Or maybe more accurately a sabbath. The Sabbath is a very good thing, religious meaning aside, argues an Israeli writer in Why secular Jews need Shabbat. We need, he argues, a special day, a regular day set aside “when we do not work, do not earn a living, do not conduct business or add to our wealth[,] a day devoted to family, to community, to leisure, culture, learning, and the spirit.” A day that is for Christians what Sundays should be.
The value of such a day does not depend upon religious commitments.
Ahad Haam, one of the greatest Jewish thinkers of recent centuries, and father of the cultural and spiritual school of Zionism, defined himself as an atheist, and did not follow Orthodox Jewish law. But Shabbat was very dear to him. “There is no need to be a punctilious observer of commandments,” he wrote, “in order to recognize the value of Shabbat. . . .
“It can be said without exaggeration that more than Israel has kept the Sabbath, the Sabbath has kept Israel. Without it, which restored their souls and reinvigorated their spirits each week, the hardships of the days of creation would pull them further and further downward until they hit the lowest level of materialism and moral and mental debasement.”