A pocket watch in a hand

Marva Gradwohl, Collage of a pocket-watch in a hand.

«Neither endless work nor endless leisure make a meaningful life.»

Florian Lippke on Religious Concepts of Time

Flo­ri­an Lipp­ke works at the Swiss Fede­ral Depart­ment of Home Affairs on qua­li­ty assu­rance in health care. His back­ground is in theo­lo­gy; he wro­te his doc­to­ra­te on the «Lamen­ta­ti­ons of Isra­el.» Among his inte­rests are the con­nec­tions bet­ween health and reli­gi­on. Recent­ly, he loo­ked at how they share con­cepts of «time off.» Muse­um direc­tor Nao­mi Lubrich spo­ke to Flo­ri­an Lipp­ke about reli­gious holi­days, work-life-balan­ce and «digi­tal detox.»

Nao­mi Lubrich: Flo­ri­an, you work on lei­su­re as a com­po­nent of health. What led you to wri­te about leisure?

Flo­ri­an Lipp­ke: The edi­tors of the jour­nal vsao, Ver­band Schwei­ze­ri­scher Assis­tenz- und Ober­ärz­tin­nen und ‑ärz­te (Asso­cia­ti­on of Swiss Assistant and Seni­or Phy­si­ci­ans), asked me to wri­te an artic­le about «fre­quen­cy in reli­gi­ons.» The jour­nal spe­cia­li­zes in medi­ci­ne, but occa­sio­nal­ly publishes phi­lo­so­phi­cal artic­les as well. This approach reso­na­tes with me: I’ve always lik­ed topics that con­sider how anci­ent reli­gious beliefs can con­tri­bu­te to cur­rent dis­cus­sions, for ins­tance on vega­nism, sci­ence fic­tion, beau­ty, phi­lo­so­phy, and natu­re – as well as on the ori­g­ins of demo­cra­cy in the Midd­le East. I agreed to wri­te the artic­le and spent a while loo­king at ide­as about units of time in Juda­ism and Chris­tia­ni­ty. The con­cept of «time off» is cru­cial to both religions.

NL: What did you find? 

FL: For ins­tance, that (almost) all reli­gi­ons have both a line­ar and a cycli­cal con­cept of time. Fes­ti­vals, cele­bra­ti­ons and peri­ods of rest struc­tu­re our lives and give a rhythm to the inces­sant flow of time. Weeks defi­ne our units of work. They are coun­ter­ba­lan­ced by days of rest. My per­so­nal insight is that neither rest­less work nor end­less lei­su­re is a meaningful way of spen­ding our time. Work and rest are mutual­ly depen­dent and equal­ly important for a ful­fil­ling life.

NL: How do Juda­ism and Chris­tia­ni­ty con­sider «time off»?

FL: Juda­ism and Chris­tia­ni­ty share a lar­ge part of the Holy Scrip­tures: The Hebrew Bible and the Old Tes­ta­ment, respec­tively. In the­se scrip­tures, the seven-day week and the obser­van­ce of the day of rest are fun­da­men­tal. They repre­sent the divi­ne order. For hundreds of years, sepa­ra­ting work and rest has been a key part of social inter­ac­tion. Reli­gi­ons have been very suc­cessful at sha­ping com­mu­nal life. In addi­ti­on to con­cepts of time, they have infor­med our approa­ches to health and have pro­mo­ted music, art, and law.

NL: How do Jews today obser­ve the day of rest? 

FL: To what ext­ent Jews ful­fil the com­mandments and pro­hi­bi­ti­ons sur­roun­ding the day of rest varies great­ly on whe­ther they are ortho­dox, con­ser­va­ti­ve or libe­ral. A recent inno­va­ti­on for ortho­dox Jews is the «kos­her pho­ne,» which tech­ni­cal­ly rest­ricts com­mu­ni­ca­ti­on on Shab­bat. It is like «digi­tal detox,» but auto­ma­ted and obli­ga­to­ry. Juda­ism owes its lon­ge­vi­ty to its diver­se forms, to its adap­ta­bi­li­ty to dif­fe­rent life­styl­es. By being inter­pre­ted dif­fer­ent­ly over time, Juda­ism has remain­ed true to its­elf and while it adjus­ted to our chan­ging world.

NL: Flo­ri­an, thank you very much for your insights.

verfasst am 18.09.2023