Book Review: Shabbat and the Art of Donkey Riding, By Yohanan Cinnamon

In 1837, R. W. Emerson addressed the graduating class of the Harvard Divinity School. Many feathers were ruffled by his critique of the religion of his day, published as the Divinity School Address. However the Sabbath, said Emerson, is one of two institutions of immeasurable value.. The Sabbath, he said, forever proclaims the dignity of a spiritual life.
Shabbat and the Art of Donkey Riding, a new book by Yochanan Cinammon of Jerusalem, focuses on the Sabbath as it explores issues of modern faith. This metaphor of donkey riding, it seems, is a deliberate take-off of the well known book, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. How one maintains one’s motorcycle reflects one’s approach to life. Cinammon’s metaphor is “riding a donkey”. The donkey represents the material world; riding it, and it not riding you, means having your spiritual side in charge. Riding the donkey is, then, a way of life. The Shabbat comes to help teach you this art.
Some of the trails of thought on which Donkey Riding treads include:
Can spirituality be furthered by a legal regimen?
What are some of the parallels between Shabbat and women?
How does Shabat affect our attitude to the world and our relationship with the Creator?
Here are some of my favorite quotes from the book:
“The quality of our Shabbat experience is entirely dependant upon the nature of our actions during the previous week.”
“On this day we are urged to set aside our innate tendency to dominate and take control, and merge instead into the very fabric of creation.”
“Whilst the Shabbat is almost Zen-like in its invitation into a world of stillness, granting us a glimpse into a pure realm of unity and innocence, it never oversteps its bounds and we are soon re-awakened to our human responsibilities. The coming week reminds us that there is a fractured world out there, full of division, greed, and sorrow, which awaits its redemption.”
This short book will help both Jew and Non-Jew to better understand the Sabbath-centered outlook on life.
 Review by Chanoch Ne’eman, Jerusalem, Israel
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