Tag Archive: Technology

Hashem & Technology

Hashem doesn’t have a Blackberry or an iPhone, but He is my favorite contact. He doesn’t have Facebook, but He is my best friend. He doesn’t have Twitter but I follow him nevertheless. He doesn’t have Foursquare, but He is always checked in. He doesn’t have Linkedin but I always feel connected to him wherever I may find myself. He doesn’t have Google but that’s OK because he’s God. He doesn’t even have internet, but I am connected to Him. And even though He has a massive communication system, He never puts me on hold!

iHesped for Steve Jobs: 3 Lessons for Yom Kippur!

I received the following from Rabbi Eisenmann, and thought that I’d pass it along.

Please note: All of the quotes are from today’s New York Times.

“Steven P. Jobs, the visionary co-founder of Apple who helped usher in the era of personal computers and then led a cultural transformation in the way music, movies and mobile communications were experienced in the digital age, died Wednesday. He was 56.”

Time running and so are people! One of Steve Jobs greatest accomplishments in life was to allow people to move faster and quicker through life.

Therefore, for the sake of brevity- I present an ‘iHesped’ on Mr. Steve Jobs

At the time of his death he was 56 years old and worth an estimated $8.3 billion.

Lesson number one is: you can be worth ‘billions and billions.’ However, when Hashem says it is time to go…it is time. Therefore, ‘estimated worth’ will not give you life. Remember: It is ‘Teshuva, Tefillah, and Tzedokah’ that can take away the evil decree.

Steve Jobs led a cultural transformation in the way music, movies and mobile communications were experienced in the digital age.

Who has never used an ‘iPhone, iPod or any other Apple product? Lesson number two: One man who started in 1976 in a suburban California garage changed the way the entire world listens to music and talks on the phone. Imagine what you can accomplish in your life?

“He was the most passionate leader one could hope for, a motivating force without parallel,” wrote Steven Levy, author of the 1994 book “Insanely Great,” which chronicles the creation of the Mac.”

Lesson number three- Be passionate in your service to Hashem and His mitzvohs! You can be a motivational force to impact and help change others!

There are more lessons to be learned, however, these are my three lessons to be gleaned from the demise of Mr. Jobs and they are my “iHesped” to him.

Join Me & Disconnect to…CONNECT!

This Tzom Gedalia (September 2nd) join me and thousands of Jews around the world! I will be participating in the DaytoDisconnect Event which will allow people the opportunity to truly introspect how much technology is influencing their life!

After all, stop and think for five seconds…Is there a moment in your life in which your smartphone is ever OFF? Do you sleep with your phone at your side? When you are at a Shuir or at a Minyan…if your phone isn’t on OFF, is your phone at least on Vibrate or better yet Silent? Do you say Modeh Ani before checking your Facebook Wall or the Facebook Status of others?

We all know that we can improve our focus in our Bein Adam L’Chavero, and by extension, our Bein Adam L’Makom during the High Holiday season, and this is a lovely important cause that will allow us all to disconnect to connect! Enjoy these incredibly powerful and entertaining short promotional videos and click here to register for your hour to disconnect/connect so they can reach their goal of 1 million disconnected/connected hours.

NEW Torah Live Mezuzah DVD Brings Torah to Life!

Educators and Parents around the world have all been discussing how we can make Torah—and Jewish Education for that matter—relevant to our students. After all, it is increasingly challenging to present the timeless treasure that is a Torah lifestyle to kids who are being raised with distractions ranging from an iPad to a Nintendo Wii game. To that end, I’m always into testing new technology to see how it can be used to make Torah relevant. I believe that the good folks at TorahLive are on to something! In addition to their live presentations that they have made on several continents, I recently got a chance to review their very first DVD entitled, “Mezuzah: The Ultimate Connector.” This DVD does not disappoint. It is a highly professional DVD and is replete with information that can be enjoyed by young and old and by the scholar to the layperson.

