Why the “Digital Shabbat” Trend Is Doomed to Fail

April 28 2022

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

When It Comes to Peace with Israel, Many Saudis Have Religious Concerns

Sept. 22 2023

While roughly a third of Saudis are willing to cooperate with the Jewish state in matters of technology and commerce, far fewer are willing to allow Israeli teams to compete within the kingdom—let alone support diplomatic normalization. These are just a few results of a recent, detailed, and professional opinion survey—a rarity in Saudi Arabia—that has much bearing on current negotiations involving Washington, Jerusalem, and Riyadh. David Pollock notes some others:

When asked about possible factors “in considering whether or not Saudi Arabia should establish official relations with Israel,” the Saudi public opts first for an Islamic—rather than a specifically Saudi—agenda: almost half (46 percent) say it would be “important” to obtain “new Israeli guarantees of Muslim rights at al-Aqsa Mosque and al-Haram al-Sharif [i.e., the Temple Mount] in Jerusalem.” Prioritizing this issue is significantly more popular than any other option offered. . . .

This popular focus on religion is in line with responses to other controversial questions in the survey. Exactly the same percentage, for example, feel “strongly” that “our country should cut off all relations with any other country where anybody hurts the Quran.”

By comparison, Palestinian aspirations come in second place in Saudi popular perceptions of a deal with Israel. Thirty-six percent of the Saudi public say it would be “important” to obtain “new steps toward political rights and better economic opportunities for the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.” Far behind these drivers in popular attitudes, surprisingly, are hypothetical American contributions to a Saudi-Israel deal—even though these have reportedly been under heavy discussion at the official level in recent months.

Therefore, based on this analysis of these new survey findings, all three governments involved in a possible trilateral U.S.-Saudi-Israel deal would be well advised to pay at least as much attention to its religious dimension as to its political, security, and economic ones.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Islam, Israel-Arab relations, Saudi Arabia, Temple Mount