect social conditions in order to find meaning or to exist. God exists apart from it all and provides a time for us to do the same. It is called the Sabbath and “Shabbat comes with its own holiness; we enter not simply a day, but an atmosphere.”
Today, I begin the practice of a life lived as the Sabbath, acknowledging and submitting to an atmosphere wherein I respond independently of social/ economic/ physical/ racial/ prejudicial/ stereotypical conditions.