A new concept was introduced to me not long ago.
I was contacted by a friend of mine to try and help local teenagers and young adults who believe they can only keep Half-Shabbat.
Surely, like me, you’re now asking yourself what this means. Shabbat can’t be halved or quartered and, during certain seasons, it even increases in length!
As I’ve been informed, there are teenagers now who find it impossible and ‘against human rights’ to keep the laws of Shabbat because it prohibits them from accessing or interacting with their electronic devices. They simply cannot disconnect for 25 hours.
I’m not going to deny, my personal relationship with my phone and tablet can sometimes be quite strong. I find it wonderful that I can contact someone who lives across the world with the push of a button. In fact, my life has changed for the better since WhatsApp introduced calls, because it meant that I could now speak to my sister who lives thousands of miles away without having to face horrendous phone bills every month.
But even so, Shabbat always comes first. I couldn’t imagine purposefully transgressing the Holy Day because my lives on Candy Crush have now reloaded. In fact, I look forward to disconnecting, because it’s a time where the world feels more real than virtual.
The Chief Rabbi of Israel, Yitzchak Yosef, announced that anyone who has a TV or smartphone cannot be a prayer leader. He also went further to say that a Yeshiva student caught with an iPhone should be dismissed from his place of study.
The only thing that I can take from both views – the idea of Half-Shabbat and the opinon of R’ Yosef – is that each side is fighting for an extreme. There most certainly is a happy medium.
Banning something through fear cannot be the answer and allowing something through addiction is not the solution either. Just like candy, there has to be a sense of limit in place otherwise you will feel the adverse effects whether you intend to or not.
Everything in the world was created for a purpose; therefore, everything that exists has a positive and negative energy. Many times I’ve had this debate with friends or acquaintances – technology was created because it has the ability to substantially improve the lives of us all.
A cameraphone to relive precious moments, a computer to Skype your loved ones, a Facebook account to see your friend’s achievements. All these things can bring happiness to you and therefore enrich your life in some way. I simply cannot agree that they must be banned, ignored or made out as if it’s pure evil.
Of course, “with great power, comes great responsibility,” to quote Spiderman. It’s astonishing how much power is in your hand when you’re holding a smartphone. The access you to have the world’s darkest places can be frightening. But surely, it is more likely people explore such realms when they discover its existence by purposefully searching for them because their entire life they’ve been told it’s forbidden.
If your child see’s a giant cupcake on the kitchen side, topped with swirls of freshly made icing and sprinkles resembling every color of the rainbow, how likely is it that they’ll be sat on the floor with an empty plate and a guilty face when you enter back into the room? I’d say statistically, 9 times out of 10.
Well, this is the same scenario except they’re not a child sat on the kitchen floor. Instead, they’re hidden in a bedroom exploring knowledge that could permanently impact their thoughts and taint their lives.