by Rebecca Borison
This past Friday, I turned off my iPhone at approximately 7 pm and prepared myself for three days of being disconnected. Shavuot happened to fall on Sunday and Monday, which meant that Shabbat led directly into the holiday, allowing no time to catch up on missed emails on Saturday night.
While I am used to unplugging for one day a week, the three-day holiday always poses a greater challenge: It’s a lot harder to deal with three days of unplugging than one. But ultimately, I found the three days to be more beneficial than bothersome. I was able to catch up with high school friends, play basketball with my younger brother, go to synagogue, and even read some George Eliot. Granted, I don’t think I’d be able to do it every week, but once in a while, it’s actually nice to disconnect for three days.
For observant or traditional Jews, 25 hours a week of unplugging is commonplace. Every Friday at sundown, iPhones are turned off and laptops are shut down. In today’s world of constant connectivity and instant feedback, those 25 hours can be extremely challenging. Add on two more days of Shavuot, and you’re practically salivating at the thought of checking your email.
The three-day holiday always seems to return as a shock. Outside of Israel, observant Jews keep two days of Shavuot, and when it falls out on a Sunday and Monday, that means three full days of synagogue, lots of food and no technology.
For many, even one day of Sabbath can seem impossible. In a 2010 New York Times article by Austin Considine, Jill Soloway, a television producer, said that a day without her iPhone was “next to excruciating.” Not being able to connect to the modern world leaves one feeling anxious and antsy.
In that same article, Considine writes about an experiment by Reboot, a nonprofit think tank of Jewish professionals. Reboot had decided to promote a National Day of Unplugging. Some of the day’s instructions were to “avoid technology,” “find silence” and “drink wine.” According to Reboot, unplugging fulfills a major need, whether or not you’re Jewish. While it may be difficult to turn off the iPhone, it can also be extremely beneficial. In today’s fast-paced society, it is crucial that we step back and reflect.
Growing up, my family always ate dinner together, seven days a week. But once we were old enough to get our own cell phones, the weekday dinners shifted entirely. Yes, we all sat at the same table and ate the same food, but we were all texting our friends at the same time. It only got worse with the transition to smart phones. My parents tried to enforce no-cell-phone rules, but we always managed to hide our cell phones in our pockets or under the table.
Friday night dinners, on the other hand, were entirely different. It was no longer just my parents enforcing the no cell phone rule, it was Shabbat. All of a sudden, my siblings and I were actually engaging in real-life conversation.
Six days a week, we are constantly in touch with the modern, digital world. Even for those who don’t intend on fully observing the Sabbath, unplugging for one day a week can serve as a great way to relax and promote family time.
But what happens when it turns into three days of your week? Former religion reporter for The New York Times Ari L. Goldman used to call the stretch “the triple whammy.” “As Sabbath observers,” he writes, “we already know what it is to unplug for a day. Two days is unusual, but three is almost imaginable.”
As the years passed, however, Goldman began to actually look forward to the three-day holiday. He sees the need to disconnect from technology as a blessing. It allows him to catch up on reading and spend valuable time with his family.
Maybe three days of unplugging is a bit much for the average Internet frequenter. I happen to agree with Goldman. I can appreciate the three-day holiday as an additional excuse to relax and spend time with friends and family.
During the week, I find myself feeling guilty for not being productive and lazing around. When I’m forced to relax, however, the guilt melts away. Why wouldn’t I want two more days of that?
Three days without an iPhone forces you to be creative. Maybe you take out a board game or a puzzle; maybe you grab a novel. Or maybe you go for a walk with your mom. The possibilities are endless. And let’s be honest, how likely are we to actually think outside the box when the Internet is at our fingertips?