what I like about the rock badgers is that they
are a community, as differentiated from a herd. Everyone knows
what he or she is able to do, or to contribute to the group

First, let me make it plain and clear that what I’m about to share with you is not meant as a recommendation. It is not the only way, and it is not better than any other way. But this is the popular way of seeing the subject in Jerusalem, and it’s the way I was raised and educated.

we don’t see the bird, but we know her by her tracks

When I was young, before television came to our country, I enjoyed going to the movies. Before watching the actual movie we got to see the news of the day (or week) as presented on film, in black and white and in Hebrew. After that, there would be advertisements. These too would be in Hebrew, but they weren’t presented on movie films. We would watch a series of slides projected on the big screen, some of them in black and white and some in color, and a narrator would let us know the advantages of the different products. It wasn’t all that interesting, and we’d seen most of the advertisements before. But it was the way things were done, and we waited patiently for the slide show to end. In those days we didn’t have commercial advertising on the radio. Israel was a socialist country, and though you could see advertisements on posters or in the newspaper, it was something of a novelty, and we learned what was for sale.

one of my favorite streets in our neighborhood

Since then, advertisement has become intrusive. First in radio and television, with little taste or sensitivity, and now on the net, on certain popular sites, or when I want to read the news. There is a certain news platform that I visit often. It has taken the place of reading the daily newspaper for me. But though I got the app that blocks pop-ups, this online newspaper which sports advertisement between blocks of text, also has banners on the top, and a few snakes climbing up from the bottom, so that it’s quite a bit of work just to read a page.

everyone has his own point of view

Of course, there are tricks we develop to protect ourselves against the onslaught. I’ve learned to keep the sound on mute till I really want to hear something. Just so I won’t have to suffer the unexpected shriek in my ear. But in this age, when most people seem to be worried about sexual harassment, I have found that what bothers me the most is noise. And when checking to see if there was any literature on the subject, I was startled and dismayed to discover ‘ego depletion’, ‘Decision Fatigue’ and ‘negative feedback loop’ which led me to the book by John Tierney and Roy Baumeister: “Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength”. It’s a book about self-control, and one of the first things I learned from them was that if you force students to choose between watching Debra Winger in “Terms of Endearment” or each getting his own bag of Doritos, the students will probably be so ego depleted that they won’t be able to study again until the following week. It seems that making a lot of decisions wears out the mind. My reward for sticking with the search was the discovery of a fascinating writer on technology and the future, Prof. Tim Wu who teaches at Columbia Law School, and is famous for ‘net neutrality’, a concept which he is said to have originated.

Nechama at home

Tim Wu recalls a point made by the economist Herbert Simon who said in 1971 that the wealth of information causes the scarcity of whatever it is that information consumes. He pointed out that what information consumes is the attention of its recipients. A wealth of information then, means a poverty of attention. This explains why those poor children, forced to learn reading and writing in school plus history, adding and subtracting, after a night in which they watched wholesale killing and romance on TV… maybe even so-called reality… while communicating with their peer group on facebook, tweeter, and telegram develop ADHD. According to Wu, there are engineers at work developing apps that are meant to squeeze more and more attention out of young human beings, creating an addiction to media.

One of the names of god in our language is ‘the place’
this is to remind us that he is everywhere,
and exists at the very place we’re standing.
this picture sort of spells it out

Now, some three and a half thousand years ago… even before the invention of Ritalin, there was a man named Moses who started conversing with god, and received a divine gift. Now I know that there are a lot of reservations these days about the existence of god, so maybe we should describe this ancient belief in more contemporary terms. We could call him nature, or the universe… or the entirety of all existence. The idea was to stop all incidental activity for one day out of seven, and instead of that, to celebrate life itself. You see, sometime in childhood, every human being discovers that he or she is not going to live forever; that we are born and eventually we’ll die. This is a traumatic piece of news. But after that we learn that if we’re busy doing things… running around, playing games of tension and suspense, or stimulating ourselves with the help of hormonal discharges… we can forget the traumatic knowledge and enjoy the excitement. Now this gift of the one day in seven is meant to give us back our perspective; to remind us that we are part of nature. For one day, there is no work. But work is a concept too. It doesn’t just mean your job. Our sages delineated work according to the activities in the holy temple. So we refrain from lighting a candle or turning on an electric switch… or even listening to instrumental music. Or getting into a car. There are people who say, ‘Back in those days you had to get on a donkey, and he didn’t have GPS, so it was a lot harder then. But that’s not the point at all. You can read, you can eat (and we generally prepare the very best foods for this day), you can walk and you can sing. Actually, there are a lot of things that you can do. But this one day has a character all its own. The Sabbath is different from all other days. We call it a holy day. In Hebrew, the word holy means different. The root is found in a word for negative difference too. But usually holiness is used for the positive difference.

