The Importance Of Community: How Jewish Values Play Out In The Digital Age
The world today is changing faster than any time in history. We are more connected than ever as we speak to friends and relatives halfway across the world with the click of a button. Technology has been one of the greatest gifts that modernity has given us, but it has also given us a complex pool of situations and boundaries to navigate effectively.
Studies have shown that constantly being on social media or even just checking your phone multiple times a day in general affects not only cognition but happiness and the ability to find satisfaction within your own life.
So what can we do to take some of the pressure off? There obviously isn’t much in the Torah about the new Iphone (a little early for Moses, although he did mention tablets), but there are tools and guidelines that we can take from Jewish learning in order to combat a world that is quickly becoming disconnected from community.
Throughout the Torah, community is a value that is held with the highest of importance. Historically this was because if you weren’t connected to a identifying community, you were quite literally lost. But as our modern age continues to advance at warp speed, young people in particular are becoming distanced from community and getting lost in a sea of digital pseudo-connection.
The benefits of being part of a community are numerous and well-studied according to Harvard Health; community involvement not only leads to a reduction in stress, but also greater life satisfaction and a healthier immune system.
Most importantly, community gives individuals a sense of meaning–something that has become harder and harder to come by, as we move into a world that seems to lack real human and spiritual connections.
We often complain about all of the obligations we have as Jews, and to be fair, all of the community commitments we have can be a little overwhelming. There’s cooking for Shabbat every week, there are numerous holidays to prepare for, and sometimes we all wonder “why am I doing this????”
It’s exhausting, it’s expensive, it’s all the time. In spite of the difficulties, all we have to do is look at the communities that have been built around the learning and practice of the Torah, and we realize its inherent beauty, if not the ultimate reason, around our traditions.
In an age where digital technology has taken over, it is wonderful to know that, as Jews, we are part of a built-in community, one that fosters connection and learning. We have essentially been given a tool kit that can provide us and our children with a way to bond around common ideas and values, in a way that sustains and nourishes us, both as individuals and members of the Jewish people, now and for generations to come.
Let us know if you think Shabbat connects us to a larger community that provides meaning in our lives? Leave your comments below.