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Divinity school is an unlikely place for a rabbi to meet her spouse. In my first week of graduate school, I became friends with a Coptic nun from Egypt, a Southern Baptist minister, a Jewish Buddhist and a young scholar of Early Christianity. The last would one day become my wife. I was one of a handful of Jewish students and I relished the opportunity to study religion more broadly within this diverse community before making the final decision to become a rabbi. It became increasingly clear to me that I wanted to pursue a career like my classmates who were studying to become ministers and priests. They were community builders, teachers, healers in a fractured world. Apparently, I needed future ministers to help me decide that I wanted to become a rabbi.
For the first time in my life, I was dating a Jewish man. Since I was seriously considering becoming a rabbi by this time, I believed I had to marry someone Jewish, and he met all the criteria of a perfect spouse for me. He was not only Jewish; we had been counselors together at a Jewish camp, he spoke fluent Hebrew, had spent time in Israel and studied Judaism in college. But he simply wasnât the right person for me.
My life took a major turn when I met Kirsti. She had grown up in a non-religious household with parents who had rejected Christianity. So, of course, she became fascinated by religion: religious people, religious texts, religious language. Like me, she was pursuing her masters at Harvard Divinity School. She would go on to earn a PhD in Early Christianity as I embarked on rabbinical school. We shared a love of religious mysticism and stayed up nights talking about Jewish and Christian mystical texts, and struggling with belief. In those early days, we also had to process the reality that dating a woman was new to both of us which, frankly, overpowered any worry about coming from different religious backgrounds.
Although she did convert many years into our relationship, Kirsti and I still question religion together and bring our knowledge, ideas and queries to the dinner table. We address our childrenâs musings with honesty and depth rather than supplying overly clear-cut answers we think they should be hearing. We hope our kids will be inspired to treat all people and ideas with respect and inquiry while being grounded in a rich, Jewish tradition. My Jewish life has been profoundly shaped by traveling this path with Kirsti for the past 20 years. She has led me to challenge pieces of our tradition that I blindly followed, and has deepened my connection to certain parts of our liturgy and rituals by seeing them in a new light.
I am delighted that as the new Director of InterfaithFamily/Bay Area, I have the opportunity to help families from mixed backgrounds navigate Judaism like we have. I will also strive to help Jewish communities become more welcoming to all types of people who donât fit the long-gone model of a traditional, Jewish family. We are most enriched as a community when we offer space for people to bring their whole selves and their full narratives to Jewish life.
Maybe a rabbi meeting her spouse at divinity school is a rarity, but each familyâs story is unique, with its own twists and turns. Who we love and choose to share our lives with cannot be reduced to a checklist of criteria to be met. Our stories are far more interesting than that.
Passover is one of the most widely celebrated Jewish holidays and many Jewish families have some type of Passover seder, but preparing to host a seder can be intimidating. This is true whether or not you grew up Jewishâand, as I can personally attest, even if youâre a rabbi!
Seder means âorderâ in Hebrew, and there is a set order for how the seder is to proceed, set forth in the haggadah. As an avid haggadah collector, I can tell you that there are LOTS of different haggadot to choose fromâor you may put one together yourself. But even once youâve selected a haggadah, if you have kids coming to your seder thereâs the added pressure of wanting them to be engaged throughout the evening.
Here are some things that have worked for me in the past:
MAD LIBS, COLORING PAGES, ETC.: One year, when the kids arrived at my seder, I gave them a Passover Mad Libs game.Â Playing Mad Libs is a great way to keep kids busy before the seder starts (especially if you donât want them running all over your house!) or after they have eaten their mealâwhich we all know takes kids a lot less time than it takes adults. If there are kids who are too young for Mad Libs, you can give them Passover coloring pages and crayons to keep them occupiedÂ (Google âPassover Coloring Pagesâ and youâll find lots of pages you can print for free)Â or if you happen to be using a digital haggadah, like this one from JewishBoston.com, the younger set can enjoy this fun onlineÂ seder matching game. Coloring in their own Passover placemats (which you can buy in many grocery stores, Judaica shops or onlineâor make your own) kept my kids happy and quiet during seders when they were little, as did kidsâ haggadot that they could color in.