here’s to that which you can see
but you just can’t touch

And now we come to the very essence of what I wanted to tell you. The sanctification of this day; how it becomes holy. Sanctity is not automatic. The day does not demand its own respect. It is only we, each individual Jew who sanctifies it. First we light two candles, side by side, to mark the day. And then, at the beginning of the evening meal (because every day in our calendar starts with the eve and not the morning, nor midnight… but with the setting sun), we raise a goblet of wine, and bless the holy day. It doesn’t have to be wine. One can choose the alternative for any reason, and bless the day with bread. It’s either bread or wine. And most important, that the individual offers his devotion in order to make the object holy. Holiness is not imposed. It’s by choice. In a marriage between a man and a woman, we see a very similar process. The man says to the woman, ‘behold, you are holy to me’. Saying that alone, in front of two witnesses is enough to make a marriage. It is like love. The love is in its offering, and not in its acceptance, though that is important too.


65 responses to “sanctity

  1. Philosophical touches under the photographs. And they are beautiful, cats my favorite. And I loved the street too. Wonderful explanation about sanctity, I think. Thank you dear Shimon, anything on this earth/human life is not same anymore as ours memories… Of course we changed too, but our body changed, our heart, and mind… The essence of our souls, thoughts, I don’t think that changed. But we all see, mentality on this planet changed…. Have a nice day and weekend dear Shimon, Blessing and Happiness, Thank you, Love, nia

    • Yes Nia, it seems to me that we only appreciate the weight and importance of change as we grow older. When we are young, everything is new for us. We have to learn constantly in order to function in this world. But then, after we’ve mastered a few things, and we’ve gained a sense of security… and have possessions, we begin to desire stability. In a way, we want things to stay the way they are. And it is then that we discover that almost everything changes, whether we want or don’t want. As a young man, I desired change. There were so many things about the world that I thought could be improved. Now I see things differently. I realize that the old ways had both good and bad about them… Wishing you too a very good weekend, with love

  2. Hi Shimon! Happy to see you posting. I enjoyed it very much. Gave me things to think about. I’m embarrassed, that going thru 4 yrs of medical school with half of my class of 100 were Jewish, I should know your religion better. Maybe it will happen thru you. I am totally ignorant of your rock badgers. There seemed to be a number of them which made me wonder if was all over Israel like that. Growing up in Penna. USA, my Dad taught how to track, so I enjoyed your pigeon tracks. Very close to our grouse tracks. I like the static photo of the vase and flower. With the reflected light on the ceiling.I wonder how old Nechama is., and finally, I wonder how you were able to cone down and focus down to have come up with those books. You already know my lack of “outside” reading.
    Be well, be sane, be blessed.

    • You have no reason to be embarrassed about not having read certain books, or learned certain things. After all, you studied a very demanding profession, and when you were working as a doctor, I am sure that you were learning new things all the time. I was something of what was once called a professional student. But even so, I learned very early that you can’t taste all the things that look good, or enjoy all of the thrills in life, etc. There is so much more in this world than one person is able to experience, that the best we can hope for, is to choose wisely that which will help us, what fits us, or what we can really enjoy. In the act of choosing, we are also rejecting a whole lot of things. But there is really nothing wrong with that. It’s part of life. Yes, there are rock badgers over most of Israel, but they are very shy of people, and even more so of dogs, so some people here don’t know they exist. Nechama is 12½ years old. My best to you, my friend.

