Art History 101
9:00 AM

Relinquishing the sunny outdoors, the students file into the cramped, artificially lit classroom. The professor turns on the projector and commences her lecture as they type steadily on their laptops.

Sounds like the start to a productive day.

But zoom in on the life of one student during that lecture and you will notice that in one hour she is accomplishing much more than her parents could have hoped to accomplish in any single day. She is simultaneously taking notes in Word, empathizing with her sister’s latest relationship pitfalls on Gchat, emailing a letter to the Office of the Registrar about her transferred credits, and Tweeting about her ever-present boredom.

In order to score some participation points, she raises her hand and asks a question about Antoine Watteau’s painting style, then returns to Facebook and congratulates her three newly engaged friends.

It’s only 9:15 a.m.

She sighs and takes another sip of her coffee.

Welcome to a new age.

Welcome to an age of multitasking, in which you can download an application for your phone called “TextNWalk” which advertises, “Don’t ever run into another person or object again! TextNWalk lets you see what’s in front of you as you type!”

Welcome to an age of enhanced productivity; an age in which nine-to-five jobs are rare indeed.

Welcome to an age of instant communication; an age in which the boundaries between my life and yours are blurred so effectively that I can be informed of your every thought as I eat my supper.

In this new era, technology allows us to truly experience every aspect of our world.

Or does it?

The Urban Overload Hypothesis is a psychological theory positing that the pace of modern life causes people to attempt to escape the world. Life comes at you fast, and studies have shown that in order to protect themselves, people withdraw from others and their environment.

And in this age of perpetual urgency, it can be difficult to focus on what’s truly important. We can easily find ourselves so busy taking care of the minute-to-minute “urgents” that we miss out on the more significant things. Items which require out immediate attention are dealt with, the rest are relegated to the bottom of the pile for “when I have time.”

Enter Shabbat.

Try to conjure up the feeling of looking up at the dark night sky, viewing the brilliant stars from a deserted country road. The stars are always there, but until we stop to savor their beauty, their magnificence goes unnoticed.

This is the gift of Shabbat. Shabbat allows us to take a hiatus from the rush and truly notice our surroundings. It gives us the opportunity to tune in to and connect with those around us. On Shabbat we stop trying to escape real life; instead we immerse ourselves in it.

My father first began walking to the synagogue on Shabbat when he realized he would be creating a weekly opportunity to spend time with his children. Sure enough, Saturday mornings were quickly transformed into a magical oasis of stress-free family bonding.

My mother began lighting Shabbat candles when she realized she could bring warmth and light into an increasingly cold world. The warm glow of her candles turned our Friday nights into enchanted periods of calm.

My friend stopped using electronic devices for one hour each Shabbat when she realized that her environment held gifts that she was unintentionally avoiding. Those sixty minutes became her weekly hour of peaceful appreciation.

Shabbat is
A day of rest
A day to experience life
A day of inner connection and exploration
During the rest of the week, we run and gasp for air.
Every breath that we inhale is a blessing.
Shabbat is a day when we can focus on exhaling; on experiencing and appreciating.

Shabbat is a day when we live
Live life; live family; live G‑dliness.