PASSOVER GRANOLA: Several years ago, I attended a pre-Passover workshop led by Noam Zion, one of the authors of A Different Night, The Family Participation Haggadah. Zion suggested that when the seder begins, the host should give each guest a bag of granola, which they can nosh on so they wonât be hungry and anxious for the meal, and thus will be more engaged during the pre-meal part of the seder, which is the majority of the haggadah. So when we all sat down, I gave everyone, adults as well as children, a bag filled with raisins, nuts, and Kosher for Passover chocolate chips and marshmallows. I explained that just as our Israelite ancestors went on a long journey after leaving Egypt, we too would have a âjourneyâ before we began our meal, and the bag was filled with some food to keep us nourished along the way. (I also promised my guests that our journey would be a lot shorter than 40 years!). Another fun thing about the Passover granola was that my daughter, who was four at the time, had a great time preparing all of the bags with me before our guests arrived.
BINGO: One of the biggest hits was when I used a website to make a Passover Bingo game for my younger guests. The squares on the Bingo game had phrases such as: âI recited the four questions,â âI drank the second cup of wine/juice,â âI asked a questionâ and âI tasted maror.â I gave each kid a small cup of raisins, and told them to put a raisin on a square once they had done what was written in the square. This kept the kids engaged throughout the eveningânobody wanted to miss doing something and not be able to fill in that square on their card. I recently found a similar Passover Bingo game online here.
QUESTIONS! QUESTIONS! AND MORE QUESTIONS!: Any good seder involves a lot more than just the Four Questions in the haggadah. Originally, the items on the seder plate and many of the Passover rituals were meant to spark questions. Your seder wonât be nearly as rewarding if you just read through the haggadah without taking time for questions and discussion. Here are some fun ways to incorporate questions into your seder:
Ask lots of questions: Before the seder, go to a Dollar Store or party store and buy a bunch of cheap little toys to use as prizes. Throughout the seder, stop to ask questions about the story and celebration of Passover. Whoever answers the question correctly gets a prize. Youâll probably find that the adults like to play along and show off their knowledge as much as the kids do. Or better yetâŚ
Have your guests ask the questions: Encourage questioning by giving out a prize every time someone asks a question. Then let someone else answer the questionâand they can get a prize too.
Put questions under everyone’s plates: One year I put an index card with a Passover-related question on it under each plate before everyone arrived at my seder. Some of the questions were serious (e.g., âIf you could invite anyone to a seder, who would it be and why?â) while others were more light-hearted (e.g., âIf you could eat only one thing for the rest of your life, would you rather it be matzah or bitter herbs?â). At different points throughout the seder, I would randomly pick a person and ask them to take the index card out from under their plate (no peeking at the card until youâre called on!), read their question and answer it.
Advanced planning is key to a successful seder. But that being said, once your planning is finished and your guests arrive, do your best to relax and enjoy!
Are there things youâve done at a seder in the past that have been fun for kids and kept them engaged? What are you planning for this year?Â
My mother, Beatrice Case, died one week ago, on March 16, 2014. She was 95 and had been remarkably healthy until just two months ago. She was a much-loved woman, especially by my 97-year-old father with whom she shared 72 years of marriage. My dad says his âsecretâ for a long and happy marriage is to never go to bed mad and always say âI love you.â
I donât usually like to talk about my family in connection with my work at InterfaithFamily. But there is something important that I want to share to honor her memory.
My motherâs father was a traditionally observant Jew. My parents were founding members of the Conservative synagogue to which my mother schlepped my older brother and then me to religious school three times a week, a 25-minute drive each way. They made their opposition to intermarriage unmistakable to my brother and me.
In my eulogy I said that in the spring of 1968, when I was a senior in high school, I had started going out with Wendy, who wasnât Jewish at the time (or for many years later).Â One day I asked my mom, âwhat would be so bad if I kept on going out with Wendy?â She said: âWell, you might really like her a lot, and you might go to college and not meet any one you like as much, and then you might get back together with her, and then you might want to get married.â Thatâs exactly what happened.
