Innocent Laughter and a Delightful Sabbath
"For I do not believe God means us thus to divide life into two halves--to wear a grave face on Sunday, and to think it out-of-place to even so much as mention Him on a week-day. Do you think He cares to see only kneeling figures and to hear only tones of prayer--and that He does not also love to see the lambs leaping in the sunlight, and to hear the merry voices of the children, as they roll among the hay? Surely their innocent laughter is as sweet in His ears as the grandest anthem that ever rolled up from the 'dim religious light' of some solemn cathedral?"--Lewis Carroll (1832 - 1898)
Compare and contrast. Especially the bold parts from Isaiah, where he, like Lewis Carroll, reflects on the sort of Sabbath that he thinks God wants. Is calling the Sabbath "a delight" analogous to "see[ing] the lambs leaping in the sunlight, and [hearing] the merry voices of the children, as they roll among the hay"? Both Lewis Carroll and Isaiah also point out serious inconsistencies in people's behavior. In Carroll's case, the problem is people who "divide life into two halves--to wear a grave face on Sunday, and to think it out-of-place to even so much as mention Him on a week-day," and in Isaiah's case, people who "fast for strife and contention, and to smite with the fist of wickedness," instead of fasting "so as to make your voice to be heard on high."
More on Isaiah, but not Lewis Carroll:
Isaiah 58:8 is one of my favorite verses in the whole Bible. Like a love-struck girl, I copied it into my notebook in high school, when I first learned the book of Isaiah. I think my love of this verse is at least partially because I love the word "yeevaka." To me, it sounds like what it means ("will break forth"). It sounds like something cracking wide open. I also love the way this verse divides the passage in two--the first part being all of the things that people are doing wrong, and the second part being what they can expect if they do right, and what doing right entails.
Isaiah 58:9 is also pretty cool, because God says "hineini," or "here I am." This is what Abraham says to God in Genesis 22, what Jacob says to an angel or God in Genesis 31 and 46, and what Moses says to God in Exodus 3. Later in the Bible, Samuel says "hineini" to God in 1 Samuel 3. This is the way that mankind responds to God's call.
What is more unusual is for God to respond to humanity that way. Such a simple statement:
These verses tell us that only after we "deal [our] bread to the hungry" and "bring the poor that are cast out to [our] house" and cover the naked when we see them, will we merit to hear God say "hineini," "here I am." I'd say that we have a long way to go. Sigh...
Many (25?) years ago, I visited a relative of ours (second cousin of my maternal grandfather, on Grandma Luba's side, and her husband), born about 1905, who had been brought up Orthodox but became a socialist, etc. He (the husband) told me that, although he no longer believed in the religion, he still liked to read Isaiah, which he thought was absolutely beautiful, and made him cry.