Mel Alexenberg
Author of "Through a Bible Lens"

On the 7th Day, Tune Out, Turn Off, Unplug

The sixth portion of Exodus, Mishpatim/Ordinances, is read from the Torah scroll on Shabbat, February 6, 2016. See how my wife Miriam and I link this Torah portion to our life together through photographs and Torah Tweet texts.

Mishpatim/Ordinances (Exodus 21:1-24:18)

“Six days shall you accomplish your activities and on the seventh day you shall desist.” (Exodus 23:12) 

“The seventh day is Sabbath… you shall not do any creative work.” (Exodus 20:10)

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As slaves under Egyptian oppression, the Israelites were forced to work incessantly with no breaks. Their time was not their own.

A day of rest was a revolutionary concept in the ancient world with power today to free us from addiction to digital technologies.

The Sabbath was given at Sinai as a gift for all humanity, a gift particularly valuable to everyone in our fast paced post-digital world.

In our home on the Sabbath, computer, TV, radio, mobile phones and landlines remain silent.

On day 7, we don’t e-mail, don’t tweet on Twitter, don’t write on Facebook walls, don’t link on LinkedIn, don’t Google, don’t blog.

We don’t travel the information or asphalt highways. Pollution from information overload and carbon emissions is stopped cold on day 7.

No banks of TVs, bank ATM’s, phone sales, wireless access to all Israeli citizens for issuing gas masks, nor coffee shop video totems.

Shabbat is Ecology Day, a day we leave the world the way we got it, a joyous day set aside to take pleasure in divine creation.

Shabbat is also a Non-Art Day on which we stop making all art — post-digital, digital, and pre-digital.

All activities inappropriate on Shabbat are derived from the 39 craft categories that went into making the Tabernacle.

Shabbat is a divine design to help make us be more human.  It offers us a quiet pool of time for enjoying family and friends.

On the eighth day, we can return with renewed energies to being partners of God in continuing creation.


Below is the Epilogue “Tune Out, Turn Off, Unplug” in my book PHOTOGRAPH GOD: CREATING A SPIRITUAL BLOG OF YOUR LIFE

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We can enjoy the technological wonders of our era knowing that we are free to tune out, turn off, and unplug on the next Shabbat.

Once a week turn off and unplug. Put your cameras, computers, tablets and smartphones to sleep. Just tune into God’s creations, enjoy family and friends, walk in the forest and fields, watch the sunrise and sunset, play with your children and make love to your spouse.

Adopt the formula instituted millennia ago to free the Israelites from their enslavement in Egypt to free you from the being enslaved by the ubiquitous digital technologies that too often rule all our waking hours.   The fourth of the Ten Commandments enjoins us to remember what it was to be a slave who never had a break from the repetitive sameness of everyday life (Deuteronomy 5:12-15). Make every seventh day Shabbat, different from the other six days of the week. Make it an Ecology Day by leaving the world the way we got it.  Make it a Non-art Day when we honor God’s creations rather than ours.

As the sun sets on Friday, my wife Miriam lights Shabbat candles, closes her eyes to her busy week, and blesses Is-Was-Will Be, sovereign of the universe, who bestows upon us a good and long life.   On opening her eyes, she sees calming candle light ushering in a day qualitatively different from all the other digital days of the week.   Until stars dot the sky Saturday night, she is invited to keep her eyes opened to everyday miracles of being.

One day each week, stop doing, stop making, just enjoy being alive.  Delight in all that happens around you.  Don’t seek out things to frame and shoot.  Let them be.

Shabbat is a divine gift to all humanity for all time.  You are invited to observe Shabbat as a powerful way to free you from being enslaved by technological wizardry. On the eighth day, return with renewed energies to being partners with God in the continuing creation. Enjoy being immersed in the amazing technological wonders of our era knowing that you are free to tune out, turn off and unplug on the next Shabbat.

About the Author
Mel Alexenberg is an artist, educator, writer, and blogger working at the interface between art, technology, Jewish thought, and living the Zionist miracle in Israel. He is the author of "Through a Bible Lens: Biblical Insights for Smartphone Photography and Social Media," "The Future of Art in a Postdigital Age: From Hellenistic to Hebraic Consciousness," and "Dialogic Art in a Digital World: Judaism and Contemporary Art" in Hebrew. He was professor at Columbia, Bar-Ilan and Ariel universities and research fellow at MIT Center for Advanced Visual Studies. His artworks are in the collections of more than forty museums worldwide. He lives in Ra’anana, Israel, with his wife artist Miriam Benjamin.
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