By Rabbi Aaron Gol...
September 15, 2012
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I have suddenly had the urge to look into moving to Brighton. I quite liked Norwich when I was last there. Perhaps Lincoln as long as I do not have to cycle up the hill and its not so far from Leicester where I hear there’s plenty of interfaith work. Now Cheltenham, there’s a place and Hereford would really make a change and I do like a pint of the freshest cider every now and then. Ach, it really doesn’t matter which one it is. They all have Congregations of Liberal Judaism I could serve (if they would have me?), the standard of living is sure to be high as would be the quality of the local culture and easy to access countryside.
In fact, as long as is not Belfast, Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Derby, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Hull, Leeds, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Nottingham, Newcastle, Sheffield and Southampton (trying saying that lot in the middle of Haman’s sons names!) then my High Holydays will be made up.
Why the desire to up-sticks so selectively, I hear you clamour? Well, in the run-up to Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, in fact at any time of the year, do I really need any more information blasting at me at a faster rate than it already is? You see the second list of ‘must avoid ‘em’ cities have in common the honour of being the first 4G hotspots in the UK.
All you really need to know about 4G (stands for fourth generation of mobile telecommunications technology, Booba – that’s my Booba not yours if she is a whiz on the laptop) is contained in the words of London Mayor, Boris Johnson speaking at the launch event. "I barely understand it, but information will spout unstoppably from these gizmos!”
I am sure that Boris is probably right in saying that, "It will bring huge advantages to anyone living or working in London." Indeed all those who want to, ‘go faster’ or, for those in rural areas, get going (their speed of communications is rather slow, I am led to believe). It is not that I am a complete technophobe that I am moving next week (don’t tell my Synagogue Chairman). Rather, it is because my Synagogue Chairman, his Council and our Synagogue had the wisdom to pack me off on my first experience of a Sabbatical.
I was gifted the opportunity to experience life at a different pace. After a while, I even left my addiction for checking e mails, twitter, facebook and the news on my smart phone behind me. I did not check my watch every few minutes to check if I was late for my next engagement. For a while I made a ‘new covenant’ with God and particularly my family. I saw how life could be. No more ‘in two seconds’ that would last a half hour. No more ignoring the small things that accumulate needless irritation and perhaps anger from those I love. No more relegation of spiritual or prayer time to hurried murmurs.
I am not gloating. My Sabbatical time is not taken for granted; it was in a sense, a Godsend. The Biblically-inspired Sabbatical is a marvelous concept, a gift to the world that has been adopted by academia, scientists and physicians whose work demands research and thought to progress and - as a report in 2005 by the CBI showed – by 20% of companies who had career break policies and 10% of others who were considering it. If there were a campaign for every one to have some serious timeout in which to develop oneself, I would be honoured to be a trustee.
The ebb and flow of the Jewish Year allows us all the opportunity for mini-Sabbaticals. “These are the appointed seasons of the Eternal One which you shall proclaim; they are “My appointed seasons (Lev 23:2).”
Shabbat is a weekly opportunity often misused. Yet we also have an annual period, the High Holydays, in which to take a mini-Sabbatical from life. For the vast majority of Jews, we self-enforce serious time with family and at least in a Synagogue where decorum is respected, time for self-contemplation and prayer.
The clock returns to Eden, the time of Creation. We are all once more the primordial Eve and Adam. The new year, Rosh Hashanah, begins once more with the sand-clock full on top. Its flow seems oh so slow in those early moments and we can appreciate how short life is, the flow irreversible, yet every second an opportunity, a rich, sacred gift.
I have no doubt that I will embrace 4G when it reaches Watford but for the next few weeks, I sincerely hope that we can all switch off and truly sanctify time. As Rabbi John Raynor z”l wrote:
“Being human, we cannot live always on the heights. Daily routine demands attention, and much of our life is spent in the realm of the humdrum and mundane. And just because it is so, we have been given special days to mark the seasons and commemorate the past, to pause and think, to listen to the heartbeat of the universe, to renew our sense of the sacred, and our intuition of eternity. These are the appointed seasons of the Eternal One.”