And the Lord regretted that He had made man upon the earth, and He became grieved in His heart.
History is full of the wonder and beauty of the natural world and yet at the same time the רָעַ֥ת הָֽאָדָ֖ם (Bereishit 6:5) the evil of man has always been present.
Bereishit is therefore a vision of Paradise Lost and according to many mefarshim, Jewish and World history is all part of our attempt to return to Eden.
The world today is so confused. Technology has improved the quantity of the years of our lives, yet many question whether it has improved the quality?
So many people, especially young people, are lost, confused and searching for answers in a world that seems to be spinning out of control.
The solution, as always, is to look inwards, for us as Jews, invariably to God and His Torah, as Rabbi Sacks ztl beautifully said:
“The world is changing ever faster. In a single generation, nowadays, there is more scientific and technological advance than in all previous centuries since human beings first set foot on earth. In uncharted territory, you need a compass. That’s what Judaism is. It guided our ancestors through good times and bad. It gave them identity, security, and a sense of direction. It enabled them to cope with circumstances more varied than any other people have ever known. It lifted them, often, to heights of greatness. Why? Because Judaism is about learning. Education counts for more in the long run than wealth or power or privilege. Those who know, grow.”
Bereishit may end with humanity failing, but it also contains the Divine solution to so many of our problems. It is one of the most well-known pesukim – the 33rd and 34th of the Torah.
And God completed on the seventh day His work that He did, and He abstained on the seventh day from all His work that He did. And God blessed the seventh day and He hallowed it, for thereon He abstained from all His work that God created to do.
The gift of Shabbat.
Again Rabbi Sacks:
“Shabbat is our refuge from what has become, in the late capitalist economies, a consumer culture. Consumerism has become the new religion. Its cathedrals are shopping centres, its most heinous sin is not having this year’s model, and it promises “retail therapy,” salvation by shopping, and remission of sins by credit card. Shabbat is precisely the opposite: the one day in seven on which we live by the truth of Ben Zoma’s aphorism, “Who is rich? One who rejoices in what he has.””
Of course, add to that consumer culture, a technology addicted culture. The incessant drumbeat of WhatsApps, emails, TikToks, Netflix and Facebook – a never ending stream of ‘information’ which the world is enslaved to. As one social commentator posted recently:
The internet has enabled us to live, for the first time, entirely apart from other people. It replaces everything good in life with a low-resolution simulation. A handful of sugar instead of a meal: addictive but empty, just enough to keep you alive. Our most basic biological drives simply wither in its cold blue light. People will cheerfully admit that the internet has destroyed their attention spans, but what it’s really done away with is your ability to think. Usually, when I’m doing something boring but necessary—the washing up, or walking to the post office—I’ll constantly interrupt myself; there’s a little Joycean warbling from the back of my brain. ‘Boredom is the dream bird that broods the egg of experience.’ But when I’m listlessly killing time on the internet, there is nothing. The mind does not wander. I am not there. That rectangular hole spews out war crimes and cutesy comedies and affirmations all of it mixed together into one general-purpose informational goo, and I remain in its trance, the lifeless scroll, twitching against the screen until the sky goes dark and I’m one day closer to the end. You lose hours to—what? An endless slideshow of barely interesting images and actively unpleasant text. You know it’s all very boring, brooding nothing, but the internet addicts you to your own boredom.
Thank God we have the antidote, the glorious Shabbat Kodesh.
Shabbat Kodesh, when we turn off the gadgets, when we look up and we engage in conversations, when children engage in playing without screens.
We sit at our Shabbat tables, and we talk, we sing and we enjoy the company of family and friends. We are not glancing at our latest notifications, not worried about receiving an angry email, not checking the scores for the umpteenth time. We can just be. What a gift, what a joy.
On Shabbat we celebrate the things that are important but not urgent: the love between husband and wife, and between parents and children. The bonds of belonging. The story of which we are a part. The community that we support and that supports us in times of joy or grief. These are the ingredients of happiness. (Rabbi Sacks ztl)
Shabbat is more important than ever before. Hashem told us at the creation of the universe the secret of the human condition – for one day a week, stop creating, stop trying to master creation and become part of that very same creation – and recognise your Creator.
Shabbat is not about becoming, it is about being.
So, I have no idea who will be the next Prime Minister.
I have no idea how peace will be brought to Ukraine.
I have no idea how the global economy will fare over the next few months.
But I know that Shabbat is coming and will liberate me for a blessed 25 hrs from the world outside and allow me to focus on the world inside. A world of community, of family, of Torah and of course our Creator.