  3. “the Sabbath is entirely independent of the month and unrelated to the moon. Its date is not determined by any event in nature, such as the new moon, but by the act of creation. Thus the essence of the Sabbath is completely detached from the world of space. 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. It is a day on which we are called upon to share in what is eternal in time, to turn from the results of creation to the mystery of creation; from the world of creation to the creation of the world.”
    ― Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Sabbath

  4. What a rich post, so full of wise observation. I’m agreeing with every word even though I practise no religion. The need for reflection, and quietness, a rest from too much loud distraction. That the practise of respectful mindfulness, the wholeheartedness we bring to the grateful acknowledgement of our limited existence can be a sacred act. I am also fascinated by the academic studies you mention. So we truly do suffer from too much information. I’ve often thought it an interesting paradox that the more information we have, the weaker our powers of discretion; we thus often appear to becoming more stupid, rather than wiser.

    • Yes, I think we all know that too much of a good thing can be difficult. In the case of food, we usually get quick feedback. But in most areas of human interest, it is advisable to study the area of our interest before going to extremes. Athletes learn how to develop their muscles without becoming muscle bound or putting too much stress on their hearts. Singers learn how to project their voices without damaging the vocal cords. This is also true in the use of the mind. Since most people used their minds only minimally until the digital revolution, a lot of people encountered unfamiliar challenges when they started using the personal computer. People who work with their minds don’t usually work until they drop. They pace themselves. They are usually quite careful about getting enough rest, eating in moderation, and avoiding ‘over stimulation’. I have mentioned some of these issues in the past in other contexts, but I’m considering writing more on the subject. In the context of internet and social media, there has been some very interesting research on decision making. It turns out that constantly making decisions can be very debilitating. Thanks very much for your comment, Tish. You’ve given me some important subjects to write about (soon, I hope).

  5. I am so moved by the invitation to see God as “the place.” Holy and healing have the same root, a bit of etymology I also love.

    My cats and dogs and I sit in a circle every morning and I sing a made-up song (“Blessings on Our Day!”), and hand out treats…not quite bread or wine, but our thing, and 4-legged compliant. 🙂 We call it Morning Party, and it’s our way of consecrating the day.

    These photos are so spare and pure, Shimon. Thank you for the effort and art; your words always linger with me and keep feeding my spirit, and it’s always a joy to see Nechama.

    • I loved the description of your sanctification of the day together with your four legged friends. What a nice way to start the day, Kitty. Regarding the word holy, I can definitely see it going together with health. In my reading, I had the impression that it was in some way connected to the word ‘whole’ though the word may have been ‘borrowed’ from other languages It has a similar sound to the German word for the same thing. Thank you so much for your comment. Wishing you good days ahead, together with your loved ones.

  6. I’ve grown up honoring the Sabbath, but I’ve never looked at it quite this way. My Sabbath will be different, better, from now on. Another new perspective for me: “The love is in its offering, and not in its acceptance, though that is important too.” Thank you, Shimonz, for blessing my life with your point of view.

    • When I first started writing this blog, I chose to write in English because I had the impression that people abroad really didn’t understand what Israel was… that there were far too many prejudices and misconceptions… and stereotypes associated with us. I don’t know if I’ve had any success at that. If anything, I’ve learned just how hard it is to describe a culture to those who are unfamiliar with it. So it’s very heartwarming to hear that what I have to say about the Sabbath is relevant to someone who’s grown up with the Jewish Sabbath as a part of their life. Thank you very much for your comment, Judy, and I wish you and your loved ones a very sweet and joyous shabbes.

  7. I grew up godless, then in order to escape my families beliefs as in … marrying mr ugly age 16 and having babies age 17, I lived in a monastery for 9 years in a seemingly godly environment until I was ready to marry and have my much loved children with Mr Awesome … smiles … now I’m godless again … godless but not thankless … I love you forever, Shimon … and my cat Theo sends many purrs to your Nechama … Always, cat.

