Taking A Break

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Conservative Rabbi David Wolpe, in the current issue of The Jewish Week (link):

In his essay on the great Jewish scholar, the Vilna Gaon, Louis Ginzburg wrote that the Gaon “declared it to be a religious duty and inviolable obligation of every person to fix a certain time of the day for reflection and meditation.” Ginzburg, himself a great scholar, and the Gaon agree: both insist there comes a time to put the books away.

For our day, there comes a time as well to put away the iPod, the BlackBerry, the television and the computer. Every innovation tempts us — or better, robs us — of the space and silence needed for reflection. A person who cannot put his feet up on a desk and stare out a window, or warm her hands on a cup of tea while thoughts wander, is a slave. Not a slave in the classical sense, but a slave to distraction, to the flash and dazzle of the screen, to the glitter of life that erodes quiet contemplation. The Gaon reminds us that such contemplation is not merely a luxury, but a “religious duty.”

Click here to read morePirkei Avot records that “Moses received the Torah from Mount Sinai.” What did Sinai contribute? According to the commentator Abravanel, the experience of being on Sinai — the solitude and meditation — prepared Moses to receive the Torah. We all need such mountaintop moments each day. Stop, so you can receive.

This reminds me of the Rashi at the beginning of Vayikra (Lev. 1:1 – link):

What [purpose then] did the breaks [between God’s speaking] serve?To give Moshe a breathing space to reflect between each parashah and between each matter. How much more so for an ordinary person who learns from an[other] ordinary person!

About Gil Student

Rabbi Gil Student is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of TorahMusings.com, a leading website on Orthodox Jewish scholarly subjects, and the Book Editor of the Orthodox Union’s Jewish Action magazine. He writes a popular column on issues of Jewish law and thought featured in newspapers and magazines, including The Jewish Link, The Jewish Echo and The Vues. In the past, he has served as the President of the small Jewish publisher Yashar Books and as the Managing Editor of OU Press. Rabbi Student serves on the Executive Committee of the Rabbinical Council of America. He also serves on the Editorial Boards of Jewish Action magazine, the Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society and the Achieve Journal of Behavioral Health, Religion & Community, as well as the Board of OU Press. He has published five English books, the most recent titled Search Engine volume 2: Finding Meaning in Jewish Texts -- Jewish Leadership, and served as the American editor for Morasha Kehillat Yaakov: Essays in Honour of Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks.

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