buy nothing day - shabbat
Today is Adbuster’s official Buy Nothing Day, where:

For 24 hours, millions of people around the world do not participate — in the doomsday economy, the marketing mind-games, and the frantic consumer-binge that’s become our culture. We pause. We make a small choice not to shop.

It also happens to be the beginning of official “Shabbat” day, where for a whopping 25 hours, millions of observant Jews the world over agree not only to both buy nothing, but also to drive nowhere, stepping back from the consumer binge and shopocalypse as well as helping decrease our dependence on foreign oil while simultaneously giving the ozone a break. We aid water conservation by not taking showers. We also agree to not allow electronic media to interfere with our interpersonal relationships and spend the day connecting to friends and family as human beings, not MSN’s or voices on the telephone. We allow intimacy to grow between us because we are in no rush. We connect and converse in the classic way of all humanity, over a table of good food and wine. We step back to remember what it is to be human.

We do this not just once a year but 52 times a year. Damn, Jews are so hip.

Viva la Shabbat!

Take THAT, Adbusters.

ps, great minds think alike (ie, yes Jewschool, i know you got to it first, but I had this in mind since picking up Culture Jam months ago)

About the author

Laya Millman


  • Dear Laya,
    Brilliant! Is this campaign run by yidden? Is this Shopnot Across America?

    Of course, lets us also not forget that Hashem commands us to take a day of rest. The entire day is Hashem-inspired and connected. Shabbos Hayom La’Shem we sing, Shabbos is a day for Hashem. By dedicating the day for Hashem, we have time for the quality of life additions. In the Hashem-conscious life of Torah, Shabbos is a day of mystical revelation, procreation, and inspiration. Prayer, connecting our souls on high, singing, lots of singing from the heart, from folk-song table melodies to transcendent niggunim in shul. Making a tish, a gathering of souls in order to elevate humanity and existence through song, blessings, food, and words of Torah.

    The essence of the hashem-conscious existence IS Shabbos, in its radical message, an acknowledgment that Humanity is not supreme, but wholly dependent on Hashem’s continuous perpetuation of creation, and awareness that our souls need constant, or minimally weekly, nourishment and rejewvenation, by connecting to the Soul-Creator, to Hashem, bringing the soul to simcha, to existential joy, a state of being that opens a high-speed connection with the Creator of All.

    Good Shabbos Good Shabbos Good Shabbos. Shabbos is Good!

  • While I applaud this lovely sentiment and do agree that people need to take some time and energy away from shopping, let’s not forget that many people – and by that I mean the great majority of people – survive financially because of a robust economy.

    That robust economy needs shoppers and needs holidays that encourage shopping. I don’t know whether that is good or bad for our society since there are many societies far worse off than we are but where they can’t shop with the same energetic fervor in as many malls or shops, but I do know that shopping and acquiring things is not always a greedy or selfish or abhorrent act. In fact, in this season, much of the shopping is a selfless and generous and even, dare I say it, thoughtful act (what should I get Aunt Beatrice and Cousin Brian and Mama Denise for Christmas).

    So I encourage everybody to shop today, and shop hard, and then rest tonight and tomorrow. 😉

  • “That robust economy needs shoppers and needs holidays that encourage shopping”

    As a marketing grad (who never practiced what he was taught) I can tell you that a robust economy means using the darkest of forces to create needs out of wants, and rob people of their time and money. And the punchline is we all think it’s for the greater good. Alas, it usually has to get worse before it gets better.

    Big business has an even larger shadow complex. Jung wouldn’t know where to begit with this monster.

  • I’m not saying there isn’t a dark side to all of this consumption, of course there is. At the same time, it’s not black and white…but somewhere in the middle. Take a look at India and China and note how the lives of millions are improving as their economies grow. Does it harm their environment? Sure. But is this the “doomsday economy?” The people who write that survive and enjoy a fine standard of living because they are part of this “doomsday economy.”

    Is there an insidious effect to watching incessant beer and car commercials? Perhaps. Is there something wrong with wanting nicer furniture or a faster computer? Perhaps. But perhaps there is also something wrong with neglecting to pursue a better standard of living so that one can achieve a higher plane of consciousness, whatever that means.

    My point is that poverty sucks far more than having a culture obsessed with owning stuff. The entire economy is not built on Walmart and other retail chains. On the contrary, I know many, many families that need this season in order to sell the products they make and these families rely upon the Christmas/holidays season for a a third to half of their income for the year.

    Should we have factories that pollute and cars that pollute and products that could destroy the environment? No. Governments should pursue policies that restrict and compel companies to change the way they operate. They should force other governments to comply, at the threat of cutting off their right to sell to our market (yes, this would mean abrogating some international trade agreements). There are many things that responsible governments could and would do to improve the harm caused by this consumption.