    • I grew up in a very religious and supportive community, but always aware that we were just a small tribe in the midst of many other cultured and colorful peoples. As a young man I traveled and got to know other cultures and beliefs. I guess I wanted to know if there was something in common to all human efforts and aspirations, and whether the harsh rules I had been taught were worth the trouble they demanded. In my travels, I visited a number of monasteries and found myself very drawn to the life style I found there. Now old, I still live with the people among which I was born and raised, and try to live according to the values of my faith, But I still have my doubts, and they will probably accompany me all the way to my grave. Along with the faith and the doubts though, I have learned to appreciate the wonder of it all; the wonder of life, and the wonder of this world. And a true gratefulness that I had the privilege to be a part of it for a while. Thank you for your company here, cat. I send my love and a long purr to you and Theo.

      • “But I still have my doubts, and they will probably accompany me all the way to my grave. ”

        I will love you forever, friend Shimon … many tears and many purrs forever … Love, cat.

  8. Sanctifying difference is an interesting concept. It is as well that the particular difference of the holy day is specified, otherwise it could be subsumed into the onslaught of the over-stimulated world of differences that you have excellently described.

    The importance of offering love, not its acceptance, is in essence quite a high risk strategy. Interpretations of this, as with the other thoughts you raise, will vary according to perception, personality, insight, understanding, agreement and need.

    This is a thought provoking post.

    Great to see Nechama deep in her own feline thoughts.

    The photos are lovely.

    • I have to disagree with you, Menhir, about what you call ‘a high risk strategy’. If in fact it is a strategy, then it is a means to an objective, and we must ask ourselves what is really our objective in this life. If we speak of love, then the acceptance of love is passive. It is not really in our hands. Whereas the offering of love is at our own initiative, and we can choose what of ourselves to devote to our love. It seems to me too, that much folk wisdom supports the position that it is better to give than to receive. On the most personal level, I believe that if I had the choice of loving someone who did not feel the same way about me, or being loved by someone without being able to return that love with equal passion, I would prefer the first choice. At the same time, I’m aware that the ideal situation is when love is reciprocal… and also aware that most often we don’t reach our ideals. see:
      Thank you very much for your comment.

  9. You shall find God in your heart/soul… any day of the week, but is better if you do it every single day!
    time is still changing and, as many times discussed, doesn’t seem to get any better. To take time for prayers, to look at the beauty around us and to be thankful, to enable us to breathe in the Enlighted Energy which give us the strength to perseverate… is important to have a Sabbath (actually depending on the several religious’ believe, the day changes).
    (what did happen to the tail of the lovely ruby cat?)
    Hugs 🙂 claudine

    • Dear Claudine, your comment about loving god every day of the week reminded me of a humorous story I once heard about the father of modern Israel, David Ben Gurion. It seems that the head of the labor unions once tried to convince him to adopt a five day work week. At the time, many European countries and in the US they already had the five day week, followed by a two day weekend, while here we still had a six day week, with only Saturday as a day of rest. When the labor leader approached him, Ben Gurion was busy, but paused and asked him what he wanted. “What I want,” said the labor leader, “is a five day work week”. Ben Gurion looked at him with surprise written on his face. “Wouldn’t it be a better idea,” he said, “if we started with just one day, and then after a while, we could add another… who knows, maybe eventually we could reach all of five days”. As for the ruby cat, aside from his aristocratic personality, he’s aroused some jealousy and resentment at times among the neighborhood cats, and was ambushed while taking part in a political discussion.

      • Good morning dear Shimon! I always love your fresh sense of humor…
        There are many such cats (aristocratic attitude), actually, most felines have it when you look at their beauty and agility 🙂
        Political discussions are always “ambushes” of many arts and colors. I honestly have enough of it, since never ever are done looking with love towards people, nature or animals. Man is selfish and will soon enough destroy all God’s (or Supreme Creator’s) deeds. Each day I meditate/pray that something will change, and I will do that until my presence on earth will come to an end. Then, I’m quite sure, I shall come back and start everything all over again, and again, and again.
        Have a blissful week. 🙂 c

  10. Thank you, Shimon. Ego depletion. YES. Sanctity. Perfect reminder. Photos. Beautifully calming. Blessings. To you and Nechama.

    • Thank you for your blessings, Myra. There were a few subjects that were included in the broth here, and we could discuss them separately as well. When I take a walk I never know where I’ll get. And in writing this post, I did know where I wanted to go, but didn’t realize I was going the long way till I was there. My thanks, and those of Nechama too. She’s listening to Glenn Gould playing piano as I type, and seems to be enjoying the evening.

