Sunset Is My Business

I recently came across this lovely story about Abraham Joshua Heschel. 

While a young doctoral student in Berlin Heschel was walking the city, his head troubled with all the academic questions he was wrestling with along with all his personal problems. Lost in anxieties, Heschel failed to notice the sun setting, the moment when he, an observant Jew, should have offered up his evening prayer. Heschel recounting the moment:

In those months in Berlin I went through moments of profound bitterness. I felt very much alone with my own problems and anxieties...[During one walk in the city] suddenly I noticed the sun had gone down, evening had arrived.

From what time may one recite Shema in the evening?

I had forgotten God—I had forgotten Sinai—I had forgotten that sunset is my business—that my task is “to restore the world to the kingship of the Lord.” So I began to utter the words of the evening prayer...

How grateful I am to God that there is a duty to worship, a law to remind my distraught mind that it is time to think of God, time to disregard my ego for at least a moment!

I love the line, "I had forgotten that sunset is my business," the Jewish duty to pray each evening. But I also love the sentiment that this "duty to worship" pulls Heschel out of himself, out of his distraught mind.

This, I think, is what so many people are missing in this anxious, post-Christian age, something that pulls you out of your head, out of your neurotic ruminations, out of your morbid self-absorption to disregard your ego at least for a moment.

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