The convergence this weekend of "Shabbat Across America" and the "National Day of Unplugging" has got to be more than just a coincidence. Either way, the programs bring the promise of a sorely needed respite from our crazy busy lives, made all the crazier in recent weeks by the seismic rumblings of world events.
It's hard not to be obsessed with it all — from the brutal government crackdown in Libya to the unrest on Israel's doorstep, from the labor protests in Wisconsin to a bruising budget battle shaping up in Washington.
And then, of course, there's our daily lives — the hustle and bustle of work, parenting and navigating the minutiae of the everyday.
Since time immemorial, Shabbat has served as a welcome pause for the Jewish soul, a 24-hour opportunity to tune out the noise and tune in to our spiritual selves — a time to reflect, rejoice and regroup.
"Shabbat Across America" was created as a marketing tool to reignite the weekly holiday spark that has been lost for so many of us. The National Jewish Outreach Partnership encouraged congregations across the country to plan special programming that would draw in those who would not normally attend Shabbat services.
Now, with a 21st-century innovation, Reboot — one of the trend-setting hubs of the Jewish world — has launched its second annual "National Day of Unplugging."
This year, it has an ironic new twist: A Sabbath Manifesto app to announce to the world that you're unplugging.
It defines itself as "a creative project designed to slow down lives in an increasingly hectic world," and comes with 10 core principles "completely open for your unique interpretation." It's pretty basic stuff (www.sabbathmanifesto.org): Avoid technology, connect with loved ones, nurture your health, get outside, etc.
The group "gets" the irony "of using a high-tech app to announce a low-tech day. But really, what better way to tell your followers that you won't be tweeting on the weekend," a Reboot spokeswoman, Tanya Schevitz, wrote to a New York Times blogger.
It's kind of sad that we need a gimmick like a Sabbath Manifesto to remind us of the rejuvenating benefits of taking a regular time out. But that, indeed, is our current reality.
So if this — and other Shabbat initiatives, many of them taking root in our own community — work, we're all for it.
On this Shabbat, as we prepare to "spring forward" and change our clocks, losing an hour in exchange for longer hours of sunlight, let's take that much-needed respite.
And don't forget to hide your phone.