Enter a synagogue during the week and take a look around.
What are people’s facial expressions? Tired, overworked, stressed?
When it comes to Shabbat morning however, it would seem that you are entering a different place with completely different people.
Everyone seems to be happy, excited and well rested.
Why is that?
Perhaps it’s the long Friday night ‘shluf’ or the fact that a delicious Kidush is around the corner, but I would like to share with you an amazing thought.
First a fascinating story from June 2014.
Hundreds of Cinema goers in Hong Kong gathered for a short film.
During the interval, they were shown an advert from Volkswagen.
The advert shows a point-of-view account of a person getting into their car and setting off on a drive. The scenery is lush and there is classical music in the background.
The idea seems to be that this car is smooth and great to drive – very relaxing!
What the people didn’t know was that the Cinema was equipped with a location-based broadcaster that could send a mass text to everyone in the room at once.
Shortly into this advert operators sent a simultaneous text to everyone in the Cinema.
Imagine, everyone’s phones pinged and beeped to receive the message.
There were hidden cameras catching people’s reactions. The room was full of people looking into their phones, intrigued as to who was sending them a message.
Just at that split second, the advert turned sour – and a large crash is heard as the ad comes to an end. The audience is taken completely by surprise and shocked faces appear around the room.
The message was piercingly clear, do not text whilst driving – the effects could be deadly.
We live in a society that is run on technology.
It’s difficult if not impossible to get by nowadays without mobile phones, emails, internet shopping, sat nav etc.
We have become very reliable on this, perhaps too reliable.
Yet there is a repercussion from such a connection; the more we connect, the more we really disconnect. The more we engage in our phones, the less time we have to speak directly to other people.
When we are at dinner with loved ones and our phones ping as a message is delivered, how many of us really concentrate on what our dinner partner is saying or are we too busy thinking “who is contacting me now, perhaps it’s more important”.
There are times at work where we receive a phone call, and trying to multi task so as not to waste time, we type away at the desk losing real concentration on the person to whom we are speaking.
Shabbat is different!
It’s a time of blessing, a time when we rid ourselves of our technological connection in order to increase our communal and G-dly connection.
It is a time we disconnect in order to reconnect!
Perhaps that is why people seem so happy on Shabbat. We are actually getting to sit down and understand others without interruptions. We are able to concentrate on our prayer and Torah, learning much more without momentary distractions.
In this week’s Parsha we are told: “This is the law (Torah), when a person dies in a tent…” [Bamidbar 19:14]. There is a famous teaching of our Sages regarding this verse: “Torah does not become established within a person, unless he is prepared to die for the Torah” [Berachot 63b].
I’m confused?! Suicide is forbidden! How can a dead man study Torah?
The simple answer is that here our Rabbis are teaching us that in order to become accomplished in Torah learning, a person must make sacrifices for Torah. You must be willing to give up of your time and exert extra effort in Torah study.
There is a further explanation. Often when people sit down to study, they permit various factors to interrupt them such as a telephone call or the arrival of visitors. There is no way however, of disturbing a dead person with a telephone call or the like. The Gemara is teaching us that a person who wants to succeed in his learning must consider himself “dead”. He cannot permit anything whatsoever to interrupt him.
Imagine that Google, Wikipedia, Facebook and Waze are all in the room together having a discussion of who’s the best.
Wikipedia says “I know everything”.
Google answers back “I have everything”.
Waze says “I know the way to anywhere!”
Facebook says “I know everybody”.
Just then there is an interruption and the internet comes in saying, “without me your all nothing!”
Think it’s all over??
Then there is a blackout.
This time Electricity opens its mouth and says “Now who is talking!”
During the week we think we are our own bosses, we get carried away into the imaginary internet and mobile world. On Shabbat we are able to lose that and reconnect to our real selves. We are reminded that it is Hashem that is in charge! He created the world in six days and rested on the Seventh. We have been blessed with this special day accordingly and are able to reconnect to Him.
Wouldn’t it be amazing if we tried that during the week?
It’s difficult but perhaps for one Shiur or lesson a week, we can really turn of the phone and concentrate. Let us uphold the words of the Gemara; for it is only if a person is prepared to die and act dead to the outside world that he will be able to succeed in real Torah advancement.