Shabbat: Disconnect to Connect by Lauren Shaps
Hey there Chevra!
If you drive by our house, you’ll see a sign on our lawn. Unlike many of our neighbours who have signs promoting candidates in the upcoming Canadian elections, our sign says, “I’m celebrating Shabbat with 1 million others around the world.” The sign is one of many ways to get word out about the Shabbat Project, an initiative started in South Africa to encourage Jews worldwide to set aside 25 hours for a complete Shabbat experience. The Shabbat Project has transformed Jewish Unity and this year many JWRP partners are joining in! The Shabbat chosen for this year’s Shabbat Project is Friday night, October 23rd and Saturday, Oct 24th.
In so many ways Shabbat is a special gift. Shabbat gives us quiet intervals to rest and recharge. It helps us to find space in our busy lives for quality time with family and friends. Shabbat grounds us with moments of spirituality in which we can connect with our Creator. To ensure that Shabbat is more than just a nice idea, the Torah gives us guidelines for how to enhance the Shabbat experience. It also alludes to broad categories of creative acts that block exposure to the opportunities Shabbat brings. We might call these the do’s and don’ts of Shabbat, the recipe for how to disconnect in order to reconnect.
In this week’s parsha, Parashat Bereisheet, we read about G-d’s magnificent creation of the world; how on each of six days G-d created and shaped the world. The climax of creation takes place on the seventh day, with the Sabbath – Shabbat in modern Hebrew and Sefardic pronunciation, or Shabbos as the Ashkenazim say it.
The Torah tells us, “The heavens and earth and their entire host were completed. On the seventh day G-d completed the work He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all the work He had done. G-d blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, for He rested on it from all the work G-d had created to do” (Genesis 2:1-3, translation from “Call of the Torah”).
We say these beautiful words every Friday night in the Kiddush. If you are reading carefully they seem somewhat confusing. Did G-d complete his work on the sixth day or the seventh day? The great classical commentator Rashi (Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki, France) gives a magnificent answer to what could seem like a technical question. What did the world still lack at the end of creation? Rashi answers that “Shabbat came, and with it, menucha (rest).” Only when rest came was the work of creation complete.
Sherry Turkle has spent 30 years researching the psychological impact of online connectivity. In a recent essay Sherry describes a world that would rather text than talk (“Stop Googling; Let’s Talk,” New York Times, Sept. 27, 2015). In studies of two people speaking, the presence of a phone on the table diminished the degree of connection they felt and led to lighter, more superficial conversation. A review of 72 studies over 30 years found a 40 percent decline in empathy among university students with the greatest decline after 2000. In a study of campers, after five days with no phones or tablets, children were better able to read facial emotions than a control group who had their phones. Researchers attributed this to better quality conversations where campers were able to pay close attention and put themselves in the others’ shoes.
When G-d created the world He invited us to be His partners in continuing creation by filling the world with light and goodness and the recognition that every human being, created in the image of G-d, is unique and special, a soul with inherent value. Six days a week we work, we run, we buy, we build, we do and often we lose sight of our goals, the very reasons for all that doing. On the seventh day, we stop being a force in the world. We step back. We stop working and focus on being.
On Shabbat we turn off our phones, our laptops, our TVs in order to hear our souls. We eat and we talk. We walk and we talk. We read and sleep and rest and pray and we talk. We disconnect to reconnect, to get to know each other, ourselves and G-d. Rashi teaches us that until the creation of Shabbat the world was not complete. It wasn’t that G-d was tired from a rough week of creating. Shabbat was not about G-d needing a day off. G-d was modeling for us a basic human need, to be more than human doings, to be human beings.
I invite you to join me and a million other Jews throughout the world when we turn off our computers, our phones, our TVs, even our microwaves! We’ll be disconnecting to reconnect, taking a day out of life to live. We’ll be keeping it together.
Lauren Shaps, MSW is a JWRP city leader and full time adult Jewish educator. She works closely with her husband, Rabbi Zischa Shaps and they are blessed with 5 wonderful children. Contact at email@example.com