Heschel & Jewish Standard Time

Heschel & Jewish Standard Time


“It is as if the command: Do not covet things of space, were correlated with the unspoken word: Do covet things of time.” - Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Sabbath 

For months this year, Los Angeles has been covered in clouds. We’re used to a sort of weather monotony around here. Usually it’s the repetition of sunny days, something that’s been liberating to me as a person who lived for many years in the midwest, when the final days of summer would come with an unshakable pressure to go outside and make the most of what would surely vanish with plummeting temperatures and oncoming snow and rain. This new Southern California monotonous grayness, really only broken consistently this past week with the solstice, made me experience a different kind of break in the monotony. The first truly sunny day, I ran into tons of people, drove by bars overflowing with guests, and stayed out longer than I had in months. 

This company has been around for three years. For much of this time, we’ve oscillated between two main bursts of energy - spring time enthusiasm around Passover, and the holiday pressures of Hanukkah. For most of us casual Jews this back and forth is familiar. They’re convenient times of year to connect with our identity - one time that’s centered around a huge meal, another that fits nice and snuggly with the American obsession around end-of-the-year consumerism and gift giving. 

I’ve been trying to think more deeply about Jewish ritual - holidays like Tu BiShvat and Rosh Chodesh, words that only call to mind the faintest glimmer of summer camp craft projects. But then I also think about how Judaism calls for us to observe a holiday every single week. 


New in the teaching of Judaism was that the idea of holiness was gradually shifted from space to time, from the realm of nature to the realm of history, from things to events.”

I read Abraham Joshua Heschel’s 1951 The Sabbath for the first time in college. I love the woodcuts that feature twisting vines and cathedrals and spiral transcendence. There are chapter headers like a palace in time or the splendor of space, which make me think of kabbalistic mysticism and divine ambiguity. I reread it recently in an effort to think about goals for the Judaica Standard Time project - something that we still see as ever evolving and in its infancy. I was struck by Heschel’s assertion that a careful relationship with time, manifested by the Sabbath, is particularly Jewish. My Jewish identity constantly feels nebulous and in-between - for me, it’s not really a race, not really a religion, not really a culture, not really a nationality. There’s something grounding about the assertion that deep down, at the bottom of it all, is a relationship to time - how we organize it, process it, commemorate it. 

We look to the Sabbath as our homeland.”

Judaica Standard Time comes from a play off of the phrase “Jewish standard time.” This phrase, familiar and humorous, works as a sheepish yet affectionate excuse. 

You actually wanted me to arrive at 4:30 when you said 4:30? Don’t you know I’m on Jewish standard time? 

For anyone deeply enmeshed in Jewish culture, the lack of emphasis on punctuality and the tendency to become scattered or preoccupied reminds us either of ourselves or someone we know. But it’s interesting to think of the phrase beyond being an excuse for tardiness, and rather as a frequency we all can choose to tune into in varying degrees. JST as something that can be accessed across countries and generations. 

We must not forget that it is not a thing that lends significance to a moment; it is the moment that lends significance to things”

That play with time is one of my favorite things about making Judaica. It’s intrinsically ancient, and yet we do our best to connect with the sensibilities that are inevitably informed by the current moment. When I grew up, Shabbat meant lighting candles, eating special bread, and getting to choose what movie I watched that night. It wasn’t the biblically prescribed method of observing the sabbath, but it spoke to the rhythms of my family’s modern life, and served as an acknowledgment of the end of one week and the beginning of another. Our biggest hope is that the objects we create inspire you to break up time in a way that is reflective of your own sensibilities, connected to the present moment and yet always synced up with that intangible, intergenerational Jewish clock.

-- Ruby