Truth be told, the Mezuzah is seemingly the one item that adorns the homes of devoutly pious Jews as well as the home of an unaffiliated Jew. However, to your average Jew there is a lot of mystery and unknown laws when it comes to this small yet meaningful religious item. Mezuzah: The Ultimate Connector makes all of the complicated Jewish laws that revolve around a Mezuzah both relevant and exciting. It utilizes great graphics to bring to life quotes from the Torah to the Talmud as well as modern technology such as Google Earth to make such a critical Mitzvah something that any Jew can appreciate and understand!

Mezuzah Promo from Dan Roth on Vimeo.

Vision of using Google Earth for Torah Live Mezuza Presentation from Dan Roth on Vimeo.

Moreover, in addition to a comprehensive overview of both the Halachos and Hashkafah behind Mezuzah, I found this DVD to be real and honest as it even covers such topics as yes—Mezuzah fraud!

Additionally, this DVD is even offered in a Pro-Version which can very much act as a springboard to classroom discussion. All in all, I’d encourage any Educator let alone Parent to purchase this DVD as there is something that will inspire and educate everyone in your class/family.

Disclosure: I received a complimentary review copy of Mezuzah: The Ultimate Connector. I did not receive any financial reciprocity from this post.

A Simple Solution to Solving Shabbos Texting!

Earlier today, Rabbi Steven Weil, the Executive Vice President of the Orthodox Union noted that, “Everyone’s tweeting about it.”

You may ask, “what is the proverbial it?”

In this case, Rabbi Weil is referring to the The Jewish Week article that highlights the increasing phenomenon of Orthodox teens texting on Shabbos! Indeed, there are already several terms coined for this behavior such as: Half-Shabbos or Shabbos Texting.

Before we even discuss this topic, I want to ask the following question: should this topic be discussed in the open?

I believe the sagely Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai already answered this question for us. The Talmud (Bava Basra 89a-b) relates that Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai was debating discussing a particular topic in public and ultimately remarked, “Woe to me if I speak, woe to me if I do not speak.” Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai resolved his dilemma on the basis of a passage in Hoshea (14:10) that states, “The ways of Hashem are straight.”

The Maharsha suggests that the reason why he decided to publicize corruption and sin was that even if a sinner may stumble—by putting this information out there—there will also be honest people who will be saved from making mistakes.

I believe that this same resolve can be applied to the now very public discussion of Half-Shabbos.

As someone who educates young Jewish women hailing from all across North America, Administrators and Educators (ranging from the Bais Yaakov world to the Modern Orthodox world) have over the past two years, turned to me for my personal input as far as how to deal with this silent—and now seemingly louder—crisis.

Frankly, this phenomenon should come as no surprise. The use of texting seems to be the preferred form of communication with a teenager. In fact, according to this recent report, the average teenager sends 3,339 texts per month. Moreover, teen females send an incredible 4,050 text per month.

That’s more than 6 texts per waking hour!

Despite us sitting in the year 2011, the above mentioned figures are in line with the words of the Talmud. After all, the Talmud (Kiddushin 49b) notes that a woman is innately more of a communicator, by teaching us that, “Ten measures of speech descended to the world and women took nine measures of speech.” And so, while I have no concrete statistic in front of me, I’d venture to say that this issue is arguably even more prevalent with teenage Jewish girls.

So…how can we even begin to tackle this issue?

I know that there are those who may reply by saying it’s finally time to rewrite the typical Yeshiva High School curriculum. I’ve heard others privately comment that our sons and daughters need to focus on the basic fundamentals of our faith. In other words, our kids should learn more about topics discussed at an Aish Discovery Seminar, and not be bogged down in the archaic Aramaic language of the Talmud. Alas, I will leave these suggestions aside.

I believe the answer to beginning to solve the crisis of Shabbos Texting starts with the one word that defines what teens are doing when they text. That one word is: communication.

