Shabbat, unplugged

A few weeks ago my dear hubby Sam wrote a guest post about how he tries to observe Shabbat — no email, no meetings, and no work-related  reading, but lots of biking, napping, and socializing.

This weekend a new national group is encouraging everyone — Jews and non-Jews — to celebrate Shabbat with a National Day of Unplugging.  The idea is to “slow down lives in an increasingly hectic world.”

Sabbath Manifesto, a project of a group called Reboot, has suggested that from sundown on Friday March 19 to sundown on Saturday March 20, we:

Artist Jessica Tully designed this cell phone "sleeping bag" to tuck away your electronics on Shabbat.

  1. Avoid technology. (Yep, including this blog!)
  2. Connect with loved ones.
  3. Nurture your health.
  4. Get outside
  5. Avoid commerce
  6. Light candles.
  7. Drink wine.
  8. Eat bread.
  9. Find silence.
  10. Give back.

Here’s a little insider’s tidbit: The person responsible for publicizing Sabbath Manifesto (including getting a write-up in the New York Times!) is my friend Tanya Schevitz, another emigrant from the land of the downsized Chronicle. This was her first big foray into the world of public relations. Way to go, Tanya! More proof that there is life after newspaper journalism.

Meanwhile — and totally independently, I believe — my synagogue is organizing a cool 25 Hours of Shabbat celebration this weekend.

Temple Sinai is asking members to get out of their work/shopping/household-chore routines, and offering a slew of Shabbat activities — from family nature walks and bike rides, to a challah baking lesson, to programs about Ladino music or the influence of Yiddish culture on Tin Pan Alley.  And of course a variety of Shabbat services and community meals! You can find more information about it here.

Which activities will we be doing? Ironically, none — although I love the idea.

We have an opportunity to use our new beach house — which we bought with two other families — every third week. And this is “our” weekend there.

So we’ll be at Stinson Beach — Sam biking for some 40 miles or so, me walking on the beach for a much shorter distance, and Becca (most likely, being a teenager)  sleeping late.

It sounds very unplugged, and very Shabbat.


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5 Responses to “Shabbat, unplugged”

  1. Kaveh Says:

    I like all of the Manifesto’s recommendations except avoiding technology. Maybe I don’t understand this well… aside from the difficulty of avoiding ‘technology’ in the modern era (even a bicycle, one’s glasses, or electricity is a product of technology, no?) seems like if you follow the other commands, you can essentially meet the spirit of the idea? You can use your iphone or computer, for example, to text or talk to your child in college or your parents in another country (‘connect with loved ones’). Another modification I would make (if I were asked, of course) is: Avoid UNNECESSARY commerce. I think these little tweaks might make it more palatable to a larger group.

  2. Ilana DeBare Says:

    I suspect that the Sabbath Manifesters would agree with the substance of your comments — i.e., it’s fine to use your iphone to talk to loved ones on Shabbat. And they are not telling anyone to give up their bikes or eyeglasses). They’re just trying to get people to take a break fromn the constant texting, twittering, email checking etc. that gets to feel compulsive at times.

  3. crisismaven Says:

    “biking” – I though you were not meant to travel? Never mind, I found this in a book on Yiddish jokes where two hassidic jews brag to each other about the miracles their respective rebbes ave performed. Says the first: Imagine we were on the Sea of Galilee in a rowing boat when a storm broke. None of us could swim and we began to pray and were desperate. But our rabbi got up, spread his arms and there was storm to the left, storm to the right but in the middle tranquil sea and we safely reached the shore. Says the other: that’s nothing! We were in a train between Tel Aviv and Haifa when the engine broke down, Sabbath fast approaching. Many began to wail and cry but my rabbi got up, spread his arms and before you could blink – there was shabbs to the right, shabbes to the left and we travelled safely through the middle!

  4. Linda K. Wertheimer Says:

    What a great blog entry. My family is taking very baby steps in bringing some of the joy of Shabbat into our lives. See my entry about teaching tots about Shabbat at Both my husband and I grew up in non-observant households with limited or no connection to temple congregations. I, like you, am on a journey of faith, which began in my 30s and hit a peak in 2006 when I celebrated my adult bat mitzvah. I love the idea of Shabbat. Making it a reality in a family with a toddler is not always easy.
    Unplugging, though, could possibly be the easiest thing of all when you have a 2-year-old. When he’s awake, I’m unplugged from my email and blog
    Our attempt at observing Shabbat right now is limited to Friday night. Some day, perhaps, we’ll make Saturday more of a day of peace. Silence in a house with a 2-year-old? Not likely.

    • Ilana DeBare Says:

      Hi Linda! We seem to be on parallel tracks — newspaper careers, then leaving them to write book-length works that are close to our hearts, and of course the adult Bat Mitzvah journey.

      We also introduced our daughter, now 16, to Shabbat when she was very little. Pretty much just lighting candles and saying the blessings. In retrospect, I wish we had done more — such as established a tradition of singing a couple of songs after dinner, or of doing some spoken-word ritual such as going around the table and saying one thing that happened during the week for which we are grateful. Or going to temple on Friday nights, even just once a month. Enough so that it feels like a norm rather than an exception.

      Advice from parent of a teen: It is MUCH easier to get kids doing such things when you start very young, as opposed to trying to convince a 16-year-old to talk to her parents about what she feels grateful for!

      That goes double for chores around the house. :-)

      It may be hard to see it now, but you are building comfort memories and a connection to Judaism (and to you and your husband) that will be with your son for the rest of his life, long after you are gone.

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