Susan Pashman’s latest work, A Journey to a Temple in Time: A Philosopher’s Quest for the Sabbath, is part personal memoir and part philosophical argument. In it, she brings a host of traditional and contemporary philosophers together to help her develop a rational, moral, basis for Sabbath observance and a modernly meaningful understanding of it. Written as a diary of a year-long search, the book is aimed at others who, like Pashman herself, cannot blindly “obey,” but demand a sensible basis for their practices.

Pashman’s grandfather, Henry Greenfield, was the managing editor of the Jewish Daily Forward and station manager of its affiliated station, WEVD. She grew up in his big house in the Bronx, steeped in his brand of socialist atheism. But on the third floor of that house, lived her Uncle Wolfe, the son of an Orthodox rabbi. Each Friday night, Pashman’s grandmother would lift her into the dark, smelly dumbwaiter and hoist her up to her uncle’s apartment. There, candles were lit, wine and challah were blessed, and a glow of peace and love settled over all. So magical was this early experience that a longing for the Sabbath remained with her. As a single mother, she kept the Sabbath as a way of rooting her two sons in Judaism.

susan pashman embraceUltimately, she decided that “stepping back” to an objective position, the starting point for moral conduct, is the sort of detachment that Sabbath observance demands. A Sabbath properly observed is not just a day to unplug from technology; it is a day to attentively contemplate the lives and needs of others, take a “God’s eye view” of the world. The final leg of this journey led the author to modern philosophers of liberal Judaism, and to some crafty intellectual finagling of her own.

Rabbi Mark Golub, President and Executive Producer of the Jewish Broadcasting System, while inviting Susan Pashman to discuss this book on his award-winning interview show, L’Chayim, said it “.…looks very wonderful – and helpful- to so many non-Orthodox Jews struggling to find meaning in a Judaism that actually is enthralling if one understands the essential perspective of the Sage Rabbis through midrash.”

susan-pashman-candlesRabbi Leon Morris, former head of the Skirball Center in New York, and now President of the Pardes Institute in Jerusalem has requested to blurb this book when it is published, as have Jonathan Cohen, PhD, a Dean and Professor at Hebrew Union College, and more than twenty other Reform, Conservative and Reconstructionist rabbis. Rabbi Hyim Shafner of Kesher Israel, The Georgetown Synagogue in Washington, D.C. wrote:

“This sincere and thoughtful diary of the author’s journey to the Sabbath is suffused with both philosophical thought and warm Jewish feeling. It is an inspiring memoir that gives permission even to those who are skeptics to find deep meaning in the Sabbath.”

Rabbi David Wolpe of Los Angeles called the book “erudite” and “a clear account of a modern spiritual quest for the Sabbath, time and God.”

Three excerpts from this book have appeared in The Forward; part of a fourth chapter has just been published in Moment Magazine.

Click for excerpts published in The Forward and Moment: