Even in Israel, it was hard to escape the worldwide
celebration of the Christian New Year. The fact that it took
place on Shabbos made it less present than it would otherwise
have been, since we are cut off from the modern media on
Shabbos kodesh, but there was still an unusual
awareness of the change in the year, primarily due to the
famous millennium computer bug.
It was a remarkable celebration on our planet, bringing
together people from all around the world. For 25 hours, the
non-Jewish world carefully watched the progress of the sun as
it marked the end of the year they call "1999" and the
beginning of the one they call "2000."
The worldwide revelry was a technological triumph: celebrants
everywhere were connected with celebrants everywhere else
through instantaneous communications both visual and audio,
using the best and the swiftest that this age of satellite
links and pervasive Internet can offer. Those whooping it up
in freezing Times Square in the middle of New York City could
see the fireworks of Sydney, Australia in the middle of their
summer, the light show at the Egyptian pyramids, as well as
dancers on South Sea islands and partiers in Paris -- all on
huge screens set up on the sides of the skyscrapers of
Manhattan. Millions of dollars were spent on effects and
shows that would make it a unique event.
In contrast, the Jewish People of the Torah spent the day
much as they have spent every seventh day for the past 3,000
years. They were, as usual on Shabbos, focused on G-d, on
family and on themselves. All the glitzy technology makes
very little difference. Its most significant impact is on
lighting and climate control, which recedes far into the
background as everyone is busy with the prayer, the
discussions of the Torah portion of the week and the
interaction with spouses, children and friends at the three
obligatory Shabbos meals.
It is the same Torah portion that has been studied for over
3,000 years. When we study it we draw on the comments that
have been offered by our great Torah scholars over the
millennia, living in climes and conditions that were vastly
different but all deeply united across the ages by the common
Torah. Discussions at the Shabbos table bring the family
members together with each other as well as with the Torah
greats of all generations whose words speak to us with an
impact and an importance that put the power and the speed of
modern technology into stark perspective.
Is it a triumph to be able to see fireworks from halfway
around the world in real time? Does it make the world a
Does technology help us keep Shabbos better? In truth it
affects it very little. Technology helps us do our work
better, and work is prohibited on Shabbos.
But our achievement on Shabbos is great. We spend the entire
24 hour day in intimate contact with eternity -- which is
well beyond the reach of any of the products of the human
mind that are unaided by Toras Hashem.