In one of my Sinai Scholars classes last semester on the QC campus, I opened with the following discussion question: What was the best thought you had this week?
The students were baffled.
After a minute or two, one student offered a nice thought they had earlier in the week. Then another. After some more awkward moments, I inquired, “Is this a strange thing to talk about?”
“Yes!” was the unanimous response.
“Because we often don’t give our thoughts the time of day,” said Nava of Teaneck, NJ.
We went on to discuss how we are often so engrossed in many different activities and tasks, that we hardly have time to think.
When I was in high school, my English teacher was Mrs. Charlotte Rosenwald. Although the years have faded my memories, if I recall correctly, she would discourage picture-taking, saying that it would lead you to miss the moment.
And that was before digital cameras made everyone into an instant photographer, freed from the shackles of a 24 or 36-exposure roll of film. Nowadays, you can shoot as many pictures as you want, limited only by the amount of storage on your tiny memory card (which is hardly a limitation with the rapid growth of flash memory cards).
As we, on the whole, move past conventional digital cameras, nearly everyone I know has a camera on their phone. That means we always have our cameras with us, and are always snapping photos. And then, all it takes is one ephemeral “click” to share it with your social network.
Missing the moment? In some sense, I think, taking photos becomes the moment.
I’m not sure if that’s entirely bad, but one thing is for certain: I need to take time for myself, time to step back and stop viewing life through a lens — be it a camera lens, the lens of a particular author, the viewfinder of a certain artist etc. — and think. Just think.
That’s one aspect of what Shabbat gives us: Thought.
The Torah recounts that G-d created the world by means of speech, as in the verse, “And G-d said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.” Speech is all about being actively involved in the world around you. Speech is about relating to another.
On Shabbat, G-d, so to speak, rests. He stops “speaking,” and asks us to do the same thing. Shabbat is a time that we don’t try to conquer the world around us, and we shift gears to our thoughts. We focus and refocus on the important things in life — but not using someone else’s lens.
On Shabbat, I step back from my day-to-day life of cell phones, email, driving a car etc. This helps me regain focus on what’s really important in life and get to the core of who I am.
Instead of looking at life through someone else’s focus, as I often do, I try to look at it through my own lens. This enables me to jump back into the next week with newly-found direction and purpose.