Half Shabbos

So this article is going viral in the Jewish World – Half Shabbos is a Way of Life – and to sum up, it talks about Orthodox teens keeping the laws of Shabbat except they are unable to stop texting with their friends. So they have called it half Shabbos – they are keeping most of the holy day but not all of it.

I asked my eldest if he had heard of it – he said he had heard of the idea but knows no one in his yeshiva who practices it.

Look, we all know I am stuck to technology all day long. I email, text, call, FB, blog, tweet and everything else in between. But only 24/6. I look forward to switching off from all modes of technology over Shabbat, and rediscovering relationships in the real world.

How can they justify this? Even Orthodox smokers go without their addictive cancer sticks over Shabbat – and I would think as addictions go, nicotine is a much stronger substance than a cell phone.

How has this become “accepted” in certain Modern Orthodox circles? The author of the article says that this phenomenon is so widespread that half of all MO teens text. Really?

How do we deal with this? How do we get the teens to stop texting on Shabbat without pushing them further away from Judaism? What do you think about this new phenomenon?

20 responses to “Half Shabbos

  1. I can feel for these kids. Ever since I started using a blackberry, I literally have to hide it before shabbos. That red glow tempts me – akin to my favorite brownie. Especially when there are big projects looming at work — it is downright tempting to say – what if i did check my email – who would know?

  2. I don’t get it at all. I think the cigarette analogy is very apt. What scares me is the article indicates that these kids ONLY communicate by text– meaning that depriving them of a cel phone for Shabbat essentially pushes them into a vow of silence.

    I do not understand how schools– any schools– allow cel phones in the classroom. (I also do not approve of schools confiscating them for a week– this is private property, and should be returned at day’s end.) If kids had to talk to each other during the school day, they would be less addicted.

    Finally, WHERE ARE THE PARENTS? If my kid was texting on Shabbat, the cel phone would go under lock and key at candle lighting. It seems– especially from Rabbi Perton’s comments– that the parents are “enablers” in all this! This (and another story I heard about the school yesterday) makes me rethink my Hebrew Academy plans.

  3. I see the addiction in my own niece and nephews (who actually aren’t Jewish). They can’t sit at the dinner table for 20 minutes without touching their cell phones, playing and texting. Even their parents comment on it.

    I know i’m addicted to the computer, i’m ok for Shabbos, but after two days or three days of yom tov, i get headaches, crabby…same kind of things people get when they give up coffee..ie…detox kind of symptoms. I think to give in to the symptoms isn’t helping these kids. First its texting, when the next stage of tech comes around, will parents let “using” go?

    There needs to be resources for parents to help get their kids off their phones. and some limitations be set. and parents can’t be afraid to set them and discipline.

  4. We aren’t MO and my kids are still little (7 & 9) but this all comes down to parenting and setting limits. We have rules about DS & Wii. Just because you buy your teen a phone (DS/Wii/iPod, etc) doesn’t mean they are granted free range at all times. I think parents are so afraid of parenting these days and that is why things are in such a sorry state…in families and in the USA. I personally don’t agree with children having cell phones until they have jobs and can pay for them. We’re becoming a nation of spoiled brats. Bah. I’ll get off the soapbox…

  5. Someone brought up the point on my blog post on it (which focused on the kavod issues) that it was about rebellion. That scares me though, because when something starts as rebellion and seeking control can quickly spiral out of control.
    I fear it may have a snowball effect in fact. (Does half-Shabbos lead to half-kashrut and half-taharat ha mishpacha?) I really hope someone does some follow up studies on these kids and what their Jewish path looks like.

  6. I don’t know how I’ll maintain the no-screens rule with my son as he gets older since we’re Shabbat observant but not MO. We can have that rule now while he’s 8–but even now it’s the one thing he doesn’t like about Shabbat. It’s particularly challenging because my husband, who had a day school education and so on, isn’t committed to the idea. He likes Shabbat, goes to shul, makes kiddush–it’s the whole not working part , the Shabbat part of Shabbat, that doesn’t connect for him.

    I suspect this isn’t the first time teens in frum families decided to do non-Shabbosdik things. I guess if I were in the shoes of the parents, I would talk about how not texting for a day affects relationships, and encourage my children to invite their friends to the house, so they get the benefit of that down time. This is my perspective as someone who keeps Shabbat who wasn’t raised frum–there are benefits beyond the “because it’s a mitzvah” reason.

  7. It is a challenge we face as parents, to be certain. My eldest is a tween who has yet to own a cell phone (she also likes to read A LOT which makes me less worried about Shabbat).

    Is this an addiction? Or is it rebellion? Is it a search for independence? I think before we can talk about how to solve the issue, we need to figure out what is underlying this issue.

    As for schools, cell phones should not be allowed during class times. There should be appropriate punishments for this. It should not matter if a child is “in pain” without their cell phone–I wish the administration AND parents mentioned in this article would grow some backbone and do what they are supposed to do: enforce the rules of their school AND parent.

  8. The statistic of 50% of MO teens doing this is an anecdotal one. There’s no study showing this to be true, I have my doubts.

    As to the cigarette analogy, unfortunately in Israel, you will find large groups of black hat teens smoking on shabbat on corners outside of bnei brak.

  9. I read that article and it really shocked me. NCSY teens secretly texting on Shabbat? That definitely wasn’t the picture I have of NCSY. I appreciate the dilemma their counselors have. They don’t want to draw attention to the violation of halacha, but they want to emphasize that the demand of Shabbat as a time to get away from technology is a beautiful thing.

