My name is Rabbi Yonah, and I am over-wired.

Tethered to my iPhone. Waiting for the ding or buzz to announce some new tidbit of information. Someone re-tweeted. Breaking news from who-knows-where. Is that a txt message? An appointment?

At the office the routine doesn’t change. Even on vacation, no roaming farther than my portable WiFi hotspot can find service.

The intended consequences of our wired world creates such a host of distractions and interruptions that it’s a wonder some days that I manage to get anything accomplished.

Even before I became a permanent IP address in the great server in the sky, I discovered the Jewish Sabbath during college and fell in love with unplugging from the info-byte matrix. Finding a home in personal connections and spiritual devotion provided an oasis in time to refresh my soul.

While Sabbath observance is often dismissed as archaic, attitudes are changing as the pace of information and methods of delivery are unrelenting.

I am not the first to realize that over-connectedness is a harmful side-effect of our digital world, interfering with our personal, spiritual, and professional lives.

We are starting to recognize the dangers of addiction to being connected to a device-based community at the loss of real conversations and communications that take more than 140 characters.

As a response, my friends at Reboot created The National Day of Unplugging, a tech-detox day, in 2010.

With roots in Jewish tradition, this day of rest “brings some balance to our increasingly fast-paced way of life” and reclaims time, “to connect with family, friends, the community and ourselves.”

The Day of Unplugging advocates that for twenty four hours, from sundown Friday, March 23 to sundown, Saturday March 24, “shut down your computer. Turn off your cell phone. Stop the constant emailing, texting, Tweeting and Facebooking to take time to notice the world around you. Connect with loved ones. Nurture your health. Get outside. Find silence. Avoid commerce. Give back. Eat Together.”

This can be a challenge. Changing ingrained habits is never easy, especially for 24 hours.

Reboot is not advocating an Amish or Luddite culture shift. The wheels of the wired world will start spinning soon enough. However, the opportunity has arrived for many of us together to take a chance on finding serenity. Be brave and try it!

Those ancient Hebrews were on to something 3500 years ago when they laid down their tools to “rekindle” their souls.

Click here to take the National Day of Unplugging pledge and read the Reboot Sabbath Manifesto.

About the author

Rabbi Yonah


    • The “meaningful” plugging in you advocate in your blog post is lovely. Who can argue with calling your grandmother or skyping with your nephews? The thing is Rabbi Baum, that every instance of meaningful plugging in that you described, save one, involves doing something online that you can easily do during the week. Your friend’s contention that unplugging for one day will leave them so behind that they will spend the rest of the week catching up is ludicrous, especially from the perspective of someone who regularly unplugs once a week to no deleterious effect. I think what unplugging does is provide you with perspective. Of course being online is nice – but if its been years since you connected with that “friend” from high school, then that speaks volumes about the significance in your life of that relationship. Taking a day off to connect face to face with your immediate community reminds you of the importance of physical community. So much of our Jewish lives require physical community – you can’t conduct a marriage or raise a child over Skype, effective Jewish education, religious worship, Kashrut, burial societies etc. require a physical community to sustain them. You have all week to nurture your virtual community – what’s wrong with taking a day off and dedicating it to your actual community? If you feel that you need to set time aside for significant online interactions, what does that say about the quality and caliber of your online interactions in general? See? It’s all about perspective. Shabbat Shalom Rabbi Baum.

  • Dear Rabbi,

    If you read about the day – you see that it advocates just that pluggin into OTHER things that are meaningful.