Home Sweet Home

Copyright Rabbi Eli Hecht
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After the English song, Claire, the maid of Milan, appeared in opera the words "home, sweet home" became a popular saying. You could ask anybody where they like to spend their private time and be told, "at home". Yes, it's home sweet home.

Home means a place to relax where you are not bothered; a safe comfort zone. When escaping from work or stress, we go home. If we mess up and need to get away, we go home. There in our homes we can be our true selves.

There is a favorite saying by the rabbis of old, "Each and every man is a king in his own home" (Ethics of Rabbi Nathan, 200 CE). My great-grandmother had a hand embroidered sign that said, "Home Sweet Home". So do many of my friends. However, lately all this seems to have changed.

It seems our homes have been taken over by more and more gadgets, consuming our energy. The peaceful sanctity of the home is gone. Home is not what it used to be.

Let me clarify from the onset, I am for computers, modems, virtual reality, E-mail and on-line, etc. I just would like to state some observations of what's happening to us, users of the technology.

  Now let me give an example of what happens when we get home. First we listen to our answering machine; then turn on the pre-recorded videos; look at our E-mail and if we have a fax machine we review communications. Instead of relaxing we pick up more work. We think  we will relax but we don't.

Remember this: The whole reason for coming home is to get away from it all. Instead, we now are going from one office to another.

Imagine, we have had a long, hard day at work. We can't wait to come home to relax and get away from all the stress and decision making. I believe that's wishful thinking.

Nowadays we drag the work with us. By owning a modem, that magical piece of modern technology, we can continue working non-stop.

The latest computer advertisement which showed a man in pajamas walking over to his computer really hit home. The slick advertisement had a heading that said something like, "You can now do banking in your pajamas."  This is in the middle of the night!

I ask, "Who needs banking at 2:00 a.m.?!"

Instead of finding a haven from work, you simply can't  get away from work! The advertised message is that computer opportunities are now unbelievably enormous. They may be enormous from a business point of view. However, in a social system they are actually disheartening. Things are incredibly wrong! There are values and needs which are more important to a healthy individual.

The reason you see a man doing banking in the middle of the night is that he can't sleep knowing that he can access the computer. His "Home Sweet Home" has become the office annex.

When and where is he going to relax? How can he give quality time, love, compassion and attention to his family if he is doing banking in the middle of the night? The answer is that he won't.

You can form relationships using computer networks. You can receive the latest information from any country, and recently you can even have lovers and sexual encounters - all by modem, so why try to lead a normal life?

By bringing in more and more on-line features, we are losing  inter-personal communication!

For years I have counseled couples to separate work from pleasure, to leave the office at the office, to learn how not to bring work home, to use their home as an island for free time, personal activity and growth.

You simply cannot give more time to work and lead a unified life. Let me illustrate. Once there was a teacher who needed some extra money. He placed an ad in the paper, "Private, One Hour Individualized Tutoring". Parents sent their children to the tutor in the evening. However, there was one parent who said that too many students were being tutored. If there are 24 hours in a day and 25 students were being taught, how could the teacher advertise one hour of individualized tutoring per student? The teacher replied, "It's simple. I get up one hour earlier!"

If you want to live a healthy life you need certain hours for work and other hours for family and personal time. We must re-establish the home as a sanctuary, a non-negotiable place for peace and tranquillity where love and quality time can, once again, be shared. Leave the work at the office.

In summation, it's always been my contention that it's drug abuse and not drug use that causes the problem. So, too, we are not asking computer users to pull the plug. What I do however ask is to not log on at 2:00 a.m.

You may be downloading your marriage  and booted out of the system.