Sabbath a la Timothy Leary

LFlashing police lightsast Friday, I was in New Jersey preparing for my nephew’s Bar Mitzvah when I got word about the horror that had taken place in Connecticut earlier that day.

I don’t know why this is the case, but I think Americans have a twisted interest in and fascination with death. We are a nation of rubber-neckers. When we see flashing lights on the side of the road, suggesting a wreck or an arrest, we don’t avert our eyes. Rather, we slow down and try to get a better look.

For nearly ten years as a newspaper reporter I got paid to go after the bad stuff. I’m sure some of you are familiar with the industry phrase, “If it bleeds, it leads.” I took that very seriously and I couldn’t understand why my family — especially my sister, who has four kids, was always so horrified by the stories of my reporting exploits.

I’ve been out of the reporting business for about 10 years now and I’ve begun more and more to “get” that that sort of news really doesn’t inspire or uplift anyone. In fact, I’m confident that we’d all be better off with less of it.

When I first heard about the massacre, I followed my instinct and turned on the TV. But I had somewhere to be and time was short, so I had to turn it off. Little did I realize at the time what a good decision that would turn out to be.

Shabbat - Just do it

The next morning, before heading to synagogue for the main event, I turned on the tube–again. I wasn’t depressed and anxious enough already? This time what I saw was so much worse. While Gary washed up, I watched an interview with a man who lives near Sandy Hook Elementary School who simply by happenstance ended up sheltering several children in his house. As he answered questions, it was clear that he was fighting to keep the tears back. I didn’t fare as well. Gary came out of the bathroom to find me on the bed, red-eyed from weeping. He immediately switched the telly off and directed me to the bathroom to get cleaned up, saying I couldn’t go out in the condition I was in.

While I was literally washing away my tears, I thought about where we were headed and realized that we would be with people for whom devotion to God results in them, once a week, taking a break from the events of the world. What had happened in Newtown wouldn’t go away quickly, I reasoned, so I wouldn’t miss much if I followed their example and took a day off from the news cycle.

So, for the next 12 hours, giSabbath Rest Signve or take, I imposed upon myself a complete ban on all news, turning my attention instead to the thrilling, once-in-a-lifetime celebration that I’d been invited to partake in. It ended up being a magical weekend full of joy with plenty of time afterwards to catch up on current events.

When I think back on my actions, I can’t help but smile. I’m a child of the 60’s (if barely) and what I ended up doing that weekend was to “tune in, turn on and drop out.” It was truly a Sabbath a la Timothy Leary. 

Leave a comment


  1. I’m glad you were able to move on with the Bar Mitzvah despite the adversity seen on TV. Mazel Tov on your nephew’s big day.

  2. Jo Heroux

     /  December 22, 2012

    I think you chose wisely.

  3. You did the right thing, Daph. I had to stop reading/watching because I couldn’t take anymore. And my week off was even better! So glad you were able to enjoy the Bar Mitzvah.


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