The Chief Executive of Next, Simon, Baron, Wolfson, was one of the panellists on last week’s Any Questions. After the usual tour of topics of the day, came a question about a school who have issued alarm clocks to their students so they don’t have to keep their mobile phones in their bedrooms. We are all, it seems, too in thrall to our phones.
“Funnily enough,” the boss of one of Britain’s most significant clothing companies shared, “for religious reasons I turn my phone off for from Friday night sundown and I keep it off until Saturday nightfall. And I have to say it’s an incredibly liberating thing to do. What you realise is that it’s not a life support machine. And you can live for 24 hours without your phone. I would recommend trying it. You will have a much nicer weekend.” Silence swept the studio as the idea sunk in, then applause.
MP, Lisa Nandy, went next. She suggested that if only MPs could be persuaded to turn off their phones for a day they could actually get together and solve the problems of Brexit. She was only half-joking.
Does that help? I figure I am, at this point, not really trusted on this - pasul b’eydut in the Talmudic idiom - banned from serving as an objective witness as to the beauty and power of a Shabbat honoured without mobile phones, computers, email and the rest of it. But here you have a FTSE 100 CEO and an MP. And there is more. Getting the phone turned off is more than a way of making your weekend ‘nicer.’ It’s about connecting with life as it right before you - not being whisked away from the here and now by the siren calls of telephony, push e-mail and streamed distraction. It’s about learning to take pleasure in what you have already, letting go of the chase for the new and probably not that important. It’s about finding a space in which to be grateful for the gift of life, and Jewish life at that.
It’s Shabbat UK - it’s a pleasure to share congratulations with the Orthodox Chief Rabbi for his leadership in drawing the focus of all Britain’s Jews towards the greatest gift we possess, as Jews - the Shabbat. There are Challah bakes and calls to light candles and all of that is important. But if you want to experience Shabbat as what the Rabbis meant when they called her a little piece of paradise on earth, please do join me in turning off that phone. Let me know how you do.
P.S. If interested, The Question Time clip is on-line [here - https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b09bcrn4/question-time-19102017] at 54:30.