In an essay titled “I Used to Be a Human Being,” the journalist Andrew Sulllivan bemoans the effects on the human spirit of the constant influx of information from cell phones and computers. Responding, Elliot Kaufman proposes the Jewish Sabbath as the perfect antidote:
[The] lack of access to information, previously a constraint on action, has been reduced to an afterthought. Man has broken out of his chains. It is funny then, that our liberated man looks so much like a slave, falling prey to mechanized algorithms that target him with exactly the type of clickbait article he has proved unable to resist. If it is in this way that man has been liberated, he has merely become free to surrender to his appetites; or put differently, we were correct to enshrine the pursuit of happiness, not mediocrity. . . .
So what if, one day per week, we said no to the noise? . . . No to knowing about everything going on in the world. . . .
[B]eginning to observe Shabbat has allowed me to follow my people’s ancient rhythms of life; I know that they, too, are mine, and that they are good. The rabbis teach that one becomes free only by submitting to the discipline of Shabbat—forgoing all work, electricity, and more from Friday night to Saturday night. Putting down our phones doesn’t handcuff us; it removes the handcuffs that were already on. . . .
The amount of time that I use well on the Sabbath is probably measurable in minutes rather than hours. But where else can we start our journey of renewal, if not from the beginning? God didn’t rest on the seventh day because He was tired. God rested because He knew silence was holy, liberating, and good for the soul, and He was gracious enough to let us in on the secret. Thankfulness and imitatio dei are in order.