    One item in the article rankled me. There was a reference to Modern Orthodox men who don’t wear kippot in public and women who wore pants, and this was given as an excuse for the teens who texted on Shabbat. As I understand it, “Modern Orthodox” (or “centrist” Orthodox) does not mean more liberal. It means that, unlike more insular communities, their members particpate fully in both the modern world (e.g., work) and the Orthodox Jewish world. They are no less faithful to halacha than their colleagues to their “right.” In regard to the comment about women wearing pants, it is debatable as to whether the pants these women wear would be prohibited, as they are tailored for women. But the implication rankled me because it is a swipe at many of us in the observant camp. Whether or not one is “modern” or “right-wing,” it still should not make a difference regarding teens texting on Shabbat.

    I will admit that I am not totally observant. I try to do what I can, and I recognize the binding nature of halacha, although I may not agree with it all the time. That may be why I react as I described when someone attacks “Modern Orthodoxy” as somewhat lesser than their level of observance.

    Unfortunately, for a lot of us, we have become slaves to the new technology. We need the discipline to give it up one day a week, and I think that most of us who observe Shabbat recognize it (and even with a three-day Yom Tov, it still must be done). I think the reference to texting as an addiction is accurate. If the teens cannot be parted from the cell phone, even in school, some intervention must be done. Another worry is the impression this gives of “Orthodox” kids (even “right-wing” kids) as doing something at odds with halacha. Somehow the lesson that Shabbat observance for its own sake has been lost, and parents and others might find ways to impress upon their children that the loss of technology for one day is truly worth it.

  10. I have a hard time buying that it is an addiction. Texting on Shabbat is a choice these teens are making for whatever reason. I doubt they couldn’t physically go one day without texting.

  11. I am highly skeptical of the report, having a bunch of MO kids who text furiously 6 days a week and have no trouble putting the phone down on the 7th. And not every temptation is an addiction; there is a difference between lack of discipline and addiction. No one gets withdrawal symptoms from turning off the cell phone for a day.

  12. Breaking Shabbos is by no means “accepted” in Modern Orthodoxy. G-d forbid. Being unable to refrain from using your phone, even for one day, is definitely an addiction. They’ve done studies in adults with the same addictive behaviors. Reaching for those cell phones activates the part of the brain that deals out “rewards” so continually reaching for the phone gives the person the euphoria of instant gratification. It’s like getting a gold star or a piece of chocolate every time. It’s an addiction and should be treated as such. I have no experience with adults or teens doing this stuff on Shabbos but I have met many adults who struggle with their addictions to technology. I’ve noted that many keep their phones close by at all times, even in the car, and as soon as that little light blinks, they’ll reach for it. Yes, even in the car. I downgraded from a Blackberry to a regular crappy phone when I thought my Blackberry was becoming more than a phone!

  13. batya from NJ

    I recently heard about this new trend at an internet safety lecture for my youngest child, a 5th grader & was quite disturbed when I heard about it. As soon as I got home that night, I asked my 16 year old son about it & it turned out that he was familiar with the concept & sadly it is allegedly very prevalent in his MO Yeshiva HS.

    Someone above mentioned “where are the parents”? & the answer is that kids are very adept at doing it secretly without their parents’ knowledge (while the parents are sleeping etc) but you can be sure that once I became aware of this new phenomenon, I immediately instituted a “no cellphone/Ipod rule” over Shabbos in my 16 year old’s room b/c quite frankly I don’t want him to be tempted b/c “everyone else is doing it” & I happen to believe that at LEAST 50% of MO teens ARE doing it. In addition, according to my MIL who heard about it in Brooklyn, it’s allegedly becoming increasingly popular among “black hat teens” as well.

    Hopefully,now that those of are who are parents are aware of this new disturbing trend, we will do our utmost to prevent our kids from violating Shabbos to the best of our abilities but it is not an easy situation & it’s not easy raising kids to continue to be Torah observant in today’s day & age with all of the temptations at their fingertips thanks to modern technology.

    • Amazing…the fact that “black hat teens” do this is unbelievable…maybe it’s an addiction after all.

      But lest anyone bring up the idea that this is why technology should be banned in our communities, I need to also say that if someone wants to restrict the technology in their own families, that is one thing, but like those who interact in the modern world, there are some who have the discipline to function as a modern person and as a Jew, and a blanket statement really cannot apply to this problem…

      • batya from NJ

        & besides, these “black hat teens” might also be rebelling even though they are still wearing their black hats which is culturally expected of them in their communities. Did you ever read the book Unchosen? It’s worth reading…

  14. lady lock and load

    If a parent takes away the cell phone before every shabbos, what is to stop the teen from buying a cell phone or getting one another way?

    • batya from NJ

      LLL if the kid does not have their own cellphone accessible on Shabbos it will be MUCH harder for them to access another cellphone for them to use…
      & Sheldan, yes, I believe this is a combination addiction/teenage rebellion that the kids are exhibiting b/c I am a self-proclaimed fb addict yet I can manage to stay off of fb for all of shabbos without a problem & over a 3 day yom tov as well. If there is a will there is a way but lots of times the kids just don’t seem to have the will b/c sadly it is just not important to them to follow Halacha in the manner in which their parents & schools are trying to teach them to…

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