6/5/10

JStandard: Sabbath apologetics without any thought or intelligence

Ironic that the idea of the Sabbath that made it the backbone of the strength of the ancient Israelite people, the notion of a forced day of rest for the worker, has now become so totally trivialized, that it becomes nothing more than a way to learn some sort of arbitrary anti-technology self discipline.

This article in the Jewish Standard, pulled from j. the Jewish news weekly of Northern California qualifies is our estimation one of the worst ever written about any Judaic value or subject, "Disconnect to connect: Sabbath Manifesto urges the Google generation to unplug and slow down."

As we see it, this manifesto described in the report, and all related to it, is not in the least bit what the Sabbath is all about. For most people the technology of our times is integral to both work and rest, to both productivity and diversion. Learning to relate to technology and use it properly does not happen when you totally ban it for one day every week. There is no insight in the free association of ancient Sabbath taboos with modern kvetching about your children texting all the time.

Just accept that we need for children and adults to learn the propriety of sexual relations without the apologetics about the absolute genius of the mechitza separating men and women in the synagogue. We also need to learn how to properly relate to technological communications without the apologetics of the brilliant foresight of the Sabbath restrictions of ancient times.

Ironic isn't it? The Sabbath, part of what made our people the most admired in the world in ancient times because it relieved the worker one day a week from the actual slavery of daily toil, now makes our people look utterly idiosyncratic, no matter the apologetics reported in the press.

The actual reasons for Sabbath observance in modernity are difficult and absurd, not based on convenient coincidences between some oddball notions of what is good for you, but on the actual ancient taboos that we keep because we believe the Torah was given to Moses on Mt. Sinai and we were commanded to observe it.

6 comments:

Reb Yudel said...

I think you're underestimating the apologetical challenge for the new generation.

Ultimately, most Jews don't follow Yeshayahu Leibowitz, and want some meaning from their Sabbath rest.

Or are you saying that you're fine with the amount of texting that takes place among ostensibly Orthodox yeshiva high school students?

tzvee said...

I believe in inner meaning, not externally imposed taboos. The two are rarely synchronous. And if you do claim they are, then you must make a case for it. In what way is it obvious that turning off a device leads to "rest"? Many people derive equanimity from connectivity and unease from forced restrictions. They will run away from taboos that are expressed as "just say no" especially when the technology brings great delight to them. If you think a child is overdoing anything, they need to be taught internal self control, not be governed by external policemen with nightsticks.

Reb Yudel said...

I'm not clear what you're proposing. That Judaism say, yes, Shabbos isn't restful or pleasant in the 21st century, but God commanded you to unplug at Sinai?

Or that Judaism say God commanded us to rest, and that we can rest with our iphones?

tzvee said...

let's put it this way. if we say all is honky dory, perfect and without blemish, in the way Jewish restrictions are interpreted, and in fact they are not, then isn't that the same as saying that a messy house is neat, or a jalopy is a limousine? aren't we commanded to run away from falsehood and tell the truth? judaism is interpreted by human beings who control what is included in taboo and what is not. the quick and dirty approach to avoiding forest fires is to forbid all fires in the forest. but that is not an option, is it?

Reb Yudel said...

Well, some say the house is neat, and some say we should just burn down the house and start over: What do you say? What's is your psak?

tzvee said...

Like I said in the title, use thought and intelligence to take the good and not the bad. Some food is kosher and some is treif, you don't ban all eating...