So Shavuot is over and the collective Jewish mind set eases back on the pedal, so to speak. Where I live, the migration east begins in earnest. That is, the Jersey shore! The weather is heating up, the Phillies are loosing and people scan the Times book review for the latest in beach books or start to gather info for that up-coming vacation. Maybe!!!
In Sunday June 12 N.Y.Times Styles section there is a fascinating article by Teddy Wayne titled “The End of Reflection”. The article laments the fact that the smart phone/computer age and mentality has caused, as he puts it, a diminution in reflective thought. According to one commentator Wayne quotes, we have lost the ability for contemplative thinking “for the simple reason that we have this ability to distract ourselves constantly”. The article goes on to quote stats that show the lessening of people’s tolerance for the time it takes to download something. He noted a study that says that people now expect something to take like 2 seconds for a shopper to wait for a page to download.
One of the alleged advantages of having some life experience (i.e.getting a little older) is that we have learned that time is a most precious commodity and that using it for our own edification may take precendence over surfing the net. There is a High HOliday sermon in this article, a lesson from Judaism and Jewish thought to take time to savor life. I know this is a sermon many of us have heard, and for some of us, preached. Yet, as we keep turning the pages of the calendar, the message becomes more important and very, very real. Yes, we can Google the Torah in a matter of seconds. But it still takes a lifetime to really understand it. The instant gratification concept that is a by-product of the information age, is useful as long it is understood as a tool and not an end in itself. Speed Judaism, like speed dating, may leave us satisfied for a moment, but, soon, we need more. One of the beauties of the tradition is that it takes time to understand it and life experience is a key to that understanding. So, let us all take some time to “un plug” a little this summer. Enjoy the scenery. Allow yourself to think those great thoughts, or just to enjoy the quiet aspect of thinking, of being at one with one’s self. You never know who you will meet in that journey!
Rabbi Richard F Address