I also said in my eulogy that six years later, when I told my parents that I wanted to marry Wendy, they had a choice to make, and they put their love for me and their devotion to their family above anything else. Wendy feels that they came to embrace her as their own daughter.
At shiva the next day a cousin, who visited with my father while the funeral was taking place (he isnât able to travel), told me that at about the same time as I was giving my eulogy, my father started telling her about exactly the same thing. He said, âBea and I talked about it. We decided that we didnât want to turn our backs and lose our son. And look at the wonderful family that we got.â
Also at shiva my motherâs childhood next-door neighbor and friend Elaine was talking to Wendy and said that my mother lived a âcharmedâ life. Wendy said, âprobably the worst thing that happened to her is that Ed married meâ and Elaine said, âthatâs right.â Wendy said, âif Iâm the worse thing that happened to her, I guess she did have a pretty charmed life,â and Elaine readily agreed. Because Wendy and I have been married for almost 40 years. Our daughter and son are happily married to wonderful partners; my mother adored all of them, and the feeling was mutual. My mother got to meet and know three great-grandchildren; the oldest one, who is three, is asking, âwhere is great-grandma?â
I would like to think that my mother and my father could see into the future the whole little universe of our loving family that would result from their loving embrace. But that embrace made something more than a loving family possible â they opened doors to continuing Jewish life. Wendy and I have been very Jewishly engaged. We canât know for certain what our childrenâs familiesâ long-term relationship to Judaism will be â but our daughterâs wedding was officiated by a rabbi â my parents got to attend â and so was our sonâs; each of our grandsons had a bris â my mother got to attend the second one, just last November; and our 8-month old granddaughter currently is a regular attendee with her parents at services at Mishkan in Chicago.
I said in my eulogy that my mother leaves behind the ongoing radiating ripple effect on the world that she and her thousands of interactions have had. She set a great deal of warmth and brightness and loving-kindness in motion. And she set the possibility of an ongoing Jewish future in motion too. I know that for me and my family her memory will always be a blessing.
Is it the spirit of the law or the letter of the law that counts the most?
âYour kids arenât Jewish because your wife is not Jewish,â my friend said to me over coffee recently. I laughed so hard that my coffee spilled. âWhatâs so funny?â she asked.
âI know that you totally did not mean for that to come across as offensive.â I said, âBut that is EXACTLY the kind of thing that we are trying to teach people not to say. InterfaithFamily wants to help build welcoming and inclusive Jewish communities and saying something like what you just said, for many people, is offensive.â
There are many times in oneâs life that a person might find himself doing something without asking the question, âWhy am I doing this?â One of the most divisive rabbinic rulings that is adhered to by various Jewish movements is that the religion of a baby is determined by the religion of the mother, not the father. So if a person is intermarried (as over 50 percent of the American Jewish population is), and they want their child to be recognized as Jewish to people within these movements, according to halachaâtraditional Jewish lawâit is the religion of the mother that âmatters.â Â There are other views, such as the Reform movement, that recognizes a child as being Jewish if either parent is Jewish and the child is being raised Jewish (often referred to as patrilineal descent).
One of the most interesting aspects of the origin of religious descent is that originally in the Torah (the centerpiece and master story of the Jewish people), the religion of the offspring was determined by patriarchal descent, not matriarchal. There was a change around 2,000 years ago, many scholars found, that was based on the very tragic circumstances the Jewish people were facing. Jews were being wiped out by the Roman Empire in the 1st Century. The victimization and rape of Jewish women by Roman soldiers was not an uncommon occurrence.
There was no genetic testing back then, of course, and since the Jewish people were facing extinction, the rabbis rightfully decreed that the only parental origin that âmatteredâ for determining the religion of the baby was the religion of the mother. This law, which is still practiced by many Jewish communities today, had a very practical design.
But as Bob Dylan would say, âThe times they are a-changinâ.â It is true that there is still horrific âethnic cleansingâ that goes on around the world, such as in Bosnia and Darfur. But the problem that Jews were facing 2,000 years ago is, thankfully, no longer a common occurrence or threat. The law that once was helpful is no longer necessary.
