Sarah and I recently tried something with our family. Before we did it, we considered it a big risk. The possibility was that the whole plan would blow up in our face, but we did it anyway and we were glad we did. A technology Shabbat. A Shabbat without phones, internet, TV, video games. You might argue that using those things is keeping with the spirit of Shabbat in the sense that they help us to relax, but hat has not been my experience. The advent of four different people looking at four different screens has not been pleasant. Instead we had played games, read stories and books, sat and chatted, had a shabbes shluf (nap). We emerged refreshed. Yes, I was desperate to see my team’s soccer score and yes, the one concession we made was Skyping with Elijah and Sarah’s grandparents because that was more family time, but overall it was an oasis of a day.
Before you start worrying, you are not about to find that I have put a separation curtain down the middle of the Sanctuary nor will I berate congregants who use their cars to come to services! I am not about to go ultra-religious, it’s just that, for my family, it was a worthwhile change to our lives and I share it with you now in case you want to give it a try. A technology Shabbat is incredibly relevant to twenty-first century American Jews.
People are trying to “unplug” all over the world. We just missed the national day of unplugging but you can read more about people’s reasons to do it here: http://nationaldayofunplugging.com/. The day (and you can try it on any Shabbat) is “designed to help hyper-connected people of all backgrounds to embrace the ancient ritual of a day of rest”. There are so many other things that we could explore…just for a day!
Rabbi Malcolm Cohen