The span from which I opened a document to begin writing this blog piece until I wrote the first word was over two hours. During that time I surfed the internet, watched some television and cooked dinner. While this might sound just like a normal day in which I procrastinated a lot, it was. However, there is at least one day every week when I would not have done any of these activities. On Shabbat and other Jewish holidays throughout the year I do not use the internet, watch TV, or cook food. I love every minute of it too.
It has now been two full days since I finished writing the previous paragraph and began writing this one. The main reason I just took a two day break after writing just one paragraph has to do with getting distracted by electronics devices I do not use on Shabbat.
Shortly before sunset every Friday afternoon I shutdown my computer, turn off my cellphone and make sure all the lights I will need to use throughout the next day are turned on. Each week when I am doing this, I get a feeling that Shabbat is finally starting. I admit I spend way too much time dealing with electronics every day. That is why it feels so good every week to power off all the electronics and get ready for a completely different mindset.
A whole day without electronics gives me a sense of what life was like before the technological era we live in. I think that is why I enjoy it so much. You can talk to people without having your conversation constantly interrupted by someone checking their phone. You can be at ease without worrying if people are going to start commenting on your Facebook status. Greatest of all, all day you do not think about your job, business and financial situation. In other words it is not just an electronic free day, but also a stress free one.
While Shabbat provides an entire day without stress and worries of everyday life, most holidays are two straight days of enjoyment. Other than having twice as much time to live in the moment, a two day holiday really gives you the opportunity to take yourself out of this world. There is no worrying about if your favorite sports team won, who the guest star was on your favorite television show, or what grade you got on your exam. When there is a two day holiday immediately preceding Shabbat (meaning three straight days of no work and electronics), it can even make you feel like you are getting a glimpse of the Amish life.
Over the last few years, many of my favorite memories have taken place on a Jewish holiday. I spent this past Shavuot in San Francisco, a city not known for its’ religiosity. Over the two days I walked about 15 miles, visited seven different synagogues and had the best Shavuot I can remember. I spent last Simchat Torah here in Los Angeles and danced with Torahs for over six hours. Every Yom Kippur, during the short break between davening, instead of going back home and going on the computer, I stay at shul and relax with my fellow Jews who also stay behind. Even though Shabbat is only once every seven days, I probably have about 50% of my weekly face to face conversations during that one day. I have no fear of people constantly checking there phones and not listening to me and feel no urge myself to do the same.
At points when there are not people around you on Shabbat, and there are no electronics to tempt you, it is the best time to pick up a book and learn/read. The best time to learn Torah is on Shabbat with no distractions helping you focus on the meaning of what you are learning. I can read Tehillim for hours, sit down and learn some Gemara, and learn anything else that I would not make time for during the week.
During Havdalah at the end of every Shabbat and Jewish holiday, I realize that there is no longer going to be that worry free environment around me. I am going to worry about work, sports and television again. However, I do not fret. In less than six days from now, I will be able to enter the Shabbat zone again. Technology is great, especially in the electronics domain, but having a break from it once in a while makes you appreciate it so much more.