When my son was born, my wife and I decided to have a bris and our search began to find a mohel that was willing to perform this ritual ceremony on a child from an interfaith marriage. At that time, f the mother was Jewish, it was much easier. Because I was the Jewish parent, many of the mohels we spoke to would only perform the ceremony if my wife and son wen to the mikveh together. âSo whatâs the big deal?â I ignorantly asked. âIt will be fun to go to the mikveh.â Sounded simple enough from an unaware Jewish dadâs perspective. (By the way, if you are looking for clergy to help with a birth ceremony for your interfaith family, we are here to helpâjust visit interfaithfamily.com/findarabbi.)
My wife was not too excited about this idea. Her initial reaction was, âWho are we trying to please?â or in other words âWhy?â
Our kids are brought up Jewish in a Jewish house with mezuzahs on the doors. They attend Hebrew school and we celebrate Shabbat in our own meaningful way. And to us, right now, that is enough.
If you have questions about a bris or baby naming for an interfaith family, check out our baby naming booklet that you might find helpful. And please send me your stories (firstname.lastname@example.org), I would love to hear about your experiences as I continue this series of Halachah Unplugged.
âŚthat you are involved with someone of another religion (race, culture or gender)
By Wendy Armon and Joycellen Young Auritt Ph.D.
You have met someone very special and are involved in a relationshipâŚ. You want to share your excitement with your family but you are afraid that they wonât approve of the person you are dating.Â How do you tell your parents? Here are a few suggestions of what to do and what not to do.
Suggestions of what you should doâŚ
1)Â Â Â Â Â Tell them you are happy. Most parents really want to make sure that their adult child is happy and on a path where someone will love them unconditionally. Reassure your parents that you have thought about your choice and you are happy about your decisions.
2)Â Â Â Â Â Acknowledge your fears about your parentsâ reaction out loud. Sometimes when kids are little, parents may say, âI want you to marry someone who is XYZ.â Your parents may no longer feel that way about who you marry and may be able to assuage your anxiety early in the conversation. We all change our minds and evolveâmaybe your parents did too.
3)Â Â Â Â Â Make clear to your parents where you are in the relationship. If you and your partner are talking marriage, let your parents know. Living together? Dating seriously? If you are in love, tell them. This is a time for you to tell your parents all of the fabulous qualities about your partner. If there are similarities between your partner and one of your parents, point that out.
4)Â Â Â Â Â If your parents are concerned about your choice of partner, gently remind them that your choice is not a rejection of themâyou just fell in love! Remind your parents that you love them and appreciate all that they have done. Many parents take the decision that you have chosen someone from a different religion as a rejection of their religion or even a rejection of them. Let them know how much you appreciate various aspects of your upbringing.
5)Â Â Â Â Â Be sensitive. Parents may be a little shocked that you are falling in love with someone and moving forward in your life. Now that you are an adult, they may feel shocked that your life is moving quickly. Sometimes that shock may manifest itself in a focus on religious differences. For some parents the prospect of a wedding or a new generation may make a parent aware of their mortality and the future of aging. Even though you feel a little vulnerable, remember your parents have feelings too.
Suggestions of what not to doâŚ
1)Â Â Â Â Â Donât trap your parents. If your parents meet your special person but you donât tell them how important the person is in your life, there is a chance that your parents may make insensitive comments about the person like: âSheâd be great if only she wereâŚâ Let your parents know your feelings and who is important to you. This is not the time to be deceptive or coy.
2)Â Â Â Â Â Donât ask a question if you are not prepared to accept an honest answer. If you ask for their input but donât really want to hear anything negative, donât ask. Everyone will remember any negative comments for a long time. Questions like, âdo you think he is too selfish?â might get the answer you donât want to hear.
3)Â Â Â Â Â Donât Rush. If your parents are having a hard time adjusting to your announcement, slow down a little in your discussions with your parents. It is wise to give your parents a chance to digest your news.
Adjusting to the future may take time. Many people have a vision for the future and a vision that their children will make certain choices. If the future looks different than they anticipated, they will likely need an adjustment period to consider what is going on and then hopefully accept your choices. Parents may envision all kinds of things about where their kids will live, what they will do with their grandchildren, how the holidays will be celebratedâŚ We all need to adjust when life isnât how we imagined. Be patient.
