Disconnect to Reconnect
In last week’s Australian Magazine, Nikki Gemmel bemoaned a generation whose brains are being eroded by too much smart phone usage.
Addiction to phones is a cause of declining worker productivity as workers cannot withstand the power of the perpetual newsfeed with the average person spending a staggering 9 hours per day glued to their screen. Nikki wrote of her recent ‘digital detox’; a full day in the bush to write without distraction. A rescue for her saturated brain from this saturated world.
And as I read her column I thought back to my Shabbat at camp. No students (or teachers) had phones on Shabbat. The afternoon was spent playing card games and talking. Groups of students sat around tables playing games that I dared not try to understand, but the pattern was concentration and silence, followed by loud slaps of the table and shouts of triumph (or loss) and laughter. No one was bored. Everyone was interacting.
For we Jews, we have a mandated digital detox every week. We turn our phones off just before we light candles, and do not switch them on again until we have snuffed out the candle of Havdalah. And while Nikki Gemmel describes her detox as exhilarating, I find it more liberating. Free to be in the moment and in control.
In its timelessness, Shabbat has found a way to be relevant and inspiring to different generations. I imagine that during the American Civil War, the notion that everyone is entitled to a day of rest a week strengthened the argument for outlawing slavery. And for girls who grew up in a devastatingly paternalistic and chauvinistic society, the mention of female equality in the Kiddush said on Shabbat day would resonate with truth and hope.
For the Jews of today who live in Western societies that have already adopted the values of rest and equality espoused by Judaism, Shabbat takes on a new meaning. One where we are mandated to cease tweeting, posting, liking and scrolling; where instead we talk face to face, connect, live in the moment to appreciate our family, community and world.
At the end of her piece, Nikki asks how to keep the feeling of her digital detox and laments that it is an ‘impossible question.'
No it’s not, Nikki. Judaism has the answer right here.
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