We've all been plugged in for so long, we now find ourselves a bit lost if not tethered or wirelessly connected. It seems as if everyone is now telling us to unplug -- productivity experts, physicians, shrinks, religious organizations, and even Oprah.
But when we try to unplug, we become like our uncharged blackberries. We unplug, and we're out of juice ... we become passive creatures gone dark. So what does one do when unplugged? Is it possible to recharge without TV, the web, e-readers and other devices? Nature abhors a vacuum. So how to fill it?
Fortunately, thousands of years of religious tradition offer an antidote. Whatever your religion, faith or practice, there is much to be learned from the notion of a Sabbath or Shabbat. Whether harkening back to Jewish traditions, or making your own regular commitment to a meaningful break ... taking a page out of the good old Bible, can bring a "retro," yet real way, to live the void for a moment in time each week.
Someone experiencing a first Shabbat at my home once confessed to having imagined Jews sitting in a dark room and doing nothing for 25 hours. They simply couldn't imagine what can be done when making an effort not to do so much. Although we go through life with a relatively cheerful demeanor, many of us feel that we have not had the opportunity to establish truly intense and meaningful relationships, friendships and even marriages. Technology intrudes on even our most intimate and personal moments. I admit, it can take some practice to tune out the noise and tune in to what matters. Finding a way to reflect, unwind and, most importantly, connect with tradition is not easy, but it can be done through prayer, family, friends, food and fun. But like your first good yogic "Ohm," appreciation for a good wine or dark chocolate -- it is well worth it.
This weekend marks the 15th anniversary of a very special program called Shabbat Across America, a program designed specifically to help fill the voids in our lives with joy. Shabbat Across America unites Jews across the country in one night of positive, joyous celebration regardless of profession, location, observance, knowledge, etc. More than 500 locations will be hosting over 50,000 participants this year, making Shabbat Across America their own.
So what is this Shabbat thing all about? The Jewish Sabbath has been called an "oasis in time" and "divine therapy." Frankly the world never needed Shabbat more than today. First of all, it is a time to catch your breath, to be introspective, to look inward not outward. It is a time to hug our children with intention, to look our spouses in the eye (not talk while typing on your iphone) and engage in true communication with friends, without the constant interruptions of telephones, radios, videos and computer games. Simply eliminating interruptions for a moment in time each week, can be truly life transforming.
Shabbat is also a time for eating together, singing and talking with the real people in your life (nothing against your virtual friends!) and laughing. Inspiring discussion, prayer, excellent food, song and dance, good company and unity, are all part of what has made this program and the weekly Shabbat experience so meaningful and enjoyable for hundreds of thousands of people over the years.
To help friends get past their image of Jews sitting in a dark room, and to inspire some Shabbat moments in time, we created this video last year:
And now, for the DIYers out there -- we are offering a Free Guide to Shabbat e-book full of suggestions and ideas for what to do once you have taken the plunge to unplug.
And I personally invite you to join us on Friday night March 4th at one of our more than 500 locations. Whoever you are, wherever you are, we have saved a seat for you at the table. Join us!