Reality Check. Not all parents can accept whom you have chosen. Sometimes, your parents may have realistic concerns. Your parents may have legitimate views regarding compatibility issues that truly matter in the long run. It may take some time for your parents to become comfortable with the new reality.
InterfaithFamily/Chicago welcomes a new staff member to our office which is located on the second floor of the Weinger Northbrook JCC. Susie Field has a child at the JCC preschool and both of her children attend JCC camps. She is herself in an interfaith family and personally interested in our mission of supporting interfaith families open to exploring Jewish life. If you are ever at the JCC and wander upstairs, you will be glad to connect with Susie. She has a warm smile, a great laugh, a wonderful outlook on life and can share lots of ideas about everything from talking with extended family about religion to the day to day task of bringing spirituality and connectedness to our parenting. This is her first blog post with InterfaithFamily in which she shares the real things her son has said as he begins to process what he hears and learns about the religion and culture of Judaism.
My 5-year-old son attends a JCC Pre-Kindergarten Program.Â My husband is Jewish and I am not. Even the Jewish side of our family is learning as he learns.Â And, itâs lots of fun to watch and listen as his imagination runs wild. Here are some of the things heâs said lately that have made me smile:
As a mom in an interfaith family, I was worried my kids wouldnât know where they belonged or how to communicate about their beliefs.Â Instead, I am fascinated by each new spiritual discovery as it develops into value and faith. As my husband and I shepherd them through their journey, we explore our own beliefs. We are re-introduced to Jewish heritage; albeit, sometimes with a superhero twist.
Since I joined InterfaithFamily last fall, Iâve been thinking a lot about Jewish traditions and practice, and more importantly, what messages and ideals about Judaism Iâd like to pass on to my children. I grew up in a Reform Jewish household, and while my family was actively involved in our synagogue and many other aspects of Jewish life, we didnât often mark Shabbat in a meaningful wayâsomething I have not much changed as an adult.
Iâve been thinking about how much time Iâve been spending at Target on Saturdays. We just moved, and well, there are things to buy. Important things, like diapers and shower curtains and hand soap. And more diapers. Or grocery shopping. Or picking up the dry cleaning. Or any one of the endless errands that seems to pop up and never get done during the week.
Increasingly, thereâs something unsettling to me about dragging my 2-year-old boys around on errands on Shabbat. Itâs one of the reasons that Iâm so excited that InterfaithFamily is a community partner in Rebootâs National Day of Unplugging (NDU) on March 7-8. Iâve taken the pledge to unplug as long as I can for the day, and am using it as a way to reboot (yes, pun intended) the way we spend Shabbat.
Iâve been thinking about the NDU since I signed the pledge, and on Rebootâs website, found out that the program which InterfaithFamily is supporting (read Marilyn’s pledge) is an outgrowth of âThe Sabbath Manifestoâ, a project âdesigned to slow down lives in an increasingly hectic world.â The Manifesto is a list of principles to think about incorporating and interpreting in whatever way you see fit. My favorites? âConnect with loved onesâ (What better way to spend the day?), âGet outsideâ (Is it spring yet?), and âEat breadâ (Nothing better than a freshly baked challah from my new favorite kosher bakery, Blackerâs Bakeshop!).
But more important, Iâm using the National Day of Unplugging as a chance to think critically about how we spend the day, and whether it matches our familyâs values and what Iâd like my sons to understand about Shabbat and our priorities. Iâm thinking that instead of errands, can we linger over challah French toast before playground and storytime? Check out that Tot Shabbat service at a nearby synagogue? Or have a dance party in the living room? Because what I want my sons to take away from Shabbat is that itâs a joyful break from the week, a chance for us all to spend time together, with family and friends. A day apart, a chance to reset, to reflect, to connect, to start over, to do something special. Away from the checkout line.
Interested in taking your own pledge? Itâs not too lateâclick here.
âBen Zoma asks, âWho is worthy of honor?
