Spirituality In Orthodox Judaism

Joe emails: The basic problem is that there is no way for spirituality to keep up with technology.

Technology is anti-spiritual in a real way.

Yes, it is pretty cool that you can go to a site on your iphone like Yeshivat Har Etzion’s virtual Beit Midrash and read about the truly sublime distinctions in Jewish civil law such as a thief keeping the broken pieces of an item he stole while having to pay back the theft in full in contrast to a bailee being able to deduct from his payment to the owner the value of the broken pieces (of the watched item broken due to negiligence by the bailee) retained by the owner. And, yes, it is way cool to have all of the siddur on your iphone.

But, the fact is that the classic use of this technology is the means employed by tiger woods, namely, scoring with multiple woman by using digital technology in real time.

In days of old, you learned torah from a holy book, in a holy room, with other holy people. Now, the book, the room, even interaction with people, is unnecessary with technology. But spirituality is not a lonely path.

The Rav frets about being a lonely man of faith, but even when you are alone in Judaism, for instance, when you as a man pray separately from a woman (your wife) who you share everything else with including a bathroom, you are with a congregation, you are part of a whole, you are part of a mission. Technology is all about “I” – if you are digital, you can do everything yourself. Even the most senior person at my job knows how to format documents on Word – 30 years ago, the most senior guy would not know how to turn on the typewriter.

Modern orthodoxy, by not first rejecting modernity and then making exceptions as need be, is not congruent. If teenagers at Shalhevet/Yula have an Iphone, and they go to movies, and they watch TV, they are going to be sending naughty text messages on their Iphone, and likely using the same Iphone to set reminders to count Sephira. Technology is just too anti-values to work. Again, your observers hating the “educational system” for not instilling the a prior value of Judaism is hating the players and not hating the game.

The game in MO is simply to obey the code of jewish law, but not to stick out in society like a fifth wheel. Well, the fact is as a truly orthodox jew, can you really go to Las Vegas, what with the drinking, prostitutes, gambling, etc? I do not think so – now Vegas is an extreme example, but what about MO jews who take their kids to a beach with women dressed in bikinis that are essentially floss and two bandages? What about going to colleges where a significant part of the education is scoring with the opposite sex without strings attached.

Congruence is critical and MO lacks it and that is why the MO shuls do not grow as fast as right wing shuls. Kids are not stupid, and they realize that keeping kosher under all circumstances is silly when the difficulty of obtaining kosher food far outweighs any immediate gratification that techonology makes us all accustomed to.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been noted in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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