Internet icon Arianna Huffington created Thrive Global in 2016 as a forum to analyze and address our digital enslavement. “We are at an inflection point in history where technology has granted us powers that accelerate the speed of life beyond our capacity to cope,” Huffington wrote in her welcome letter on the Thrive Global homepage. “We’re more aware than ever that this way of living leaves us depleted, distracted and unfulfilled.”Join our WhatsApp group
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Yet besides creating sections on the site on how to attain “Well-being”, “Wisdom”,
“Wonder” and “Purpose”, Huffington, who is not Jewish, also included a section called “Shabbat: Day of Rest.” Huffington was not referring to the Christian idea of Sabbath but rather to the Jewish Shabbat, and she asked Rabbi Jay Moses of the Wexner foundation to edit the section. He collected various different approaches to the concept of Shabbat from numerous sources.
For example, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel writes in his 1951 classic book, “The Sabbath,” that “There is a realm of time where the goal is not to have but to be, not to own but to give, not to control but to share, not to subdue but to be in accord.”
Huffington is not the first person to initiate a form of Shabbat as a day of rest from technology. For example, in 2010 a small group of artists, writers, filmmakers and media professionals called ReBoot “felt a collective need to fight back against our increasingly fast-paced way of living,” and created the Sabbath Manifesto, which includes such edicts as “Avoid technology,” “Connect with loved ones” and “Give back.”
In 2013, Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein of South Africa called on his community to come together for one complete Shabbat. The result was so successful that it turned into the Shabbat Project, which has thus far united Jews in more than 1,000 cities and almost 100 countries for an annual Shabbat experience. “The idea is simple,” the website states, “Jews from all walks of life, from across the spectrum of religious affiliation, young and old, from all corners of the world — come together to experience the magic of one full Shabbat kept together — in full accordance with Jewish law.”
Huffington of course does not demand of people to maintain the halakhic concept of Shabbat but rather to adopt the idea behind Shabbat. “We’re being controlled by something we should be controlling,” Huffington said about technology. “We’re losing more and more of ourselves. We haven’t yet learned how to regulate and manage this increasingly powerful and addictive new element in our lives to serve our best interests.” Her bottom line: “We need to change our relationship with technology — to make disconnecting not only an option, but a regular part of our lives.”
“The idea of taking a day of rest is woven into the very fabric of existence,” Huffington writes in her introduction to the Shabbat section. “And some version of rest, downtime, and contemplative thought, is part of every spiritual and philosophical tradition.”
“Obviously,” she continues, “in the biblical narrative, God didn’t need to take the 7th day off — but he was sending us a message. Because, unlike him, we do need to. But in our modern world, the worries and concerns and duties of those other six days have crept into the 7th, creating a culture of non-stop, 24/7 work.”
Huffington sees Shabbat not just as a day of rest but also as a time to thrive, to reenergize in order to enhance our lives during the rest of the week. She writes that “When we prioritize our well-being, our decision-making, creativity, productivity and performance dramatically improve across the board. Taking care of ourselves, far from detracting from success, enhances productivity and creativity.”
Shabbat may be described in the Torah as “Between me and between the children of Israel” but Huffington is demonstrating that there is a universal message in it, one that could cure the ailments of modern techno-controlled society.