My wife and I are always reminding our children that there is nothing more important than being kind. Hearing the âmean talkâ of childrenâs taunts or playground mishapsâwhich of course happens everywhereâmakes our ears perk up. Mess up on your homework, that can be resolved pretty quickly, but if you treat another person with disrespect, the consequences can be devastating.
The Hebrew word for respect is kavod. It is also translated as honor, dignity, and even glory. KavodÂ is a cherished word in Judaism. The Hebrew root of the word, (KVD) likens itself to weight, importance and abundance. Simply stated, kavodÂ is not something to be taken lightly. It is all about how one treats their fellow person. This is ascribed an indisputable holiness that is essential in Jewish philosophy. Right in the heart of the Torah, we are instructed to âlove your neighbor as yourselfâ (Leviticus 19:18).
A psychologist studying the aftermath of a Golden Gate Bridge jumper in 2003 said, âI went to this guyâs apartment afterward with the assistant medical examiner. The guy was in his thirties, lived alone, pretty bare apartment. Heâd written a note and left it on his bureau. It said, âIâm going to walk to the bridge. If one person smiles at me on the way, I will not jump.ââ (New Yorker, 2003)
Apparently no one smiled at him and the rest is a tragic moment in the history of the Golden Gate Bridge, and suicide in general. Of course, there was a deep psychological imbalance in his life that led to such a horrific decision. Yet, the fact that people continue to regularly disregard each other is troubling. Admittedly, no one passing by this tortured soul could have known the level of despair he was in, but perhaps back then and even now, people could make an effort to show a stranger in our midst a little pre-emptive kavod. Surely all of us have felt uplifted by the gift of anotherâs smile in passing. How much the more so for people we know!
So what are you doing to show honor and respect to the ones you love? How do you express dignity and kindness to the people you meet? The littlest gesture can make such a difference.
Interfaith relationships offer an incredible opportunity to contribute to Judaismâs enduring strength and diversity. All people should be welcomed and included in Jewish rituals that are such an incredible source of value and meaning to all who participate in them. Perhaps the question when planning life cycle events should not be what are you going to get out of this moment or the person involved in the ritual, but rather, what can you give to the relationship? How can you help break down the barriers and include others?
I invite you to think about this as you peruse our interfaith forums and dialogues here at InterfaithFamily. Letâs open our hearts and minds, for kavodÂ is all around us and it all starts by recognizing the holiness inside you.
So many couples I marry have one partner who grew up at an area congregation but left after their bar or
Why do people leave synagogues? Money. The synagogue can sympathize with the fact that the financial commitment is difficult to meet for many families. For some, they struggled to pay the dues in order to see their children through their bar or bat mitzvah and feel relieved to take these thousands of dollars of cost off their budget. Thus, the synagogue could say: You are not members because you pay dues. You are members because you have been part of this community. Anything you can contribute now that you are in a different stage of life will help our synagogue stay open and functioning. However, you are not off of our emails and off of our newsletter list and we do not bar you from holiday services because you need a break from the yearly dues after so many years of supporting the congregation in this way.
Whatever the synagogue then collects from this family will be more than if the family had left never to walk through its doors again. But now, wonât other people want to stop paying too? Each house of worship will have to figure out how this plan can work. Do they give post bar/bat mitzvah families a three year period of reduced dues and then hope that they have found value in the continued connection to the congregation and they can again make a bigger financial contribution? Money alone cannot make someone suddenly a ânon-member.â
Another reason people may give for leaving a synagogue is that they donât âneed it anymore.â Now that their children are through this major life cycle event, the parents in the family donât feel a need to attend the congregation. They are not Shabbat attendees, they donât come for adult education or Torah study. They would like to come for High Holidays, but they are not going to pay $3,000 a year for this when they can be someoneâs guest or just buy tickets. The response the synagogue could have is, âyou are still members here.â We will still be in touch and you can still attend any or all programs of the Temple.
