Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Shavuot: Torah and Technology

Reflections on a Jewish Holiday you didn’t learn about in Hebrew School.

Please let me know if you learned about Shavuot in after-school Hebrew School. I certainly did not but yet it is one of the main Jewish festival holidays. It is also the holiday of “education” so to say. We celebrate receiving the torah and honor this gift by studying all night long! We also eat dairy which may cause some fellow lactards to mourn not celebrate. But nonetheless blintzes and cheesecakes allow us to learn all night with our Jewish community. Read more about why dairy on Shavuot: http://bit.ly/2ZHrN

Learning is an essential piece to Judaism. And in my own Jewish journey I’ve begun to understand that even more essential then learning what the torah teaches is questioning how it relates to our own lives. In that vein...

Here are my rushed reflections (apologies) on Shavuot this year:

A friend asked in her Facebook status, "What does Shavuot represent for you? (and/or, what are secular shavuot in your life)?" To which someone replied, "there is no freedom (Pesach) without responsibility (Shavuot)". This struck a chord for me. Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about how technology plays a role in our lives. We take communication freedom for granted. We lose sight of building relationships and community with the multi-tasking we’ve become accustom to.

More and more we are reliant on 24/7 internet access. Rather than testing our own memory and knowledge we quickly “google” our question. Rather than call, or meet someone in person we text or email. I’m not so sure computers are ample supplements for human contact. They certainly make information freer (relating to Peseach) but where is the responsibility (Shavuot) to one another and to our commitment to study and cumulative knowledge? Are we losing the skills we once had with our gadgets that do everything for you? How do we maintain our own brain power? Are we damaging ourselves by becoming spaced out from spending too much time with our devices?

On Shavuot we reconnect with the torah to remind ourselves of it’s vast teachings and application to current problems in our world. Shavuot can really focus on any theme you’d like and is just the practice of spending time studying torah (as well as something about the book of Ruth? I’ll have to look into that.) We thank God for giving us this gift of knowledge, and we remind ourselves of our responsibilities to learning the teachings of Torah. I suggest that this year we try and remind ourselves of the responsibilities we still have even with the current connection freedoms we’re accustomed to.

Let us remember the importance of family and friendship and not let take a backseat to our games, and phones, and emails. We have a responsibility to maintain our lives even with the advances that help us do so. We can’t forget math just because we have calculator access. Nor can we forget how to maintain conversations without the constant status updates, and notifications from our apps.

I’m currently reading a book in which a family takes a six month hiatus from their electronics in order to bond and remember what a communal home is like. ( The Winter of Our Disconnect by: Susan Maushart) It is very eye opening to me how my relationships with people have changed due to technology. It is often a background instead of the fore-front. If a text comes in the person your with becomes third wheel. Or even a news, sports or game report. iPhones have become like coasters on a table and they barge in whenever our attention spans drift. We no longer look up when we walk outside or read books when we travel, etc. Lately when out with friends the phones make just as much of an appearance as when you're alone which breaks my heart especially when I do the same. We also assume that people must respond instantly as well, because they have the capability to do so.

I certainly didn’t grow up this way but I see it becoming more and more of a problem among younger generations. Let us remember our responsibility to one another with our full attention so that we can prioritize the freedom we have been given. With remembering our responsibility to one another we will be able to build our capacity for knowledge from one another as well.

Inspiration for the post subject of Jewish learning/ Shavuot/ Technology and how it affects our lives/ skills…

Not sure this reflection was focused enough on Torah. To be perfectly honest I got a little distracted by multitasking electronics during this post. Since Shavuot will relate Torah to the topics which are at hand for you currently I felt it was appropriate. Comments appreciated. Hag Sameach!

Finding ways to celebrate together:


College students not learning enough


in other findings….

The Tanakah is a free app download in honor of Shavuot, check it out (irony to use your electronics to further learn Torah)


1 comment:

  1. It was a good post, but a but more explanation on what Shavuot is would be helpful :).