Unplugged

3 Nov

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When my husband and I got engaged, he wanted to keep a kosher home. It was important to him and he had grown up that way and that was fine by me. We spent an inordinate time searching the inventories of several stores covering Manhattan and Long Island to find two sets of every day dishes and two sets of silverware. We finally settled on a white Wedgwood pattern that I have never liked and which I have also used as grounds to hurl empty threats of vegetarianism at my husband.  So imagine my surprise, when we set up our tiny New York City kitchen as newlyweds, my husband ordered Won Ton Soup and took out a “meat” bowl in which to eat it.

The pork dumpling in the designated kosher meat bowl event may likely have been the deciding factor upon which we practice Judaism. Kosher but with exceptions. We are spiritual yet lazy. Devoted yet lapsed. We are, regrettably, high holiday Jews.  Shabbat dinners fall by the wayside as takeout is ordered and everyone spends the night warmed by the glow of their Apple devices. Promises to do more and do better evolve into catching up on programs stored on our TiVo while my Shabbat candles remain sadly unlit. Again.

When I think of my mother, I often imagine her lighting the Friday night candles, a paper towel on her head as a makeshift act of respect, offering up a silent prayer to God. When I reflect on my grandfather, I picture him draped in his tallis, wearing tefillin, and dovening in a corner with his timeworn siddur.  Jewish holidays with my family and extended family permeate my entire childhood. Seders, break fasts, horas and menorahs create a vivid Judaic tapestry on which I was raised. While I emphasize the importance of Judaism to my sons — specifically, that they know where they come from and that they be proud Jews, and, importantly, that it be part of their fabric as well — I am not doing enough. I am failing my children as a parent and as a Jew.

Last weekend, my synagogue along with synagogues all over the world participated in the “Shabbat Project” in which Jews were encouraged to experience Shabbat in the traditional fashion that it so deserves: no electronics; no driving; no shopping; and most of all, no smartphones. I was committed from the start. I could not wait to unplug and refocus on what really matters: the people in my life, not the things we have.

While we did drive and use lights (because we live too far away from our temple to walk and because we ease into things slowly), we otherwise powered down as a family. The weekend began with a service and a Friday night dinner at my temple that hosted 600 people including my family, my parents, and many friends. The following day we spent in the park, talking to friends, watching the kids play, and looking at the faces of my sons. As we walked from the park back to temple, I listened to the animated stories told by my kids — really listened to them. There were no distractions other than the birds and a passing breeze. What a gift it was to concentrate on my own life rather than my battery’s life. It was nice to feel the sun on my face and linger in 1997 or 1979 or any year before the advent of  the oversaturated techonological market that is slowly killing necessary human interaction. A literal juice cleanse for my soul. We ended the day at a Havdalah service at my synagogue, as my sons battled to hold the candle and smell the spices.

As we drove home, I turned on my phone. Lo and behold, I missed 74 messages from retailers wanting to sell me goods at discounted prices. Delete. That  night we made a decision: we are going to celebrate Shabbat with a family dinner and the shutting down of all devices on Friday nights. On Saturdays we can return to being those high holy Jews we have mastered. Baby steps. But for now, we are concentrating on loving the things that can love us back.

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3 Responses to “Unplugged”

  1. ivyon November 18, 2014 at 2:07 pm #

    I love how you said that it was a cleanse of your soul. I feel the same. I blog, I surf through the internet, I need to be online for financial reasons, I actually “have to” be informed about everyday news bc of my profession but I don’t care. I will find a way that I don’t have to read and watch unimportant stuff, I will find a job that doesn’t require of me to be online all the time… I don’t care how but I will. Computer and screens are bad for me. In the last two months I was not going on the computer, it made me sick and triggered headache. Long story why. But I get to see in this ungrateful position I was/am that I indeed can live without all this informations, and I was more present and full of ideas. I subconsiously decided that I will use technology to do what I intended and then – shut down. Of course I will spend many more nights behind a screen, but last few months opened my eyes in so many ways, despite the pain.

    • Lisa Goodwin November 18, 2014 at 4:02 pm #

      I agree! Even last weekend, I spent with very old friends of mine and left my laptop home and only received spotty service on my phone. It was such a welcome throwback to actually listen to my friends, which is so different than hearing them talk. I hope you are feeling better!

      • ivyon November 18, 2014 at 4:51 pm #

        I am, since I am able to blog, but I better be off for some time to regenerate my brain. Hehe 🙂

        It does not help that it is raining outside and you all have so much interesting posts, but I am a strong woman! 😀 Btw, I never go to Freshly Pressed page, today I was at my mobile app of WP and I clicked reader and it opened Freshly P and I saw your post. And I’m glad I did. 🙂

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