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Shabbat is here…

Thursday, 20 December 2007

52 times a year it happens. God gives us the excuse to cease from our daily activities. Like a fire drill, we are to stop, drop, and roll. Stop our usual behaviour, drop what we are doing, and roll towards ourselves, our family, our community, our God.

Keen observers might have noticed that no new blog entires appear on Shabbos. That is because I take a break. I really try and stay away from the computer for that one brief period each week.

A few months ago, you may recall that my cell phone ceased functioning. It was an ugly, ugly sight. It was not a rapid decline, either, as the phone had been sending hints for nearly a year. At first it was almost comical. Dropped calls. Unbearable static. Unreliable service. Strangely enough, I always seemed to drop a call just as I was about to make a “Code 35 violation.” [”code 35″ is the euphemism I use to warn of gossip, or lashon hara. The letter ‘lamed’ = 30 and the letter ‘hey’ = 5.]. And then one day, as I was bemoaning the oncoming demise of my phone to a congregant, the darn thing came apart in my hands.
The exciting news is that I made the big move from a basic phone to a smart phone. That’s right — Frume Sarah is now the proud owner of a Blackberry. What exciting news for this email and internet junkie! Now I can stay connected anywhere. Anytime.

Or perhaps this isn’t such good news. After all, do we really need to be reachable at all times? Certainly a phone can be a wonderful and helpful device. And email is a fast and inexpensive way to be in touch with friends near and far. And the internet is a wondrous place full of information and fun facts. Hard to imagine life without all of these luxuries. Luxuries that at times seem to completely overwhelm and wrest control of our lives.

Imagine, if you will, a twenty-five hour period free from the bonds of electronic communication. Free from the aggravating emails from clients. Free from the concerning headlines from news organizations. Free from the constant barrage of information zipping across the wireless highway.

In the words of Theodore Herzl, “if you will it, it is no dream.” We have that imagined twenty-five hour period; it is no dream. It is Shabbat! Shabbat affords us that break from the onslaught of emails, voice mails, Ebay, and Google. Shabbat provides us with a religious excuse to pack away the profane. To set aside all business. To focus, instead, on the face-to-face relationships that we all too easily shunt aside as we seek to find more ways to reach out to others online.

Some years ago, I decided to make Shabbat more special by making small changes in my own personal life. Small, though not insignificant, changes that helped me hallow the Sabbath day. First, I refrained from listening to the news. Next, I refrained from writing any work related emails. And now, I refrain from reading emails or being online.

It is hard. It is, for me, a true sacrifice for I enjoy the time at my computer – and now with my Blackberry. But I find that by exercising self-restraint, I am able to create a more Shabbosdik feeling. Most weeks I am able to do this. Some weeks I am not. But always I am making a conscious choice as I continue to find ways to keep a vibrant Judaism alive in my home while maintaining a sense of modernity.

And isn’t that what being a Reform Jew is all about??

Yes. Yes that is one of the things that Reform Judaism is now embracing more than ever. In the next few days, I will share with you the newest initiative that was unveiled at the Biennial. I have high hopes that together we can encourage more and more liberal Jews to observe Shabbat in meaningful and authenticly Jewish ways.

Stay tuned…

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Wednesday, 19 December 2007 11:58 am

    I’m glad I came across your blog (by way of Reflections of a Rabbi’s Wife). I love this post. I totally can relate to it….I’ll keep reading!

  2. Sam permalink
    Wednesday, 19 December 2007 4:23 pm

    I enjoy the part of shabbat with no electricity and have found that when I try to go with no electiricity as a way of recognizing god’s power and respect for the sabbath i fail. However, when i give it up I don’t feel failure when I turn a light on, because i quickly turn the light off. I would challenge anyone to try and go without electricity and than every time you switch it on you will think about it.

  3. Frume Sarah permalink
    Monday, 31 December 2007 8:42 am

    Wendy — thanks so much!! I hope that you enjoy future posts!!

    Sam — An interesting perspective. As a Reform Jew, I don’t view the use of electricity as being an organically forbidden act. It is what the electricity is being used to operate that makes the difference. I do not consider the turning on the light in-an-of-itself a violation whereas I would consider sending work-related email a forbidden act.

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