THE BLOG
06/21/2010 03:05 pm ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Rachel Sklar Finds Absence Makes Her Fonder of Blackberry

Rachel Sklar, editor-at-large at Mediaite and the former founding media editor at the Huffington Post, was the most recent person to take our Sabbath Manifesto "Unplug Challenge," connecting to life without technology for 24 hours during a weekend in May.

In a pre-unplugging column on Mediaite, she said, "There is a point to Ye Olde Fourth Commandment (Honor the Sabbath and keep it holy...), and I do understand its value. If God can take a breather, then I'm certainly entitled. So I decide to take my turn at The Unplug Challenge posed by The Sabbath Manifesto."

Her rules were simple: "No Blackberry, but I could use the phone to call my parents and sister; no computer, but I could leave Tweetdeck on and scrolling as a sort of digital Sabbath Goy; no Hulu, but I could watch TV (weekends are essential for catching up on the DVR); and in exchange, even though it doesn't have much to do with unplugging, no cabs (so I could honor the "Get Outside" and "Nurture Your Health" categories)."

After emerging from her weekend, Rachel opined on the experience in her "I ♥ Work" column on the "Make Work Meaningful" website.

"There are ten principles that guide the Sabbath Manifesto, rooted in the Biblical tradition of the Sabbath but encouraging its secular application through activities meant to nourish and engage mind and spirit. The first one is 'Avoid Technology,' so immediately I was in trouble. I not only work online through my various projects, but I am an avid user of online technologies to connect and engage with friends as well...I read a book (American Subversive by David Goodwillie - excellent) and walked around in the sunshine with it, just like I usually do with my Blackberry. I avoided commerce (a good way to get a friend to pick up the tab for drinks!)...'Find Silence' - well, when you can't use your Blackberry to make plans with anyone that's pretty much a given! As for 'Give Back' - well, I do most of my donating online, but I did use the time to do a thorough closet sort-through, resulting in about five or six bags of clothes to donate.

Yes, it was 24 hours and it didn't kill me - but it also didn't help me, either. I was happy to read a book but it's not like I don't ever read books (that's what you do on planes when your laptop runs out of juice!). My weekends are oases of time and space, where I am able to draw a breath and dive into the stuff I couldn't get to that week - the great article I bookmarked, the friend whose emails I kept dropping, the blog post I'd meant to write on a subject that wasn't timely but was still important. I love weekends for giving me the chance to get stuff, and taking the pressure off during the week. Put simply, the weekends are already my Sabbath. Adding a Sabbath into it actually created more work, based on what I was not able to get to during that 24 hour period of being off the grid...For me, being a Blackberry orphan means feeling orphaned without my Blackberry - and what it can do to make my life better."

You can read more in Sklar's own column in the Huffington Post or hear her talk about the experience during interviews with Brian Lehrer on WNYCS and on a panel during Internet Week.
****

The "Unplug Challenge," is sponsored by Reboot, a non-profit organization that aims to reinvent the cultures, traditions and rituals of Jewish life for a broad audience.

The Sabbath Manifesto "Unplug Challenge" builds on the success of Reboot's National Day of Unplugging March 20, 2010, when people were asked to shut off their cell phones and computers for 24 hours. Sklar is a member of the Reboot network.

Reboot's Sabbath Manifesto is a new project that is encouraging young, hyper-connected, and frequently frantic people of all denominations to re-embrace the ancient beauty of a day of rest.
Post your stories of what it was like for you to unplug for 24 hours on our site at www.sabbathmanifesto.org. Every month, we will choose a testimonial from those posted and pair it with the "Unplug Challenge" column on the Huffington Post.

This month, we are highlighting an unplugging testimonial from Laurie Leiber, 56, a Pilates instructor and former public health advocate from Oakland, Calif., who commented on our website:

"I've been unplugged for three Shabbats so far. I didn't manage to actually leave my cell phone at home, but it was off. I did not turn on my computer--well, there was that one time, but I remembered right away and turned it off again!

So, what was it like? I noticed several times a pull to check my email. It wasn't difficult to resist the pull, but it was definitely there and required some effort to find something else to do. God knows there is rarely anything earth shattering in my email, so the desire to log on is more habitual than anything else. Breaking the habit makes me feel like I'm in control not my technology.

I talked with our children (21 and 27 years old) about the creeping intrusion of technology into every human interaction. I didn't demand anything of them, but I think I planted a seed for further thought.

I'm enjoying being unplugged one day a week. I plan to keep doing it and see if I can get others to join me."