  11. Thank you Shimon for this beautiful post. Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom. I will think of you this week as I light my candles.

  12. Shabbat Shalom, Simon. The purity of a day that is hallowed and celebrated for being such, one that is lovingly given l’dor va dor…
    We make it holy – and perhaps it is because of this special day, we can hold onto the tenuous sanity which information overload jeopardizes. Mimi

    • So pleased, Mimi, that you mentioned this concept of ‘from generation to generation’. This has kept us alive as a people and a culture, and allowed us to truly understand the wisdom of our forefathers (and mothers). I am a great believer in intuition, and I think I’ve written about that in the past, but I plan to write about it again. There is a lot of knowledge that we learn in a logical or scientific manner; well categorized and organized, but there is also the intuition which a sense of awareness which we draw from all we know in a subconscious manner, And it often includes more than proven facts. Speaking only for myself and the culture I’ve been a part of all my life, the process of passing on that awareness of cultural verities works because each generation applies it and translates it to what is going on and that which is important in the living generation. Thanks very much and my best wishes to you from a stormy winter Jerusalem.

  13. Dear Shimon, so good to read your thoughts. Peace and silence, as within so without. Hugs for you. Xx

  14. What a wonderful post, I did enjoy it. How well you describe this Holy day, your points are deep yet written with humour, as always.
    I think we all need to have such a day, where we can be still, gather our thoughts, appreciate nature and all our blessings, for we all have some. Stepping away from technology in all it’s forms and commercialism, for a day a week, will certainly help keep us sane, too! Sunday was similar here when I was younger, shops closed and people eat together and relaxed and didn’t work, that has long gone, now it seems that life will end if the shops close for a day.
    I did enjoy the pictures, how I wish I could see those rock badgers up close, one day I will, I hope! Nechama has such dignity, always good to see her. The ginger cat looks like it’s been in the wars, it has a strange posture and a damaged tail, despite this it looks happy enough. xxx

    • It brings me happiness, to hear you enjoyed the post, my dear Dina. I’m not against progress, nor against technology. Even when I was going to school, long before the digital revolution, it was commonly acknowledged that the most characteristic quality of human beings was the use of tools. And what is this digital age if not a further development of our tool making? But just as the industrial revolution brought changes in life style that proved to be injurious to the life styles of most people, I fear that our enthusiasm regarding the latest technologies of communications are about to enslave us. Perhaps some of what we learned in past generations could help us in dealing with these new challenges without any disrespect to the wonder of our progress. We have to remember that it’s not just the technology, but the use of that technology in the service of those who are driven by a passion for wealth. Now that we have seen such an awakening to the rights of women, and a protest against sexual abuse, maybe we’ll see some sort of attention to the unlimited greediness of the rich. Who knows… Always so good to hear from you, xxx

  15. A rich post, Shimon, woven of many threads. My first thought was, “That to which we give our attention, we elevate. If our attention is so fragmented that we’re unable to give it fully to any text, or task, or person, we’ll go through life mired in the mediocre and banal.”

    It’s been quite interesting to follow the sudden surge of soul-searching and pronouncements from those who helped develop our social media: particularly Facebook and Twitter. I’m sure you’re aware of their comments, but this article provides a good summation. It seems ironic to me that the same groups who advocate an end to advertising for unhealthy food products are willing to push for more and more engagement with these sites: most of which provide little or no nutrition for the mind. Beyond that, Facebook memes and Twitter “re-tweets” militate against any original thought, even while they facilitate the dissemination of false information.

    Your lovely meditation on the Sabbath brought to mind Psalm 46: “Be still, and know that I am God.” Obviously, both silence and rest are implied, and we have too little of each in our world. But, as you say, we have a choice. We can turn off the television, ignore social media, reject the blandishments of advertisers, and simply live.

    Finally, this interesting little note. When I was a child attending summer camp, a favorite activity was singing. One of the songs we learned was a round called “Shalom.” Our counselors explained its relationship to the greeting and Sabbath hymn, “Shalom Aleichem.” And now here they both are again, being remembered sixty years later.

