Happy Chanukah — now put down your phone!
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Happy Chanukah — now put down your phone!

Walk into any given room on any given day and you will see the majority of people in that room on their phones.

I often wonder if visits to the chiropractors have gone up with an increase in neck problems because everyone is looking down all day long. I also often wonder what we all did before cell phones. Social media has taken over our lives — in fact, the other day I was having a conversation with someone who is convinced that social media contributes to the downfall of many marriages. Apparently, seeing pictures on Facebook of other couples’ vacations in exotic places can cause jealousy, which, in turn, causes resentment when you are not able to go on those same vacations. Which, apparently, is your spouse’s fault.

I would think that the ability to locate old boyfriends/girlfriends would result in the dissolution of marriages as well. And just spending too much time on social media and not paying attention to your spouse could lead to divorce. Who knows?

But that brings us to this column. No, this won’t be about unhappy marriages, but about cell phone use. Unhappy marriages are a whole other column…

As the mom of children who are further exploring their religion (how was that for diplomatic phrasing?), I have encountered many questions and requests and explanations and so on and so forth. I never really know what is going to come out of their mouths, but I do know that it never ceases to surprise and amaze me. Son #1 decided that he wanted to light candles and eat dinner with us all week. This, of course, made me so happy, because any time I get to spend with him makes me happy. So there we are, lighting the candles (without son #2 because he decided to stay in school and learn, which makes him very happy…) and after saying the blessings and singing the required Chanukah songs, son #1 informed us that there was to be no screen time for 30 minutes.

Huh? No screen time? This cannot be a biblical prohibition because there were no screens in biblical times. This cannot be a rabbinical prohibition because, well, for the same reason. I have learned not to ask too many questions, mostly because I don’t like the answers, but I needed to ask about this one. Especially because husband #1 and son #3 wanted to watch the football game while eating dinner after lighting candles and “screen time” meant all screens, not just phones. Fantastic.

“Join Jews across the world going screen free for 30 minutes after candle lighting…” But wait, there’s more! “Open your neshama to the shine of the candles and experience the true essence of Chanukah.” Amen. Wasn’t the essence of Chanukah the miracle of oil for one night lasting eight nights? Doesn’t that translate into eating foods made with or in oil? Isn’t that the essence? What does screen time have to do with the Maccabees?

In any event, the four of us checked the clock (as we couldn’t check the time on our phones because the 30 minutes had started) and we were off to the races. We sat around our lit menorah and son #1 gave us some quick words of Torah because everyone was starving because it was dinner time.

We moved our conversation to the dinner table and began a discussion about the nuances between Chanukah and Purim (for another column), which led to a discussion about why son #2 didn’t want to come home (not putting that in a column), which led to a conversation about what we did during the day…and before you know it, it had been more than 30 minutes. Well look at that, a real Chanukah miracle. We went back in time to a world before Instastories and Snapchat, to a world where pictures were developed and put into a photo album instead of remaining on your phone, to a world where people spoke to each other instead of texting. What a wonderful world that was.

So even though we questioned son #1 and mocked the ad, I gotta admit the screen free for 30 minutes thing was genius. It really helped put things into perspective and also proved to us that we could stay off our phones during the week and not just on Shabbos.

But the best thing of all? It proved that we had the ability to talk to each other and enjoy each other’s company, and that is the greatest Chanukah miracle of all (Well that and that I only ate one donut. Let’s be real.)

Banji Ganchrow of Teaneck hopes you all have a wonderful holiday season, but wishes more people would decorate their homes with pretty sparkly lights…

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