Unplug Challenge

Avoid commerce.

  • EL

    I really liked the idea of not speaking about work. It’s pretty powerful when you take a day to, not only, stop working, but also stop talking about work.

  • David

    What if you’re a rabbi, priest, or imman? Just saying.

  • Dan Rollman

    I would define the “work” EL refers to as “related to commerce.” I think it’s OK for rabbis, priests and immans to engage with their life pursuits on the Sabbath, but it’s not a day to ask for a raise.

  • miriyab

    It's worth not just thinking about what counts as work/commerce, but asking why we may find it so hard to let go of it for one day a week. This piece, “Saturday Without My Wallet,” might be of interest (http://birmingham.skirt.com/essays/saturday-wit…) — among its observations:
    “The very idea of not carrying a wallet frightened me. … Why did I crave this constant flow of small expenditures?”
    “Money is a tool we use to make identity; it is something we use to assert our individual tastes and self-worth. It is also a symbol of independence. For many Americans, carrying a wallet is the most fundamental act of citizenship.”
    “I do take pleasure in spending, just as I take pleasure in my work, but I don’t want either to define me totally. … . In the end—it took me several months to make the leap—I learned to go happily cashless on Shabbat. I learned to relish life within the confines of what I already owned and what I could have for free: my thoughts, my prayers, reading, singing, conversation, nature. For me, the restfulness of Shabbat comes from leaving off spending, even more than it comes from leaving off work. It is a pause that allows me to be at rest with my identity, instead of constantly seeking to define and redefine myself through a stream of mundane or adventurous purchases.
    … This is not about spending less; it’s about getting in touch with your mind, your soul and the richness of the life you already have. For one day, you can let your identity rest on what you find in your own home and what you find within yourself. And then go back to the hurly-burly world of getting and spending, mindful of who you really are, with or without the cappuccino.”

  • Marj

    Seventh-day Adventists have followed most of these 10 principles for years – health results are plain to see.
    It feels great to have a break and recharge batteries by being at one with nature and people and leaving commerce alone for a day. The benefits are outstanding. The peace is wonderful and refreshing.

  • http://presbybug.blogspot.com/ talitha

    some preachers/religious leaders etc extend their sabbath! it begins, of course, with the community at x time of y day of the week — but it can extend until 24 hours after they feel their “work” portion was completed. My mom, a pastor, always sabbaths well into Monday.

  • swabby429

    I need to work on this one. I think I'm in good company with that goal.


  • migdalorguy

    This one is truly difficult. First, as a Jewish professional (though not clergy) I often finding myself “working” on Shabbat. I've even found that poor planning on my part (or on someone else's part) have required me to engage in commerce on Shabbat in order to do my “work.” For five years, I worked as educator for a congregation whose supplemental religious school actually meets on Shabbat. The ostensible reason is that the congregation has shared sacred space with a Presbyterian church for over 40 years, and they use the school space on Sunday mornings. The reality is, many found their way to our school precisely because we held it on Shabbat and this fit in with their way of being Jewish. There were lines. I didn't discuss business that was commercial in nature on Shabbat (though I certainly did discuss matters related to the school that were not commercial in nature.) We found ways to finesse issues of money-handling (though not always successfully, and not always appreciated by the congregants, some of whom saw the barrier as artificial considering all the other things we did on Shabbat.)
    It IS a slippery slope. I did find my own Shabbat practice becoming laxer and laxer, as I continued to find excuses to do things on Shabbat. Though I sometimes tried to have Shabbat on some other day, the reality is that this rarely worked for me. This is one area that, at least for me, is greatly affected by having a community to do it with. Jews (and others who observe a weekly Sabbath) are going to find themselves at a disconnect with our modern 24/7 society. Much easier to fight the irge to give in to the 24/7 mentality with a community than to do it alone.
    That being said, as a Jewish Educator, I firmly believe that Jewish education should be available 24/7, and not 24/6.

  • DP

    Jewish education does not have to include money, just open up the talmud on sabbath. Secondly, I find it interesting that you rationalize working on the sabbath because you “I firmly believe that Jewish education should be available 24/7, and not 24/6.” This is very nice, however, God decided that the sabbath overrides any business you “feel” you should be doing, I imagine you don't think you are smarter than God. Furthermore, to use Judaism as an excuse to break judaism is completely contradictory and illogical, I urge you to reconsider.

  • Tess

    24/6 … I like that. Thanks for the new vocabulary.

  • munchkyn

    I'm a writer and a Jew. For me, the idea of avoiding commerce on the Sabbath is problematic; while writing novels is a joyous and creative relaxation for me, there is the fact that someday I want to be published, so potentially what I'm doing is commercial work. Does this mean I give up one of the only two days I have for working on MY writing, as opposed to what I do for a living? Is this a hobby, which would make it creative relaxation, or an unpaid job, which would make it commercial? Different rabbis give me different answers on this subject.

  • Sparilis

    Have you ever read “Gates of Shabbat”? I think it might help you come to a conclusion that works for you.

  • http://www.confessionsofatherapist.com Krysta Dancy

    I'm not doing this for religious reasons, more for mental health and family enrichment- so I'm not sure if my answer applies to others. For us, we sabbath on different days each week- depending on what the week requires of us. (Although almost always on the weekend). We don't avoid all commerce, we avoid shopping. No errands. No meals out.

    But we did take the little one to a local nonprofit play park. It cost money, but I felt it was in keeping with the spirit of the law (if not the letter.)


  • http://biketoworkbarb.blogspot.com/ Barb Chamberlain

    I like the ideas in the manifesto and am enjoying the discussion in the comments. The manifesto fits well with the Buddhist principles of mindfulness that I seek to practice in my life.

    The irony of having a special branded “cell phone sleeping bag” displayed for sale on this page and all the others does not escape me, however. Avoiding commerce on one day and then indulging in truly pointless consumption the other six days does not feel like a spiritual practice.

    How about a sock, if you really need to keep your cell phone out of sight in order to avoid temptation? At one point many years ago I owned two or three books on simplicity, then realized how truly silly that was.

    A “live lightly” day would cover several of the principles. If you bike or walk rather than drive you avoid the consumption of gasoline (what if your tank runs dry while you're out–can you avoid commerce then?), nurture your health, and get outdoors. You might also connect with loved ones if the family bikes or walks together.

    I found your site through the Scott Belsky post you link below and was inspired by his piece to write one on biking as downtime. As with any spiritual practice, the point is to remove yourself from the things that distract so as to focus on the things that matter.


  • Melpobre

    How do you avoid commerce in this world? I don't think so. Everyone has in one way or another transact with other agents.

  • Naturalnorm

    As photographer who shoots bar/bat mitzvahs, I guess my career designation is an oxymoron if I were to subscribe to this tenant. My rabbi once told me (he loves my images) that I’m “doing holy work.” So that’s good enough for me. I don’t usually take the shekels until after the evening party.

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