In my capacity as Overseas Director of Bnot Torah/Sharfman’s I have the unique opportunity to travel to various Jewish cities and neighborhoods throughout North America. In so doing, by davening at the local Shul or visiting a kosher eatery I enjoy being able to get a firsthand look at Jewish Americana.

And so, I’m pleased to have seen signs in various schools and other community establishments that beseech people to respect the prayer service by not texting during Minyan. Likewise, I saw a sign in several Yeshiva High Schools that encouraged a strict adherence to the laws of Lashon Harah by reminding students to “think before they text.”

These signs are nice. They are graphically pleasing and looked catchy. They communicate to the reader an ever important Jewish ideal. Moreover, the poster encourages teenagers to join committees or groups that will help create awareness towards Lashon Harah, Tzniut, and so on and so forth. However, before printing any more signs asking people to not text and to Daven, I believe we need to have signs and campaigns that champion, restore and evoke pride to all who observe Shabbos!

Just as Yeshiva High Schools have a S.N.A.P. (Shomer Negiah And Proud) Committee I encourage any school to have a S.S.A.P. (Shomer Shabbos And Proud) Committee. We must do something even at a student/grassroots level that will engage our youth to learn about the beauty of Shabbos and not simply be, as one person cited in The Jewish Week article said, “bored.”

The desecration of Shabbos is a dangerous spiritual disease in our midst that cannot be taken likely. At a physical level, the Surgeon General’s warning steers people from cigarettes. At a spiritual level, we must communicate and steer our children and students just how very meaningful Shabbos is to us. Fittingly, it was just announced this week that the Surgeon General will further communicate to the public at large the dangers of cigarettes. The Surgeon General’s warning on cigarette packs will soon be replaced by a much larger and more graphic a) image and b) warning! If the Surgeon General is upping their awareness I believe we need to do our part on a spiritual plain and create an infographic and campaign to educate teens about what sanctity, and by extension, how fully celebrating Shabbos allows us to experience kedushah in the physical world.

Without this form of communication, countless Orthodox teenagers will sadly view Shabbos as and not a day filled with kedushah. Rather, it will simply be a day to nap and read the paper. Frankly, I must admit that I could see myself also getting pretty bored if this was my understanding of Shabbos. I mean, let’s be honest. Who reads the newspaper anymore?

I hope that this article will come as a wakeup call to us all.

I hope that many are invigorating to communicate or to explore once again the beauty of Shabbos.

In so doing, we can begin to restore Shabbos as The Holy Day of Rest before it simply becomes known as, The Holy Day of Texts!

If you have any insights on this topic please share them in the Comments Section

Torah Thoughts on Privacy & Technology Stalking!

In today’s day and age it seems like people use a screen to not simply get their work done. Rather, we use smartphones or computer monitors to “zone out” or “chill.” Doing so is certainly important—but it should be done in moderation. Unfortunately, we all know people who are consumed with updating their Facebook status or playing Angry Birds to the extent that they don’t learn or consume their time with all the wonderful things that life offers us. Indeed, if one took a moment to contemplate the greater things in life, a person may  realize that from the advanced technological world in which we live in, we can further see the wondrousness of Hashem.

Recently, the media (see here) has been up in arms about the fact that Apple and Google are intensifying privacy concerns by tracking where and when people use their mobile phones. However, while this concern is real and genuine (and I encourage everyone to at least follow this easy step to secure their information on their iPhone) we need to heed the words of Dr. Pentland, director of MIT’s Human Dynamics Laboratory, who helped pioneer research in this field. Pentland hit the nail on the head when he noted that, “people can get this god’s-eye view of human behavior.”

Here is the director of MIT’s Human Dynamics Laboratory admitting that this allows us to appreciate an insight into Hashem’s view of human behavior. As a child we are all told that Hashem is watching over us at all times and knows our very movements, thoughts, and actions (also see my earlier blog post on this topic Google and God). In contemporary times, I believe that Hashem is using technology to show us his greatness. For instance, through the invention of the telephone we witnessed that it is possible for one to talk to another person across continents; and from the smartphone we now see that it’s possible to know the thoughts, health and location of millions of individuals.

