Tag Archives: Shabbat

Weekly Cutoff

24 Nov

Once a week, my family cuts off from everything–no TV, no phones, no electronics of any kind–for 25 hours. It’s frustrating and glorious, annoying and refreshing at the same time. It’s not a vacation–it’s a deliberate effort to remember what it is to be human.

The religious observance of Shabbat (Sabbath) is to completely do no work. But how do you define work? Thankfully, the sages came up with 39 types of work, so you can avoid making a spark… so no light switches (lights have to be on or off for all of Saturday. You can’t carry anything outside your house. You can’t play a musical instrument. You can’t dig, or plant, or draw, or do anything creative. You simply have to be there… and there is nothing more terrifying then that in the modern world.

So maybe you don’t go to the same extreme as I do–most Jews don’t. In fact, with this whole COVID #@*$(%, our synagogue still doesn’t meet in person, so we’re forced to turn on our computers for services. So for two hours, we use the “travel to shul” exception that we normally use for driving the car to get to services to see Zoom. I hate it, but it’s what I got. Once services are done, the computer goes away again, and we’re back to doing what we normally do on Shabbat.

Which is… what? Mostly reading. My wife–bereft of her normal reading material–has been forced to read young adult fiction which she does NOT like. By about 2 in the afternoon, she get do another… questionable activity, which is organizing something. She’s not cleaning, just… organizing. And it brings her joy, so that’s good. The kids run out to play with their friends, and when they have to go do something else, they’re forced to play with us. So this week, out came the chess and the Risk board. Me and the kids finally got exhausted playing basketball before the sun finally set.

It’s not a vacation–you’re still you, you’re still in the same ol’ place, but you can’t do the same old, same old. The book I want to read is on the Kindle. My kids really want to watch TV. The movie night after sunset on Saturday is sacrosanct to my son and he spends more than he should thinking about what we’re going to watch as a family… because he’s been deprived so long! 🙂

I both enjoy it and hate it. I don’t look forward to it. To be fair, I don’t look forward to Sunday either, because the wife thinks this is the time to work on the house… but that’s another story. The lesson I take away from Shabbat is that you spend too much time running during the week that you have to remember what it is to be human. That you have a family. That you come together with them and with God. Stop running and be still.

It is both glorious and painful. What traditions do you keep to check out from the modern world? When was the last time you put your phone down? Let me know in the comments below!

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