The Sabbath is dedicated family time. We sit around the table, sing a song of praise to the “woman of worth”, bless our children and extend hospitality to others. We go to the synagogue and renew the bonds of community and friendship. We study our sacred texts and reorient ourselves in the light of their timeless values. We pray, thanking God for what we have instead of envying others for what they have. It is when we rediscover the real roots of happiness.
That is what the Sabbath was at its best, whether on Saturday or Sunday. It was a collective statement of values that said there are limits to our striving. There are things you can buy, but there are others, no less valuable, that we can only make for ourselves: relationships of love and generosity, a feeling for the rhythms and adagios of time, a sense of the spectacular beauty of the created world that we fully experience only when we stop and inhale the fragrance of things.
Because of that, British culture once had an inner poise and balance. Families had time to eat a meal together, to converse and share, not sit watching a screen at one remove from reality. The Sabbath was a day on which money did not matter, when we each had equal dignity whatever we earned or could afford. It was to time what a public park is to space: something we can all enjoy on equal terms. On the good days, it made us glad to be alive, singing, with Gerard Manley Hopkins, “Glory be to God for dappled things”.