Executive Orders

Friday, 8 December, 2017 - 3:12 pm

Upon the invention of the tape recorder, a lazy college student came up with the brilliant idea that instead of attending class in person one can simply place a tape recorder at their desk and listen to the class at their leisure. The idea appealed to others in the class and before long the poor instructor found himself talking to a class full of tape-recorders. His solution: He prerecorded the next lecture and at class time he simply pressed play and had his machine talk to their machines.

I was reminded of this joke last night, after watching a clip from the Chanukah party at the White House that a friend had forwarded to me. The clip, which was apparently taken by someone in the back of the room, showed the President speaking to a bunch of cell phone cameras. Virtually everyone in the room was holding up their phone and filming an event that they can get a much better video of on the official website just moments later. I’ve seen this many times before at events with politicians, celebrities or other important personalities and it always strikes me as rude and disrespectful. Further, trying to get a good picture or video robs you of the opportunity to enjoy and experience the moment. If I were the President, a thought crossed my mind, I would sign an executive order forbidding any cellphone video taking at White House events.

Earlier this week, my wife Dobi began a seven-part program for women entitled “Pause and Affect,” a course that illuminates the beauty and sanctity of the Holy Shabbat. Before the class, she shared with me some of the topics she was going to address. (An unsolicited marriage tip: Before you make a presentation of any kind, ‘talk it through’ with your spouse; it will not only enhance your presentation, but your marriage as well.)

Much research was done and plenty of data is available to prove the damage to our safety, character, personality and mental health as a result of the non-stop use of smart phones – from the tragic cases of online bullying and suicides to the alarming rates of depression and social awkwardness it brings on, to the dangers of texting while driving. Yet, despite us all knowing the data, we simply cannot unplug. As a society, we are simply addicted to our phones.

But there is one group of people in the entire world that actually takes an entire day off from using their smart phones. You guessed it, that group consists of those who religiously observe the Shabbos.

The reason is simple. Just like “a prisoner cannot free himself from the house of bondage” so too our human-self cannot rise above and overcome its’ own human flaws. It is only through an ‘executive order’ from the truly Supreme Commander in Chief that we are infused with the power to overcome our weakness and connect to something greater than us. A Mitzvah is much more than a commandment, it is an act of attachment to G-d; and when we are attached to the Infinite – there is no limit to what we can accomplish, even the seemingly impossible task of keeping our hands off our phones for 25 hours.

While many courts and societies have attempted challenging this executive order, from the ancient Greeks in the time of Chanukah to the soviet regime in our lifetime, this “sign that will forever be between Me and the children of Israel” is alive and well and will forever keep the Jewish nation strong.

I wish you a truly wonderful, serene and phone-free Shabbos.

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