There is a strangeness to being the People of the Book in the Age of Twitter. For two millennia, Judaism has given the world law without politics. Certainly, Jews have not stood outside of history; on the contrary, we’ve been deeply affected by it. But our national culture, the texts to which tradition demands we devote our energy, could not be more different than the torrent of frenzied pettiness (which we call “news” and “commentary”) that now consumes so many of us.
This thought occurred to me recently as I toggled through a handful of my regular news sources before heading to sleep. But as I slipped into bed and said the nighttime Shema prayer, I was suddenly struck by the contrast between my two nightly rituals. The practice of reciting the Shema before sleeping has always seemed to me to be among our tradition’s most powerful. A Jew literally obeys the biblical call to “to speak [these Words] in your lying down and in your waking up” and to “meditate on [the Law] day and night.” In doing so, one affirms physically and verbally one’s obsession—or at least one’s aspiration to obsession—with God’s Word.