    • I was unaware of the recent concern regarding facebook when I first started writing the post. I am not a member of facebook or the other social medias, and so I became concerned just watching the behavior of people around me, and looked to the more academic sources to find out what others thought of the use of these new technologies. What I learned just added to my worry. Thank you very much for the link to the Verge article. That broadened my understanding of what is going on in the states these days. As I mentioned in my reply above to Dina, I am not against progress or against technology. I celebrate the continued development of human pursuits. But sometimes there is a childish obsession with a new toy that leads us to forget other treasures. And in this case, there is also the manipulations of those who are willing to manipulate others for the sake of their own unlimited enrichment. Just this morning I heard of new results of a local research team that indicates that diet drinks and foods may be more dangerous than the sugar they were intended to replace. Self control can’t be learned just for the sake of improving our profile. Everything has to be in proportion. We find happiness in a certain balance. I’m sure you too have learned some of the many techniques for regaining or maintaining internal balance. Thank you so much for your input, Linda, and the interesting links. I’m enriched by your suggestions and writings. And I must add that I too sing ‘shalom aleichem’ almost every Friday night, heartfelt.

  16. Enjoyed your post. But commercialism has got into everything. You can create your own personal sabbath in your mind. Yes, turn off the sound.

    • Yes, I agree with you Peter. There are a lot of advantages to a free market. But even a good thing can turn into agony if we lose our sense of perspective. Will a glass of wine lift our spirits and provide inspiration, or will we descend into drunkenness? It is up to us. Greediness and manipulation are a public threat. Always good to see you.

  17. It’s interesting to learn that every calendar day starts with the setting sun, that it’s not the day but how each person celebrates it that counts. When you say that love is in the offering, I think also of children when – accepted or not, returned or not, love is unconditional.
    I looked up Nechama on the Internet (a great tool, used in moderation). Not surprised that it means comfort. Was surprised though to find that there is also a volunteer organisation called Nechama that provides “clean-up and recovery assistance to homes and businesses affected by natural disaster. Guided by the Jewish values of Tikun Olam, repairing the world, performing good acts, and helping the stranger, Nechama offers a helping hand in the spirit of goodwill and creating mutual respect and understanding among people.” Maybe not so surprised.
    Just a ps, Shimon, when you suggest that rock badgers are “a community, as differentiated from a herd” I think of social media who are a herd, as differentiated from a community, which is why I think of them as anti-social media.

    • Hi Mary. You’ve brought up a subject that I’ve encountered a number of times, and continue to learn about, this concept of unconditional love. Though it enjoys relative popularity right now, it is complicated and comes in a package including paradoxes. I think it’s almost as difficult to deal with as religion. But I would agree with you that the closest a common person comes to this ideal is in the case of small children. And this is because our connection to our children is instinctual, and most of us see our children as an extension of themselves, and so their love for their children is connected to their desire to remain alive. But since children too have become aware of the concept in our permissive society there’s the possibility of exploitation. Nechama adopted me in 2005 when there were some very unhappy days in my country, and that’s why I gave her that name. Since then, she has more than justified her name. Thank you for the thoughts and the connections.

      • Perhaps I’m generalising, Shimon. If you haven’t yet heard of it, thirteen children in the US have been shockingly abused by their parents. Not everyone deserves to be a parent. It shouldn’t be a right but a privilege. Do I see my children as an extension of myself? How can I not? I had nine months to bond with and love each one before we even met. We have a strong, unbreakable bond, but not because I see myself living on in them. Perhaps I should just speak for myself.

        • Yes Mary, I agree with you completely on the feelings side. I too see some of myself in my children (and other members of family… their mother of course, and even uncles and aunts, grandparents and great grandparents at times)… but… I’m not sure what you mean when you say that not everyone deserves to be a parent. Some might be crazy and others might be evil. Even so, I don’t believe that the state should get involved in deciding who should be a parent and who should not. Here in Israel, there is a small group of fanatics who want to add that to the power of the state… that the state would give licenses to have children (after proper education). I don’t want the state to have too much power. This seems to me a god given right; a biological right. If someone abuses that right, then we can take action, of course. But only then. But there are crazies out there. I heard about those parents of the 13 children, and I can tell you… it’s a story I just can’t understand.