And so, we must realize that if companies are accessing this information, the Almighty sure can!!

Our task is to use this technologically advanced world that we live in as an impetus not for spiritual decline—but growth.

The next time we are yapping on our smartphone and are about to  speak about or watch something unbecoming for a Jew, we should remember that it’s not just Fortune 500 companies who will forever have this information on us—but the ultimate Creator as well!

For more on this topic, I encourage all to listen to Rav Mordechai Willig’s shuir titled, Privacy and Shared Information: The Torah Perspective.

New Review: Sefiros iPhone App

Throughout the world, young and old alike enjoy the festive bonfires of Lag B’Omer and the delicious cheesecake of Shavuot. That said, we need to perform the act of Sefiras HaOmer, counting the Omer (all the way from the holiday of Passover to Shavuot), to reach these dates. And yet, understanding the mechanics and spiritual significance of this 49 day period is an ominous task.

Enter the new iPhone App called Sefiros!

This App is based on the bestselling book Sefiros, from the acclaimed author and community leader Rabbi Yaacov Haber. As an aside, I was privileged to briefly meet Rabbi Haber in person at last year’s Kishor Social Media Conference where we both lectured. From his remarks it was clear to all, that he is both a revered scholar—as well as someone who is keenly aware of and in use of the technological tools that we are afforded in 2011.  Hence, it is only fitting that he created an App that does more than simply helps one count the Omer. In fact, Sefiros seems to continue where the book left of in that it provides daily Kabbalistic insights as well as alerts that allow the user to discover and implement the unique spirituality found in each day of the Omer!

I’ve  tested this App the past couple of days and found that from design to content the Sefiros App really shines!

Unfortunately, there are some Apps out there in which the user experience is outright sloppy. I’m pleased to report that the Sefiros App is beautifully designed and is easy to use. Plus, it features a useful reminder to count the Omer complete with the text of the proper blessing. It even automatically adjusts to your timezone and location. This function is useful for anyone who may find themselves traveling on business or the like but still doesn’t want to get confused with what day of the Omer to count. What’s more, in line with today’s web 2.0 world that we live in, the App will allow one to share on Facebook and Twitter!

Best of all, the Grow version of this App, allows one to truly actualize this special time period. One can set various alerts that will remind a person to perform or be conscious of actions with G-d, their spouse or even to work on a character trait.  In so doing, despite the busy world that we live in, one can have an App to help them not only with their physical health (such as LoseIt)  but with their spiritual wellbeing as well!

If you are looking for some meaning after Passover or simply want to finally understand the Omer, I recommend you download the Sefiros App.

Modern Technology in Meah Shearim!

The word technology is not often found in the same sentence as Meah Shearim. In fact, this famous Jerusalem neighborhood and its environs, are commonly painted as abhoring anything to do with computer systems, the internet, or any other vestige of technology that you or I may take as a given! That said, I recently needed a place to daven Mincha and chanced upon the legendary Zichron Yehudah Shtiebel. This Shtiebel is located in a neighborhood that was originally referred to as Meah Shearim HaChadash, but is commonly known today as Beis Yisrael. For more on this area and its expansion I encourage you to read this post by Varda Littman here.

In any event, I noticed that there was not the usual chaos that one typically experiences at a Shtiebel. I didn’t need to scurry from room to room trying to ascertain when the next Mincha was going to begin. Instead, this Shtiebel had unique technology in place that allowed for an automated system that would simply announce the beginning of a Minyan, followed by the room number. However, in this case, it wasn’t a room number. Rather, it was one of the letters of the Hebrew Alphabet! As you can see from the picture to your right, the Hebrew Alphabet letters were lit up in bright neon colors and allowed for a calming presence to be felt throughout the building.

It was then that I realized that this use of technology is in line with how this neighborhood views technology. Simply put: if it helps one get closer to Hashem, I’ll use it! If not, keep it far…far away!

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