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Passover: Are You a Slave to Your Smartphone Like Me? (RWW Email Series)

Updated: Apr 29, 2022

Passover: Are You a Slave to Your Smartphone Like Me?

From the RWW Email Series (3-22-18)

Pesach Devar Torah

By Rabbi Shaul Rosenblatt (inspired by Rav Noach Weinberg; 3-29-18)

Passover: Are you a slave to your smartphone like me?

From the RWW Email Series (3-22-18)

As I've said in previous years, Jewish holidays are not commemorations of the past, rather present-moment spiritual realities. The Torah says that Pesach is a 'time of freedom'; not that it was a time of freedom for the

Jewish Nation 3,500 years ago, rather it is a time of freedom for me today. It is a spiritual season that brings great opportunity. Jews do not celebrate Pesach because of the Exodus from Egypt. Rather the Exodus from Egypt happened because it was Pesach. The freedom we are talking about is spiritual freedom. The ability to do what I want to do, over what I feel like doing; the ability to act on decisions that I make and hence steer my life in directions that are of my own choosing; the ability to overcome my animal instincts and follow the lead of my soul instead. Is an addict free to do what he or she wishes? I would say not. Is their freedom in anger, in egotism, in hatred? I would again say not. Does someone in their right mind 'choose' to have an affair? In our own varied ways, we are all slaves. Hence the opportunity that Pesach affords. At this time of year, we Jews are searching our homes for leaven. We should also be searching our hearts for leaven - searching our hearts for where we are not free. I have an inventory for where to search in my home. And I am presently creating an inventory for where to search inside of myself. So far, I have 14 areas on my list. Let me give an example of just one, that I referred to in my davar last week, to try to make this more tangible. Without a shadow of doubt, I am a slave to my smartphone. Numerous times in the day I find myself picking it up involuntarily; I do things on it that serve no purpose other than to distract me; whilst on Shabbat I live without it for 25 hours, it is the first thing I rush to when Shabbat is over. I would have a lot more to say on personal freedom, but I hope this example suffices. It ticks all of my slavery boxes and is something I want to take advantage of Pesach to break free from. So I am building my inventory and I expect it to expand further. But what to do with my inventory? As usual, Torah has invaluable guidelines. On the morning before Pesach, we burn all of our leaven - and then we do without it for eight days. On Monday, I will make a bonfire in my garden. Into it will go my leaven. And into it will go my list of personal slaveries. But obviously, that's not enough. I will have picked a few from the list and I will 'burn' the attachment from my heart. I will decide that for eight days I'm going to be free. I will not engage in these slaveries at all. I will taste the sweet flavor of freedom in the hope that it lingers enough to ensure that I remain free once the eight days are over. So, for example, for eight days my smartphone will be locked away. I will remind myself that I lacked nothing in life before its invention and whilst it certainly enhances my life, it need not consume me in the way that it does. And I'm hopeful that after eight days, I will have seen that point clearly, live and in real time. In this and other areas, I will seek freedom. And freedom sought, on Pesach, will be readily found. Why not give it a try for yourself?!


Pesach Devar Torah

By Rabbi Shaul Rosenblatt (inspired by Rav Noach Weinberg; 3-29-18)

Judaism believes in spiritual seasons that are similar in nature to the physical seasons. Our environment fluctuates. It gets hotter, then colder, then hotter again. In most countries there is a rainy season and a dry

season. There are times when it is good to sow and times when it is good to harvest. Our world ebbs and flows. Although it's less tangible, Judaism tells us the same is true on a spiritual level.

So too we have seasons of joy and seasons of sadness that becomes a propitious time for our souls to pick up the vibe and tap into. There are times when our souls feel more restricted and times when they feel more

connected. Times they feel motivated and driven and times they feel less so. Of course, this does happen on a individual basis, moment to moment on our own level. The Jewish festivals are in response to these spiritual

cycles. We are in the spiritual season of freedom - Passover and its theme of freedom are expressions of this spiritual season. Freedom is in the air. Our souls are primed for transcendence in a way that they are not at other times of the year. Torah's wisdom about Passover is rooted in this Jewish axiom. So we have searched our homes for leaven and have it all on the table. As it is in my house today. We have journeyed inside and found our areas of spiritual enslavement. As I have been doing over the past week. On the eve of Passover, we now burn our leaven. Here's how that works. The Torah tells us that the Jewish People left Egypt in a hurry. They didn't even have time to bake bread. They were in a mad rush. Why? Because if they had stopped to think, they would have missed the moment. It's like getting into a swimming pool. If you jump in straight away, you are fine. But if you dip your toe in and start thinking about how cold it is, you may never take the plunge. For me, burning my leaven means making a decision that for 8 days I am only interested in looking in the direction of thoughts and ideas that will bring me true freedom and I am going to be free myself habits in my life that enslave me. Judaism teaches us that the spiritual season of Passover is propitious for such changes in

direction. Try suddenly stopping smoking for 8 days at another time of year. Or being completely disinterested in your desire for sugar. Or try to decide you are not going to follow the thoughts of anger when they come. This week, it just won't happen for you. Try the same from tomorrow night onwards and into next week and the potential is very different. Yesterday, I bought myself a Nokia brick phone for Passover, my smartphone being one of my numerous addictions. I look forward to wresting control back and returning to my smartphone in a week's time with an improved attitude.

Judaism points to spiritual realities that are deeper than our own superficial wisdom guides us to. The only way to know is to give it a try. Tomorrow is the day we burn our leaven and freedom is in the air for the 8 days of Passover after that. As Martin Luther King famously quoted, "Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"

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