David Wolpe

Rage Against The Machine

‘You shall not light fire in any of your dwellings on the Sabbath day” [Exodus 35:3]. On the basis of this verse many Jewish authorities forbid the use of electricity, which is a kind of fire. Others question that prohibition, but in our day the use of electricity on Shabbat has become more common because of cell phones. Even people who would normally refrain from turning on lights can’t always keep themselves from scrolling through texts or Twitter.

But I think the same verse can be used explicitly to outlaw cell phone use on Shabbat. Because according to the Sfat Emeth (R. Yehuda Alter), that verse also means that one should not allow oneself to become angry on the Sabbath. We should not light the fire of rage in our dwellings.

Today it is virtually impossible to get on social media without becoming angry. Apparently this is the explicit intent of many who lurk there — how can I infuriate another human being? Since rage is forbidden on Shabbat, it seems pretty clear that cell phone use is prohibited. And for God’s sake, please — no picture taking, even if the bar mitzvah is your cousin.

About the Author
Named the most influential Rabbi in America by Newsweek Magazine and one of the 50 most influential Jews in the world by the Jerusalem Post, David Wolpe is the Rabbi of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles, California.
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