In the fifth of the Ten Commandments, God commands the Israelites “Keep the Sabbath day holy.” God commands the Jews to set it apart in order to keep it holy, and for the Jews still observant of these commandments, the day is indeed set apart.
Even though Christians no longer keep the commandments, it might be beneficial for everyone, not just Jews, to try out keeping the Sabbath day as God intended for the Israelites.
What does a Sabbath day look like for a typical Orthodox Jewish household, and why might it appeal to even a non-Jewish family?
Most importantly, and most uniquely, a Sabbath day (which spans 25 hours from Friday night at sundown to Saturday night an hour after sundown) in an observant Jewish home is technology-free. Televisions, iPads, cell phones, radios; everything goes off.
Recently for Acculturated I wrote about my own personal cell phone addiction, and how it mirrors the addiction faced by our entire society. Technology is rewiring our brains and, according to a gripping long-form piece in the Atlantic, destroying an entire generation.
Can you or your kids go an entire day without the distraction of technology?
Not only can you, but you should. We increasingly crave the constant feedback our cell phones give us in the forms of likes and comments. So take a moment to connect with nature and with your family without a cell phone in your hands.
After many years of keeping the Sabbath, I can attest you aren’t missing much when it comes to unplugging from the news cycle for one day a week. In an age where politics has become so fraught, turning everything off in favor of family-only interactions is a reset button for the soul and the mind. Instead of reading about the latest outrage, try picking up a political biography instead (I’m currently enjoying Martin Gilbert’s biography of Winston Churchill).
For most Americans on every side of the aisle, the tone of our national conversation has become intolerably angry. Instead of angrily commenting and sharing news story of the week, step back and immerse yourself in some civics and history. The tension in this country is only growing, and we could all use one day a week in which we step back, learn about the foundation of our nation, and calm down before clicking send.
If it weren’t for the Sabbath, my husband and I would work seven days a week. Granted, Sundays we’re merely answering emails here and there and wrapping up projects from the week, but for one day a week, our focus is wholly on each other and our children. We don’t spend the day getting in the car, doing errands, spending money or even cooking (all of our food is cooked ahead of time and ready to eat).
Instead we play with our toddlers, coo at our baby, and read, read, read. We read to our children, we catch up on our own books and magazines. Not only is it nice to read an actual physical book every now and then, but it actually helps you retain the information you’re taking in as well.
Did God have 2017 in mind when he wrote the Hebrew Bible?
Weeks like this past one, with white nationalists marching in Virginia and social media exploding into a frenzy of finger pointing, it certainly feels like it. Instead of spending the day reading about Americans taking to the streets with Nazi flags, I spent it celebrating being Jewish with my husband and our three children. We ate good food, laughed, and read Rumplestiltskin about a dozen times.
Not only was our Saturday spent rebuking those marching in Charlottesville better than I ever could have with a pithy Facebook comment or tweet, but we were happier and more recharged to handle the news on Saturday night when we turned our phones back on.
Bethany Mandel is a Senior Contributor at the Federalist, a columnist at the Jewish Daily Forward, a contributor at Acculturated and various other sites. She is also a stay-at-home mother and a cast member of the Ladybrainscast; a weekly podcast hosted by Ricochet.