We Have the Technology

Did you buy yourself an iPhone? Here’s a cool application for you–kosherme.com. You’ll need iTunes to get it. With this program, your iPhone can tell you which blessing to say over any meal or snack, in Hebrew, English and transliteration. They have omitted all blessings that one would say on the Jewish sabbath, because traditional observance dictates that you not use your iPhone on Shabbat.

stock photo of lightningWhy do Jews have so many blessings, anyway? Blessing before you eat, blessings after you eat, blessings on thunder and lightning, blessings on seeing people of learning–there sure are a lot of them. If you believe in God, it’s what they call in computer software jargon a feature. It’s like Jewish culture has built in opportunities for gratitude and mindfulness.

If you don’t believe in God, you could use that moment to be grateful and mindful of other the human beings who worked to create your food, to keep your body healthy and to provide the roof over your head that protects you from thunder and lightning. (Though perhaps then you won’t want to pay the seven bucks to buy the application for your iPhone!)

I don’t have an iPhone. I do have a really cool pocket prayerbook, which I’m thinking maybe sometimes I ought to take out instead of only praying in the style of “OMG, please don’t let my computer have crashed.” I mean, that counts, but it’s not as pretty as the traditional set blessings and prayers. Books are low-tech to us now, but they do work.

Another technological goodie that I’m thinking I’d like on my home computer: an add-on to the Firefox web browser that gives you the power to search nearly every major Jewish legal text in Hebrew. The actual texts are on the Mechon Mamre website’s servers. You can read them even if you don’t use the Firefox browser by going to http://www.mechon-mamre.org. This group has a strong affinity for Maimonides and have his entire legal code, the Mishneh Torah, on their site. They are in the middle of creating an English translation, but have only done the preface so far. Yes, I know, you could buy the books–but they are long and heavy, and you could have this in your browser itself, which is kind of amazing.

This stuff is so cool. I feel like I’m living in some science fiction story–but you know, in a good way.

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One thought on “We Have the Technology

  1. That is very cool! Back in the late 90s, David Porush was writing about Judaism’s natural affinity for Internet technology, arguing that rabbinic texts/exegesis were innately hypertextual. I think Web 2.0 technology has gone way beyond what he was imagining, but the idea that one can access the “Sea of Talmud” (or Jewish traditional knowledge, more broadly) without being raised in yeshiva has some interesting & exciting possibilities.

    Of course, as a convert, it also makes me ask what my responsibility is to seek out and steep myself in the broader tradition behind those texts, rather than just grabbing the now-more-easily-accessible words…

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