It hasn’t officially been rebranded, of course; God is notoriously conservative about updating that Bible of His. But, as reported by The New York Times, Reboot, a nonprofit Jewish think tank, has come up with a new version of Shabbat that is not only restive but sort of cheekily appropriate. And if you notice a lack of Jews on the Internet, starting about now, you’ll know why.
Shabbat, observed sundown Friday to sundown Saturday, usually involves traditional Jewish meals (including bread, wine, and meat and/or fish), prayers, lighting candles, and spending relaxing time with family and friends, but it’s the myriad restrictions that are best known (and loathed by every bored 13-year-old who just wants his Game Boy). It’s prohibited to turn electronic devices on or off, as well as to travel in cars, trains, buses, and planes. There are workarounds for all of that stuff (like elevators that stop at every floor, or lights on an automatic timer) but many Jews have simply stopped bothering with the more intrusive aspects of Shabbat.
Reboot’s “Sabbath Manifesto” takes a different approach. Instead of observing traditional modes of rest on Shabbat, it recommends we use that day to unplug ourselves from our connected lives. It’s a fun twist on the traditional ban on electronics, and it’s a good idea for anybody, anyway: taking one day to remember what life is like apart from Twitter, Facebook, email, and all the rest can only be good for our perspective and mental stability (let alone our social lives here in the real world).
Today (right now, actually: I’ve scheduled this article to publish at 7:07 p.m. EST, sundown in New York City), Reboot is hosting the first “National Day of Unplugging,” which lasts the length of traditional Shabbat: sundown Friday to sundown Saturday. The group is hoping this big press push will encourage more obedience of their “Sabbath Manifesto,” which is basically a weekly version of the National Day of Unplugging.
The Sabbath Manifesto, in full:
- Avoid technology.
- Connect with loved ones [note: presumably not via technology]
- Nurture your health.
- Get outside.
- Avoid commerce.
- Light candles.
- Drink wine.
- Eat bread.
- Find silence.
- Give back.
The philosophy goes beyond just a list of rules; Reboot is taking a more pro-active promotional path:
Reboot’s organizers are promoting the National Day of Unplugging via (what else?) Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. But the manifesto also
emphasizes direct personal interaction. As such, Reboot has planned
intimate gatherings this weekend in New York and Los Angeles, where
members will dine and share their views on the manifesto. Cellphones
must be checked at the door, where they’ll “sleep” in miniature sleeping
Look at that! Miniature sleeping bags for cell phones! See, everyone? Shabbat can be adorable too! And that adorability is why you might see a distinct lack of Jews around on the internet tonight and tomorrow. Looking at my watch, it’s just about time for me to head out as well: Shabbat Shalom, everyone.