The most brilliant contribution of the Jews

Rediscovering the ancient benefits of celebrating Shabbat

Tiffanyshlain image
Tiffany Shlain. Photo Credit: Marla Aumuth.

You probably thought I was going to say Katz's Deli, the polio vaccine, or Mel Brooks, right? I am going back farther and wider. 


But not just the beautiful Friday night meal with family and friends. I am talking about the whole megillah , the full day of rest. One day completely off to do the things that bring you joy, connection, reflection, and a reset. 

For most of my life I thought that was just reserved for observant Jews--not me--so I felt like I couldn't engage with it. But after a period of dramatic events in my life--when my father died and my daughter was born within days of each other--I knew I needed to go deeper. 

I needed to create time and space for myself and my family, to think and be in an uninterrupted way. So, we started unplugging from sundown to sundown each Shabbat. We've been doing it now every week for 13 years. We call it our "Tech Shabbat." Going 24/6 in our 24/7 world has been the single most transformative practice I have ever done. 

If you're thinking you could never be without your phone/iPad/TV/laptop for 24 hours, I'm here to say you absolutely can. And once you do, it will be something you look forward to every week. I promise. 

To help people get there, we recently partnered with OneTable to create "Permission to Unplug," a 4-week program that walks Jewish Millennials and GenZs through the joys of going screen-free.  It's been fantastic seeing how much of a difference even a small reduction in screen time is making in people's lives. 

We've also been doing a similar program for companies, "The Future of Work and Wellbeing: Creating a Flourishing Hybrid/Remote Workplace." We need our weekends back without work, social media, texts, and emails. It's invigorating to bring the idea of Shabbat into corporate America. Several companies working with us have already implemented these practices, which is invigorating. 

My hope is that as many people as possible experience the benefits of what I truly believe is the most brilliant contribution of the Jews. Who knew it would be that much more critical, 3,000 years later?

Here are some of the benefits of unplugging regularly:

1. You'll feel better.

    When you spend less time on screens, you spend more time outside, do more physical activity, and get more sleep, all of which translates to better health. Spending less time on your phone also reduces the chances of developing repetitive stress injuries like "text neck." 

    2. You'll be less anxious.

    A recent study showed "both liking others' content and clicking links significantly predicted a subsequent reduction in self-reported physical health, mental health, and life satisfaction." Staying offline--off social media especially--makes you feel more optimistic and satisfied with your life.

    3. You'll have better relationships.

    Research done by Sara Konrath suggests that smartphone use correlates to decreased empathy. When you're not on your phone all of the time, you can pay attention to the people you actually care about. 

    4. You'll form healthier habits.

    Screens can be just as addictive as narcotics, and can affect the brain in some similar ways. If you feel like you're hooked on your phone, it's because you are. Unplugging once a week helps break these patterns.

    5. You'll be more focused.

    Research has shown that just having a phone nearby--even if it's not yours, and even if it's switched off--makes you less focused.

    6. You'll get more done.

    Research suggests working fewer hours can actually increase productivity. Companies that offer 32-hour workweeks, or six-hour workdays, report both increased productivity and employee satisfaction. 

    Tiffany Shlain is an Emmy-nominated filmmaker, founder of the Webby Awards, and author of the national bestselling book 24/6: Giving Up Screens One Day a Week to Get More Time, Creativity, and Connection. Visittiffanyshlain.comand follow her on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.  

    OneTable receives an annual allocation from JUF for its work in Chicago.  


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