A great pianist once said, “The pauses between the notes — ah, that is where the art resides.”
I first heard this quote when I was ten years old during my first year of sleepaway camp. This quote was written in our Shabbat prayer books, where we read it alongside traditional Shabbat prayers such as Lecha Dodi and the Ma’ariv Amidah.
Shabbats at camp were special. Dressed all in white, we would pray, sing, eat, and dance together as a community. I would come home and tell my parents about Shabbat at camp, showing them photos and trying to find the words to describe how the apple butter and challah taste and what Israeli dancing surrounded by hundreds of people feels like. My parents nodded along, enjoying the stories but never fully understanding how magical it was.
After a few summers at camp, the directors invited my parents to join the camp community for Shabbat. For the first time, instead of seeing pictures of the apple butter, they were tasting it. Instead of watching a video of the song session, they were singing along. Instead of seeing a photo of our Israeli dance party, they were participating, shuffling through the steps as I pulled them onto the dance floor. At the end of the night, my mom looked at me and said, “I get it now.”
A few years ago now, in the heart of the pandemic, my rabbi encouraged my community to each take on a new mitzvah (obligation/good deed). When my screen time was the highest it had ever been, I decided to stop using social media on Shabbat, taking a break from doom-scrolling for 25 hours each week.
Shabbats have become special again. Instead of zoning out while my dad says the kiddush (blessing over wine), I pay attention, reflecting on the week's highlights. Instead of stressing over cutting a picture-perfect slice of challah, I focus on grabbing the perfect bite of the sweet crumb topping. On Saturday afternoons, instead of scrolling through Instagram thinking about what everyone else is doing, I spend quality time with my family and friends, phones away, and being truly present in that moment. As a result, I find myself excited for Shabbat each week, almost counting down the minutes to candle lighting. It’s become a ritual; I turn off my social media apps and light candles, signifying a break in the week, a pause between the notes.
Taking one day off social media each week has made me reflect more on what I actually post throughout the week. I used to think that if it wasn’t on Instagram, it didn’t really happen. However, now that I know I can go 25 hours without social media, I try to bring this sense of presence with me into the week. It doesn’t matter to anyone else that I worked out, stood in line for a trendy bagel, or went to a concert. What matters is that I actually lived through those moments and experienced them for myself.
Like the famous pianist, and my parents after spending Shabbat at camp, I get it now. The pauses between the notes are where the art resides. Abraham Joshua Heschel says, “The meaning of the Sabbath is to celebrate time rather than space. Six days a week, we live under the tyranny of things of space; on the Sabbath, we try to become attuned to holiness in time.“
Without social media on Shabbat, I can celebrate the time I spend with myself, my family, and my friends. It’s the moments with people, not the curated Instagram moments that Shabbat is actually all about.
At The Well uplifts many approaches to Jewish practice. Our community draws on ancient Jewish wisdom, sometimes adapting longstanding practices to more deeply support the well-being of women and nonbinary people. See this article’s sources below. We believe Torah (sacred teachings) are always unfolding to help answer the needs of the present moment.
“Shabbat as a Sanctuary in Time” Shabbat as a Sanctuary in Time, My Jewish Learning