Why the “Digital Shabbat” Trend Is Doomed to Fail

In recent years, a variety of pundits and self-help gurus have touted the idea of observing “digital Shabbat” as a way to recover from social media’s ills. But attempts to “invent a Shabbat outside the religious paradigm” will almost certainly fail, argues Kelsey Osgood. The shallow understanding of Shabbat as merely “screen-free time,” she contends, overlooks the immersive experience of the day and the real source of its restorative power.

First, the observant Jewish community has successfully maintained Shabbat over thousands of years precisely because it’s practiced in a community, one that operates with particular norms and expectations. On any given Shabbat, my family will attend synagogue, take naps, read, and engage in religious study. We have friends over for long, leisurely meals or are welcomed as guests ourselves. During this time, we can be confident that because our neighbors are largely [Sabbath observant] as well, no conversation will be interrupted by persistent beeps signaling the arrival of a text message, and no one will be forced to sit like a bored schoolchild as their companions take a moment to scroll through Facebook updates.

There is a serendipitous nature to the day, when you can bump into someone en route to another location and decide to stroll together, be spontaneously invited over for a meal, or lounge around drinking coffee with friends, agenda-less, as the afternoon light wanes. But as a freelance Shabbat practitioner, you would likely experience only a pale imitation of this. The first few years of my Shabbat observance, I lived in a secular Brooklyn neighborhood and spent a great deal of time explaining to my largely nonreligious peers what they should do if they couldn’t find me at the designated meeting spot at the park on Saturday afternoon, or trying to suppress eye rolls when a friend held an iPhone aloft because I just had to see a recent meme that was making the rounds. And trust me, such an adulterated repose is simply not the same. Many Jews refer to Shabbat as an “island in time,” a riff on an idea in Abraham Joshua Heschel’s love letter of a book, The Sabbath. But if you do Shabbat alone, your island is a deserted one.

Perhaps you don’t really mind this isolation, as it’s better than the alternative, which is all doomscrolling, all the time. Perhaps you’ve read somewhere that Shabbat is a “day of rest,” and so the only thing that really matters to you is that your eyes get a vacation from brain-deadening blue light. But a shallow knowledge of the practice will likely lead to its ultimate collapse because you’ll be aiming for the wrong thing, the rest itself.

Read more at Wired

More about: Shabbat, Technology

An American Withdrawal from Iraq Would Hand Another Victory to Iran

Since October 7, the powerful network of Iran-backed militias in Iraq have carried out 120 attacks on U.S. forces stationed in the country. In the previous year, there were dozens of such attacks. The recent escalation has led some in the U.S. to press for the withdrawal of these forces, whose stated purpose in the country is to stamp out the remnants of Islamic State and to prevent the group’s resurgence. William Roberts explains why doing so would be a mistake:

American withdrawal from Iraq would cement Iran’s influence and jeopardize our substantial investment into the stabilization of Iraq and the wider region, threatening U.S. national security. Critics of the U.S. military presence argue that [it] risks a regional escalation in the ongoing conflict between Israel and Iran. However, in the long term, the U.S. military has provided critical assistance to Iraq’s security forces while preventing the escalation of other regional conflicts, such as clashes between Turkey and Kurdish groups in northern Iraq and Syria.

Ultimately, the only path forward to preserve a democratic, pluralistic, and sovereign Iraq is through engagement with the international community, especially the United States. Resisting Iran’s takeover will require the U.S. to draw international attention to the democratic backsliding in the country and to be present and engage continuously with Iraqi civil society in military and non-military matters. Surrendering Iraq to Iran’s agents would not only squander our substantial investment in Iraq’s stability; it would greatly increase Iran’s capability to threaten American interests in the Levant through its influence in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon.

Read more at Providence

More about: Iran, Iraq, U.S. Foreign policy