          • I don’t want to litter your lovely post with my comments, Shimon, especially as they are far from your original intent. Can I say that I haven’t thought about the issue except in an abstract sort of way. It’s just a personal belief that not everyone should have children. I’m not sure whether to be horrified that people are lobbying for licenses or laugh. Don’t worry about responding, I want you to save your strength for your posts. A smiley emoticon will do.

            • Oh, you’re much too modest, Mary. The great advantage of the blog over the newspaper or journal, is that we are able to exchange ideas and opinions in this media, and I enjoy hearing the thoughts of others. I too am often upset by what I read in the news. And in our corner of the world we sometimes are witness to behavior (especially in regard to children) that is near impossible to grasp. My reaction to your comment was in part a reaction to a member of parliament here (a woman) who suggested that having children should be licensed. I would have laughed were it not for some of the strange inhumane practices that I have seen in my life, adopted by governments ‘for the good of the people’. It’s made me a skeptic. Since one of my daughters began operating a kindergarten according to the principles of Montessori, I have had many thoughts about what society could do to improve the lives of children. But it seems to me that ultimately, their luck depends on the parents who introduce them to this world; mercy on their souls. Thank you for your comment. I do enjoy hearing from you.

  18. Shimon, this is a very poignant, and appropriate post, especially as I spent a week mulling over how to respond to your post of last week (and e-mail regarding the post previous to that which you pulled). Time does get away, especially when distracted by so many inputs.

    Your experiences with media over the decades reminded me of my studies and writings on the media shaping our public opinions in the early decades of the twentieth century, leading to horrible treatment of citizens here during the Second World War. I watch contemporary events now, pulling back as a dispassionate observer, recognizing too many similarities, only able to shake my head.

    Giving the technology a break is a great thing. Yet it is still a fascinating tool when used properly. Just tonight, Goddess and I, following a discussion based on her readings, spent a fair bit of time exploring the similarities and differences between the Old Testament and the Tanakh. Your sage counsel, as well as some lovely Scotch, would do nicely this evening. Our best to you.

    • I agree with you, Bill, about the technology. I think it’s certainly worth celebration. And more, it seems to me still just at the beginning. The digital era will take us, I believe, ever further than we progressed with the aid of electricity. I won’t live to see it, but I imagine it will completely change human life as we have known it. And we will probably discuss the possibility much more in the near future. In contrast, there is nothing new about the manipulation of the masses or the many faces of greed. And it to be is expected that some knaves will try to use any new invention to their advantage. Whatever is truly new has to be learned and understood. I remember when advances in farming almost crippled half the world, and we all have seen that fast food wasn’t the miracle from heaven that it first seemed. I’m grateful to be alive in this period. I believe I’m seeing the dawn of a new age for man. But we have to be level headed about how to take advantage of these new tools. My best regards to the Goddess.

  19. Good morning Shimon….I am here to try again.
    I so enjoyed this post. Through my teaching both young and more mature adults over the years, I have noticed a steady decline in the ability to focus.. Since the techno bombardment and especially since the i phone came into play, this lack of focus has escalated to the point of being frightening. This particularly concerns me with young children whose minds are being moulded – As they grow they are like rudderless boats being buffeted around in a wild ocean of corporate poison – i.e. advertising. There is no break in their lives, except presumably when they are at their desks in school……however, it’s been shown that even then many are focused on the content of their phone rather than the lesson at hand. This is particularly prevalent in children where there is no guidance from home….especially in homes where the parents are hooked on their techno gadgets. I do think everyone, regardless of faith, should enjoy one day off a week… day to breath and be.
    When I was growing up in England, Sunday was sacrosanct – – all shops were closed and people relaxed at home or went for long walks, or as you say, read a book…….it is only as I grow older that I realise how precious that time was. Now of course, everything is open…..
    I will definitely order the book ‘Willpower – Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength.

    Thank you for the beautiful kitty kat pictures. Of course I love the one of Nechama, and the little ginger cat in sun spot.

