In his introduction, Nehemia Pollen argues that Abraham Joshua Heshel’s book, The Sabbath—published over sixty years ago — “must be augmented and its focus expanded.” The author sets out to do just that, by way of extensive theoretical and practical discussions of “practices, objects and spaces” pertaining to Shabbat. He liberally incorporates mystical aspects of the Zohar and Chassidic insights that he believes will complement Jews’ spiritual approach to the special day.
Despite the age-old history of his subject matter, Pollen writes as a man of contemporary times, and he speaks often of being “present in the moment,” “clearing the mind of other thoughts,” and moving with intentionality. Qualities and values like these, he thinks, are more pertinent to Shabbat observance than what takes place during the weekdays; since the latter are typically inundated with concerns of “business and busyness” and “frenetic rushing,” they are not easily given over to spiritual living.
Music is very much part of Pollen’s presentation. Not only does he devote an entire section to the art and contents of nigun, but he cites Sefat Emet, the first Gerer Rebbe, who wrote, “Melody is inherently connected with time. Every day has its own song; each day’s innovative vitality (Hitchadshut) imparts the new melody … On Shabbat we already live in redeemed time, and we can enter the musical mode of the eschaton … ”
Throughout the book, Pollen notably draws on source material from Jews — both observant and secular — and non-Jews alike. References include Jane Jacobs’s The Death and Life of Great American Cities; Michael Palonyi’s Personal Knowledge: Towards a Post-Critical Philosophy; Frank Kermode’s The Sense of Ending: Studies in the Theories of Fiction; and Paul Woodruff’s Reverence: Renewing a Forgotten Virtue.
Stop Look Listen will enhance the experience of observing Shabbat, regardless of one’s current practice.