It seems that lots of people are talking about the need to unplug from technology lately. The Today show evidently has a whole ongoing feature on people and tech (“could you do your high-powered job without email and your cell phone for one week?” etc.) and the author of a blog I read every now and again has been talking about how she’s taking one night a week off to go low-tech. From the moment that Ariel (this blogger) mentioned that she wanted a night away from email, I naturally began thinking about what a great thing it was that Judaism had this all figured out, and how grateful I am to have twenty-five hours a day not only without email, but also without writing, cooking, creating, doing, and so forth. Having a day just to be. At this late date, I couldn’t even imagine not having the spiritual breathing room that Shabbat affords.

Now it seems that the NYT has decided to comment on this phenomenon, and, interestingly, decided to use the phrase “secular Sabbath,” in their commentary. Obviously (the religious) Shabbat is about more than just unplugging (there’s that whole “service to God” aspect that figures in somewhere), but it’s certainly true that certain kinds of work can only be done when you make the space for it.

As Heschel put it:

To set apart one day a week for freedom, a day on which we would not use the instruments which have been so easily turned into weapons of destruction, a day for being with ourselves, a day of detachment from the vulgar, of independence from external obligations, a day on which we stop worshipping the idols of technical civilization, a day on which we use no money, a day of armistice in the economic struggle with our fellow men and the forces of nature—is there any institution that holds out a greater hope for man’s progress than the Sabbath?

I think it’s a very good thing that more people are talking about the things that we need that all of these clever gadgets not only can’t give us, but make it harder for us to get at all.

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