    I will look for reblog button either later today or tomorrow, as am off now for a long walk along the tow path of River Thames with a very good friend.

    Have a beautiful day my friend. Janet x

    • When I first saw people sitting with their mates but completely absorbed by their phones, I had a feeling that something was wrong. But as you say, Janet, the more I got to know the phenomenon, the more I realized it was poison. And recently I have come across some articles that show and offer witnesses to the fact that there are people employed today by big companies in order to build computer programs, games and communication application that are purposely intended to affect the minds of the users. You know, I don’t look for conspiracies, But there have been some vile frauds in the past… and sometimes it’s hard to draw the line between business and deception. I don’t know if you need that book on Willpower, Janet. I think you already know most of the stuff there. Thanks very much for your comment. xxx

  20. Delighted to see the lovely cats. Enjoyed reading this post. In today’s changing world, describing this ancient belief in more contemporary terms is clever. I, too, like the last sentence. Beautifully expressed. Thank you, Mr. Shimon.

    • Glad to hear that you enjoyed the cats. I have had many fine friendships with cats through the years, and I’ve learned much from them. I’ve always been drawn and amazed by the communication that is possible between humans and animals, and between different species of animals. Thank you so much Amy, for coming by.

  21. Like many here, I was particularly struck by the last sentence. But I found the whole post, including the beautiful pictures, very impressive. It brought up so many thoughts and reflections.
    First of all, I was reminded of my three nieces, so often seated side by side on the sofa – texting EACH OTHER! So much has technology, persistent, insidious, divisive – taken hold of our lives.
    Yet the dominant thought that I take away from it is – it is now Tuesday evening. Three days to go till the start of Shabbat.
    I can’t wait…yet know I will appreciate it even more, for having had to do so.

    • I like the words you used, Shimona, persistent, insidious, divisive. That really describes my impression of what has been going on since the social media became more than a fad; it seems like a life style. And it is very touching to me that a fellow citizen of Jerusalem reads my words, and finds interest in what I have to say. Thanks you very much for your comment. My best wishes for a very sweet shabbes. May we only hear good news on motzei Shabbat.

  22. So very wonderful that you, dear Shimon, are still with us. There is always something that is telling us something else. Thank you for being you.

    • And thank you for being you, my dear Charlotte. It is wonderful being in touch with you again, and wonderful hearing from you. I still wonder at the existence of this ‘virtual world’. I can hardly believe it’s happening. By the way, I just recently reread a story by E. M. Forster, ‘the machine stops’ and remembered how it had fired my imagination some 60 years ago. I had forgotten that it was one of his stories, but I remember thinking then… when I first read it, that it was very possible… and after all these years, I feel we’ve finally caught up with his imagination. Not worried about his prediction of the end though. Don’t think it’s that close. But I just thought that maybe you had read the story too. Best wishes; I think of you often.

  23. You have a way of drawing back, looking at life, circling around, then getting to the heart of the matter, unerringly. And eloquently. For me, it is nice to be reminded of the sanctity of the sabbath, that there could be such a thing in this day and age. The closest I came was when I lived in a Buddhist community for about five years, and we’d mark certain times in a similar way. Sometimes a rabbi (reform!) stayed with us, and he would blow the shofar and help us understand the ideas behind Yom Kippur, for example. But that was long ago, and where I live now, it’s very hard to find practices like those, which is why I enjoy being reminded. And as always, you accompany the text with images that allude rather than point directly, another talent of yours! Thank you, Shimon, and have a wonderful week.

    • Thank you very much for your comment, Lynn. It is very interesting to me that you mention being exposed to Buddhism and Reformed Judaism. Very interesting because when I was young, more than fifty years ago, I too approached both of those religions, trying to understand and compare them that in which I’d been brought up. What attracted me most in the various Buddhist traditions, was Zen Buddhism, and I think I’m still influenced after all these years. There are times when I look back and say, Oh that was a different incarnation… and other times when I feel that all I went through and discovered along the way is part of what I am now. It is a great pleasure sharing with you.

  24. Zen has a wonderful way of fitting with other traditions rather than fighting with them, so I’m not surprised that you found something of interest there. I hope you’re having a good week, Shimon!

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