Then a conversation could take place (preferably in person) about what they would enjoy coming to. Do you like cooking? We have cooking classes. Do you like knitting? We have knitting circles? Downtown lunch and learns? Meeting occasionally with the rabbi to talk about your aging parents, trouble with your teenager, a new health diagnosis you are facing? Your own marriage issues? We are here for you.Â It turns out you donât attend services because you canât read Hebrew? We can help with this. We need to be relevant for people beyond bar and bat mitzvot.
We obviously cannot make someone stay a member who does not want to receive information from the synagogue and who has had a negative experience there. Some say that so much of the correspondence with a synagogue involves asking for more money: money for a building campaign, money for memorial plaques, etc. I think that most people would be thrilled to hear that they are still members, even if they canât or wonât pay the same dues anymore.
Now, what about the people who do not call the office to say that they are stopping their membership. The synagogue knows who has just stopped paying. Those people probably receive a phone call and hopefully an in-person meeting to say, âWe miss youâŚwhatâs going on?â When people have ties to a community, it is hard to leave. Letâs make it hard for people to leave.
âIt is not good for man to be aloneâŚâ (Genesis 1:18).
The glass on my old iPhone was quite smashed up, or should I say it had cracked up. One drop too many after its two-year obligation was fulfilled, my smartphone soon became victim of a childlike fascination in how busted up it could become (it still works by the way). A few more (albeit unintentional) drops without a case, and it looked like the terminator was at the end of its days, still generating light and information through its busted exterior despite all the odds that it really should have died by now.
But this blog post is not about the terminator or hardware and itâs not meant to be a commercial for Apple either. Itâs about software. Well sort of. Itâs about the family unit in the hands of marketing geniuses that send people into increasing isolation for commercial gains. If you can liken your physical body to hardware, than itâs an easy leap to compare software to the soul. Here is what happened.
I bought a new iPhone (now I didnât say that I was immune to marketing efforts for cool gadgets) and soon downloaded the new operating software that Apple recommend for their phones: ios7, which is designed (among several other âconvenientâ features) to wirelessly synch all of your devices with the iCloud. I updated the iPad that my family uses around the house with the new software as well. The next night, on the way out for an event, a text that was meant for me came to the family iPad. For all of this hype about âthe Cloud,â and its promise of sharing devices, one would think that the message would also be on my phone. But somehow it (the message) chose one device as its communications destiny.
But this blog isnât about texting either. Itâs about sharing. My wife was puzzled why the message came to the iPad she often uses. Then it occurred to me that the technology that we are increasingly relying on every day wants everyone to have his or her own phones and pads and devices tailored for its owner, or should I say user. Apple wants me to have my own iTunes account with my own password for everything. What happened to the âfamily computerâ that we share? Sharing is not encouraged and âthe Cloudâ is something that I really have a hard time trusting with music and photographs. Can I really delete the photos that I love of my family and friends? Will it be there later when I finally get around to printing something from our 30,000 digital photos? Of course all of that is âfleetingâ as Ecclesiastes would say anyway.
But if you can center yourself enough to not be worried about the future and not in regret for something in your past, perhaps you would have the increasingly rare opportunity to be present and in the moment. You would just be with your family and friends. Can you even turn off your device? If so, how long would you last without checking your messages? How many computers and devices do we need to buy until we realize that we are under a spell of being technology junkies?
So is this the new world we have created? All silos doing our own thing with our own messages, gazing down, glum and hunched over with the physiology of a depressed person? Is there any wonder that antidepressants have increased 400 percent in the last two decades? It is a depressing tale that we are weaving no doubt. So put away your devices, turn them off for a little while. Go spend time with your partner and family and friends. You will find the real world easily if you just listen to your spiritual software: Your soul. No GPS even necessary. Our master story, The Torah, teaches that God looks at Adam alone in his Garden of Eden and says quite succinctly, âIt is not good for man to be aloneâŚâ (Genesis 1:18).
Most American Jews step foot into a synagogue at some point in their lives. Are they passing through inside their silos or are they building community?Â It is not the place so much that is important as the people that are passing you by if you donât take a moment to look up from your device and take part to something much bigger than your self. We can share so much together in endless ways, but in the end, it will not be from the spell of shared devices in a solo, it will be a concert in the key of community. And the song is love when your family is right there with you linked up in a community that grows together.