“Get off the Internet, it’s Shabbat!”

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Last Friday night, my sister was at a friend’s house for dinner. They had a filling Shabbat meal, sat around watching movies, and my sister hopped on the hosts’ computer. She drifted from email into surfing, and then from surfing to Facebook, and then, on Facebook, she started watching this week’s G-dcast.

“What are you doing?” her friend scolded her. “How could you go on the computer and watch Jewish stuff during Shabbat?”

And my sister, being the most inoffensive, courteous, and easily-manipulated person in the universe, hopped off that page.

She told me all of this last night — a kind of by-the-way segue, the kind that always comes up when my book or MJL or some other random project I’m involved with comes up in her or my parents’ normal life. It’s kind of sweet, a way of saying “look! you’re relevant!” that I, for one, always appreciate. It’s like when I Googled for dreidel and saw that we were #3 on the internet — our words really do intersect with the lives of other people in the universe.

Anyway, upon hearing it, I was horrified. “Why didn’t you finish watching?” I asked my sister.

She, though, thought that I would’ve been horrified. We didn’t grow up observant, and this whole no-electricity-on-Shabbat thing is new to me. “Aren’t you mad that I was using the internet on Shabbos?” she asked. “And, especially, a Torah website?”

“But, geez,” I told her, “if you’re going to use a computer on Shabbos, you might as well use it for Torah.”

So this week’s G-dcast is by Dara Horn, and it tells the story of Jacob wrestling with a shadowy stranger. It’s a pretty huge hidush, or new insight, into the Torah, and Ms. Horn’s idea is pretty radically different than any of the big Torah commentators. But I think that the action of retelling the stories of the Torah — or, if you will, covering them — is one of the most important things we can do to understand, honor, and ultimately form a connection with them.

Posted on December 11, 2008

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