    But the consumption is a part of the economic engine that is preferable, in my view, to things like military buildup and wars. I have to think that between our cars and our defense industry, we do far more harm than when we go to The Gap to buy a pair of jeans.

    So go shopping today, and don’t go shopping on shabbat.

    (I swear to you that I am not a Republican)

  • The obsession with consumption has produced entire industries hell bent on preying on your insecurities. Why? because insecure people buy more. Women concerned with growing older will spend a fortune on so called “anti-aging” creams, when in fact there is no such thing as reversing the signs of aging. But beauty products are a multi billion dollar a year industry. Women who feel beautiful in no make up and last seasons clothes are a problem for our society, so marketers and companies use every trick in the book to convince us that at the end of the day we just aren’t good enough the way we are.

    In the past 15 years or so we have seen a gigantic push in marketing to children. Children of course have no income, marketers actually do research about the power of nagging. Teenagers identity has become confused with brand loyalty, and children of poorer families are too often made to feel inadequate coming to school in less than a hundred dollar outfit. Children end up confusing love for how much you buy me.

    We have been programmed to desire and sold the lie that the buying and consuming of the right products will make us happy. While yes, a good economy produces more jobs, what toll does it take on our senses of self worth? On the depth of our interest? Rather than encourage normal levels of sustainable consumption, which can be good and healthy for an economy and society, we encourage consumer gluttony. A super-sized economy, if you will, particularly around Christmas time and I just don’t think it’s good….on multiple levels.

    (And I’m not even getting started on how the western obsession with consuming is hurting the world at large (supporting sweatshops, child labor, oppressive regimes in Africa and the middle east) or ecology and how the world cannot continue to sustain the levels of excess we “enjoy” in the west.)

  • We don’t disagree that there are many negative issues surrounding a consumer culture or a society that revolves around growing its sales and consumption. We agree that marketing can be insidious and that modern industries can cause harm. Those are issues that can be addressed at the government level. So lobby government and your local representatives. Lobbying consumers to stop shopping simply harms the purveyors of products, some of whom may be evil international conglomerates, but that neglects the fact that their employees need those companies to do well in order to survive. It also has the effect of dampening the income of all the small sellers and manufacturers, their employees, salespeople, suppliers, etc. who are also harmed.

    Change is needed, but as long as the system functions as it does, why attack those who need to make a living when instead the pressure could and should be applied to those who make the rules?

  • But now do you object to taking one day a week (jews) or one day a year (adbusters people) to refrain from our shopping obsessions? Is that harmful to the economy at large?

  • Do I object? No. But I object to doing it on the busiest shopping day of the year and the opening to the critical part of the Christmas shopping season.

  • Call it a blue moon (I would), but I actually agree with The Middle on this one. The fact that this is on Black Friday suggest the organizers do not merely seek to make a statement, but perhaps would like to see the economy ruined. Equally unfortunate, I would say dispicable, is the lack of distinction between global and unethical corporations and the responsible neighborhood mom and pops, something Jewschool’s Sarah pointed out. The lack of distinction suggests that this is an expression of idealogues, not idealism. And then there is the Canadian thing ;). And the Jewish neocon thing. I mean, it may have some truth (oops!), but why as Jews should we be eager to hold their hand and join a group (Adbusters) who has demonstrated they are sympathetic to the antisemitic strain that has always existed within segments of the far left?

    If we would get off our massive oil addiction, through a serious and radical expansion of public transit in all the major metropolitan cities as well as a corresponding discouragement of non-hybrid automobile use, I think this would help the world a hell of a lot more than patting each other on the back for not shopping on the biggest shopping day of the year in hopes (wtf?) of incurring a global recession. Indeed, instead of proving how wonderful we are by not shopping on one day a year, wouldn’t it be more productive to take measures to get off automobile addiction as much as possible? I hate to suggest thinking constructively, but shockingly, the Middle gets this one, and most, on the left or right, do not.

    As Jews concerned with the power oil gives the Arabs, (even a radical anti-Zionist Stormfronting P.M. Sharon fan like myself worries about that), we should be willing to challenge the neo-Jeffersonian model of suburban automobile culture with a more energy and environmentally responsible one. If that’s the case, that the Middle agrees, it may be a more significant example of Jewschool and Jewlicious thinking alike than the topic of Adbusters, or the dubious benefits or glory to be had in partnering with them.

  • Kelsey and TM agreeing with each other? Mere words cannot express my shock. So I’ll just shutup.