Readers Respond: “Shabbat Makes Me Depressed!”

After reading our article that spoke about people who claim that they keep Shabbat but use a telephone and computer on Shabbat, people with real pain wrote: “Do you want me to get depressed? I'm alone in the house all Shabbat!” Or: “The laws of keeping Sabbath are so difficult, can't we make it a bit easier?” Or: “The movie playing in the background is what keeps me sane.”
In other words, we are no longer talking about people who claim they enjoy desecrating the Shabbat; rather we are talking about those who claim to be helpless. Without using the wonders of technology on Shabbat they will surely go crazy.
Let us first begin by saying that we don't render halachic decisions about what to do to when someone is truly suffering emotionally or mentally where keeping Shabbat properly will endanger his life. People in such situations should consult with a qualified rabbi. His ruling will be based on the principle that saving a life overrides Shabbat. But let us assume that this mentally ill group is a real small minority, if it at all exists. Let's be frank about it; readers who wrote us about needing a movie or phone for their mental health didn't mean they would jump out of the window without them. Rather that without them Shabbat would be sad, lonely and miserable. Does G-d want me to be sad??
Of course not!! “I have a good present in my hidden treasure house,” G-d said when he gave us the Sabbath. Is a precious gift from G-d something that will endanger your mental health? You'll admit it's an absurd idea. So how would you explain their real feelings? Well, perhaps the person who received the gift did not thoroughly study the instructions on how to use it…
We will try to identify the main reasons people may fear keeping Shabbat properly and offer them solutions.

Reason one: “It's very hard to get used to fully keeping Shabbat!”

Sometimes the power of habit can make it very difficult for us to totally keep Shabbat in all its details. Even if we call ourselves observant but think the idea that texting on Shabbat is fine, it will be very difficult for us to stop. Our heart whispers to us that we won't have any friends and feel completely alone. But are we really so lonely and isolated? If we live in a normal place, there is no reason why disconnecting from a device for 24 hours will isolate us. So what makes it difficult? Habit.

You can encourage yourself with the strength of the numbers. There are hundreds of thousands of people who began to observe Shabbat properly in midlife and never regretted it. As Oded Menashe said in an interview he gave to Hidabrut: “I say: Anyone who wants to express his views on Shabbat or family purity should observe both of those mitzvoth twice and properly, and then we will talk. I want to see someone who did this tell me I tried this and it's not for me. No one came back yet. “
Reason two: “I feel that without technology, the loneliness I experience on Shabbat finishes me off.”  

What would anyone who lived alone do? Ostensibly, Shabbat makes it difficult for him but it only seems that way. True on Shabbat he can't phone, Skype or text his acquaintances and relatives, but movies and web surfing, don't provide real company. It is an illusion of company. As a matter of fact studies show people on social media are lonelier than others.
If you can discard this illusion of company you can focus on real solutions. Perhaps you make a Shabbat visit to a yeshiva or Midrasha? Perhaps one can turn to kiruv organizations or that find host families for Shabbat meals or lodging? Or perhaps you can invite guests to make Shabbat enjoyable in your own home? Perhaps there’s a pleasant synagogue nearby, where if you go to all the Shabbat services you will use your time in a spiritual way and create new connections? Loneliness is difficult any day of the week; you certainly needn't be lonely on Shabbat. In actuality more people are home on Shabbat so visiting them can be easier than on a weekday.
If you are proactive you can observe Shabbat properly and enjoy the company of friends or family. If you need to, think outside the box. If you're stuck sometimes and must spend Shabbat alone in your apartment a great book dispels loneliness. There are Weekly Torah Portion booklets which can bring you into the Shabbat atmosphere. (Have you checked out Hidabrut newsletters?) Inspiring books about great Torah sages and literature that is not weekday in nature are permitted to read on Shabbat; not war books, textbooks or business books.

weekly torah portion

Reason three:”It's hard for me when I don't fit in.”
Some people have no trouble keeping Shabbat as long as they can keep it to themselves. Shabbat prayers? No problem. Shabbat meals? No problem. They are even stringent about the rules of separating foods, and won’t carry outside on Shabbat even if there is an 'Eruv' that makes it permitted. But here's their Achilles heel: “What will my colleagues friends or family think? They won't understand that I'm not available for 24 hours.”

I'll tell you of a book written by a religious woman who is a freelance author. She writes articles for  Forbes. She is so sought after, that her wage from a single article is equal to the median annual income in Israel. In her book, which provides guidance and tips for beginning freelancers, she writes: “In every contract I write that I am a Shabbat observant Jew and I am not available at all over Shabbat. I don't use technology from Friday sunset until Saturday night.”

This woman doesn't look Jewish, has no Jewish name and she lives Washington state surrounded by gentiles not in the State of Israel. If she can tell her high paying clients, that she is off limits and doesn't communicate on Shabbat, are you sure that you can't tell your friends and colleagues?
Reason four: “I'd die of boredom on Shabbat!”
What do you do if you are with your family on Shabbat? You're not afraid of your newly acquired habit or people's reactions to your Shabbat observance, but you're afraid to die of boredom? Is your life is not life if you don't have access to your TV series or whatsapp groups? Will the world be so empty and gray without technology?

Friends, there is no way out! If a 24 hour break from technology threatens you so much that you’re sure you’ll be totally overcome by boredom, this proves how much you need to keep Shabbat for your survival! Let's leave the halachic requirement on the side for a moment. Does it make sense to you that a sane person cannot survive 24 hours without a phone / computer / TV? How do you think people survived two hundred years ago, for example? Were their lives one long sigh of boredom from the moment they were born till they died? Apparently it didn't matter much to them that their whole lives were empty without Facebook and Channel Two because they were fools who didn't know what they were missing! Can that really be true? Ask this to yourself; can you convince yourself that it's true?
If you think disconnecting from technology is impossible … you must challenge yourself! The transition may seem scary and daunting to you, but the precious gift that G-d prepared for his children awaits you: The Shabbat.
Try and see, like Oded Menashe said before. But really try keeping Shabbat according to Jewish law, not according to your mindset. Give it a chance. You'll see how much Shabbat gives you back.

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