Mel Alexenberg
Author of "Through a Bible Lens"

Tune out, turn off, unplug (The Shabbos Project 2015)

On Shabbat, October 23-24, 2015, more than a million people in 550 cities and 65 countries worldwide will participate in the Shabbat Project – an international movement that aims to unite Jews from across the globe in keeping one full Shabbat when they tune out, turn off, and unplug.

This creative venture uniting the Jewish People worldwide was initiated by South Africa’s Chief Rabbi Dr. Warren Goldstein three years ago.  It rapidly developed into a grassroots movement that spread across the globe with the help of the Internet and its social media.  “Shabbat is so needed, just to have one day for the family, a day which is an island of tranquility and peace and quiet,” Rabbi Goldstein explained.

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(The photo here shows my wife Miriam pressing cloves into an etrog, one of the four species held together on Passover.  She is recycling it for use as the sweet fragrance required for the havdalah ceremony marking the end of Shabbat.)

“Tune Out, Turn Off, Unplug” and “Shabbat as Ecology Day” are from my newest book Photograph God: Creating a Spiritual Blog of Your Life that teaches how to create a blog that links your story to the biblical narrative.  It shows how to document with photographs and Torah Tweets your experiences during the six weekdays as they relate to the Torah portion read on Shabbat.

The third portion of Genesis, Lekh Lekha/Go for yourself, is read from the Torah scroll on The Shabbat Project 2015.  See how my wife Miriam and I linked this Torah portion to our life at http://bibleblogyourlife.blogspot.co.il/2014/01/genesis-3-paramaribo-and-brooklyn-to.html.  It is one of the 52 posts of the Torah Tweets blogart project that we created to celebrate our 52nd year of marriage.  During each of the 52 weeks of our 52nd year, we posted six photographs reflecting our life together with a text of tweets that relates the weekly Torah reading to our lives.  There is no seventh photograph since Shabbat precludes photographing.

TUNE OUT, TURN OFF, UNPLUG (Epilogue from Photograph God: Creating a Spiritual Blog of Your Life)

Once a week tune out, 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).

SHABBAT AS ECOLOGY DAY

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 God as 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 closes her eyes to digital dependence and keeps them opened to the simple 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 enjoy Shabbat as a powerful way to free you from being enslaved by technological wizardry.

On the eighth day, you can return with renewed energies to being God’s partner in continuing process of creation. Enjoy being immersed in the amazing technological wonders of our era knowing that you are free on the next Shabbat to tune out, turn off, and unplug.

THE TORAH PORTION FOR THE SHABBOS PROJECT SHABBAT

The Torah portion read in synagogues worldwide on October 23-24, 2015 begins the story of the Jewish People.   The Bible shifts its focus from all of humanity to the life of Abraham and the story of the Children of Israel.  It begins with the divine command to leave one’s familiar past in order to envision a new future.  Abraham follows the divine message: “Walk yourself away from your land, from your birthplace, and from your father’s house, to the land that I will show you” (Genesis 12:1).

Abraham is identified as a Hebrew, literally “a boundary crosser.” The personal power of Abraham to abandon the ubiquitous idolatry of his time, to leave an obsolete past behind, and to cross conceptual boundaries in creating a new worldview is a meaningful message for our networked world.  He arrived at the innovative insight of the existence of an all-encompassing spiritual force that integrates the entire universe and beyond with all humanity sharing one universal ecosystem.

Below is the post from our blog “Creating a Spiritual Blog of Your Life” http://bibleblogyourlife.blogspot.com that illustrates how this Torah portion relates to our lives.

GENESIS 3: PARAMARIBO AND BROOKLYN TO PETAH TIKVA Lekh Lekha /Go for yourself (Genesis 12:1-17:27)

Go for yourself from your land, from your birthplace, and from your father’s house to the land that I will show you. (Genesis 12:1)

Miriam was born in Paramaribo, Suriname, the former Dutch colony north of the Amazon jungle on the South American coast.

She loved to be the first to walk on the freshly-raked sand on the floor of the Paramaribo synagogue where her father read the Torah.

Her family made aliyah [return to the Jewish homeland in the Land of Israel] in 1950.

Six decades later, her synagogue made aliyah and was reconstructed at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.

Mel was born in the Brooklyn Jewish Hospital (now Interfaith Hospital) and grew up in Queens.

He celebrated his bar mitzvah at his Uncle Morris’ shul on Coney Island Avenue in Brooklyn (now a mosque).

We were married at a Jewish wedding hall on Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn (now an African-America Baptist church).

God said to Abram, “Raise your eyes and look out from where you are: northward, southward, eastward and westward.  For all the land that you see, I will give to you and to your offspring forever.”  (Genesis 13:14, 15)

After being married for 10 years, we made aliyah with our children Iyrit, Ari and Ron to a two-room house in an orange grove in Ra’anana.

Each morning, a milkman on a donkey cart delivered milk.  The donkey was named Simha because he was born on the Simhat Torah holiday.

From Ra’anana in the west, we moved to Mount Carmel in the north, to Kibbutz Tirat Tzvi in the east, and to Yeroham in the south.

Our son Moshe Yehuda was born in Yeroham where our son Ron continues to live there with his wife and six children.

In the year 2000, we moved to an apartment in Petah Tikva with a porch facing orange groves as far as the eye can see.

All the orange groves are now gone.  New buildings are rising as far as the eye can see.

(I’m writing this Times of Israel article four years after the Torah Tweets blogart project was started.  We now live in Ra’anana, our 17th home since we were married 56 years ago.  17 is the gematria [numerical equivalent] of tov, the Hebrew word for “good.”)

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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