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A Cure for Your Screen Addiction

Sunday, 15 April, 2018 - 10:31 pm

Question of the Week:

I am 16 years old and I am an atheist. I attend a Jewish High School, and we have compulsory prayers every morning for about twenty minutes. I have argued that there is no point in me taking part due to my lack of faith, so I should be allowed to read a book. My teacher said I should ask you this question - is there any benefit for me to say the prayers? If you can somehow convince me that I am not wasting my time, I will consider it...


I challenge you to try this.

When it's time for prayers, sit with your prayer book open and start reading. For the next twenty minutes, try not to take your eyes off the book. See if you are able to maintain focus and concentration for the entire duration of the prayers.

I don't mean to have mystical intentions or to meditate on anything in particular. Just look at the letters on the page without lifting your eyes.

It will be excruciatingly hard. At first you might only be able to do a minute or so. But over time, if you persist, you will be able to hold focus for the entire twenty minutes.

This is an amazingly powerful brain exercise. In our generation of minimised attention spans and over-stimulated screen addictions, the ability to maintain focus on one thing for an extended time is a precious and much needed gift. By doing this exercise daily you will get a huge head start in life. Because focus, discipline and persistence are tools that every successful person must have. You will not learn these skills from your phone. You will learn them from your prayer book.

Now you might argue, if I'm going to spend twenty minutes focusing on one thing, why not focus on a book that I'm interested in reading, rather than a prayer book that doesn't interest me at all? Well that's the whole point. The idea is to focus on something that is not your thing. It's not your interest, it's not what your mind is curious about it, it is something completely beyond and outside of you. The discipline and self-control required to do something you are not in the mood of doing is itself an achievement, and a vital skill in life.

This is actually the true purpose of prayer. To transcend yourself for a few moments a day. It will not only make you a better reader, it will make you a better person. Believe it or not.

Good Shabbos,
Rabbi Moss

See Tanya Chapter 28

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