Whether we consider ourselves religious or not, we all observe the Fourth Commandment in some way:
8 “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work,10 but the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns.11 For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.Exodus 20: 8-11
That doesn’t mean we all go to church or pray or even believe in God (though some of us do all of those things).
We don’t even call it the Sabbath. We call it the weekend.
Still, it’s the Sabbath, and it’s built into our culture. We think differently about it, and we act differently.
The concept of the Sabbath, the weekend, comes from ancient Jewish culture — directly from the Fourth Commandment. It is one of the “gifts of the Jews,” according to Thomas Cahill, author of The Gifts of the Jews, the second volume of his brilliant Hinges of History series. Cahill says there is more to the Sabbath than simply taking a day (or two) each week to honor God.
As important as that is (again, to some but not all of us), the Sabbath is a day of rest, a day of recreation. The Sabbath means not doing what we normally do.
“The connection between both freedom and creativity lie just beneath the surface of this commandment: leisure is appropriate to a free people, and this people so recently free (the Jews being led out of Egypt) find themselves quickly establishing this quiet weekly celebration of their freedom; leisure is the necessary ground of creativity, and a free people are free to imitate the creativity of God. The Sabbath is surely one of the simplest and sanest recommendations any god has ever made; and those who live with such septimanal punctuation are emptier and less resourceful.” The Gifts of the Jews, p. 144
Thoughts about the Sabbath and its importance to all of us flooded back on me last week when I first read about the National Day of Unplugging, which, according to Jamie Gruman, writing a guest post for The Digital Reader, described it as ” . . . a 24-hour respite from technology aimed at getting us to disconnect from our devices so we can connect with ourselves, our loved ones and our communities.” (That weekend was March 9-10, 2018.)
All of this was created by Reboot, an organization that wants to re-capture Jewish traditions. Keeping the Sabbath with rest, prayer, reflection, and recreation is one of those traditions.
The benefits of unplugging seem obvious: better health, better relationships, and — as Cahill points out — more time for creativity. Gruman writes:
“There is a growing amount of research showing that using phones during our leisure time interferes with our ability to psychologically disconnect from work and recover from the stress and demands we face on a daily basis.
When we unplug, we give ourselves the time and space to decompress and recharge, which makes us feel better and actually makes us more effective when we return to work.”
Figuring out a way to do without a smartphone entirely is probably a worthy goal.
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