Our custom here at Temple Beth Sholom is for me to ask the Bar or Bat Mitzvah about their interests so that when I give the sermon at their
ceremony, it will be about something that they can relate to. So when I asked a recent Bar Mitzvah, Marco Donato, the first thing that came up was Jailbreaking. This is not because Marco has been arrested and needed to break out of jail. Although I want to say for the record that if, for any reason, Marco is ever falsely accused of a crime and is erroneously put in jail, I promise that I will visit him and bail him out. No, Jailbreaking is a term for the process by which full access is obtained on all the partitions of the Apple TV, iPad, iPhone or iPod touch. It is done by patching a formula to mount the System partition as ‘read-write’. Jailbreaking is the first action that must be taken before things like unofficial activation and unofficial unlocking can be applied.

If I understand this, even vaguely, it feels like the key
word and concept is access, allowing people to be part of
the digital world, to break through walls that separate
the person from all sorts of communication and information.
Seemingly minor changes are truly tremendous changes
to software or applications.
We recently celebrated the holiday of Passover. Passover
is about the Exodus of the Jewish people who were the
victims of genocide and persecution. They had been forced
to work as slaves for the king of Egypt, known as the
Pharaoh. I now have a new name for Passover, because it
is the greatest “Jailbreak” in history. Hundreds of thousands of people escaped the prison known as Egypt.
When you think about Egypt, your mind is filled with
images of pyramids. The pyramids were literally tombs.
If the pyramid is the symbol of ancient Egypt, it is
because Egypt was obsessed with death. The Jewish
people broke out of the jail of Egypt and focused on this
life, on the here and now.
Egypt had a writing system called hieroglyphics. There
are 700 or 800 hieroglyphic signs. Why? So that only the
Pharaoh’s scribes could write accounts of what was going
on, and they would only write what the Pharaoh told
them to. So the Pharaoh controlled all information. If he
lost a battle, he said that he won it. Controlling writing
controlled information.
When the Jewish people broke out of the jail of Egypt,
however, they used a system of twenty-two Hebrew
letters so that everyone could read and write and everyone
had access to information. There were no more walls.
These may seem like minor changes, but our attitude to
death, and how many letters there were in the alphabet,
led to huge changes.
In many religions, only the experts know how to perform
the rituals and only some of them understand the
ceremonies. But in Judaism, every Jewish person has the
right to perform every ritual and is encouraged to understand every ceremony.
When we hold the open Torah up in a service, it is so that
everyone can see what we just read. There are witnesses
up on the bima, seeing that it is being read, and everyone
else is reading the same passage in the printed books as
it is being read from the Torah. No walls between people,
free access of all information to everyone.
So the greatest jailbreak in history, the Exodus from
Egypt, led to exactly the kind of changes Marco wants to
bring to your phone; full access to the world.
We live in a wonderful time. I tell my friend Alexa to play
me any song that I can think of, from Twinkle Twinkle
Little Star to the whole score of Hamilton, and I am
listening to it immediately. I want to know something, I
ask my friend Siri. I want to watch any movie ever made,
I do it through this little box called Roku.
So we’re all out of the jail of isolation, right? We have the
whole world at our fingertips, and we’re learning a lot,
I’m not so sure. Actually. I’m afraid that we’re more
isolated than ever and that we don’t need to really do
research of any kind and we are more at the mercy of
people who are telling us what to think than ever.
Full access does not give us a purpose, and it can make
us lazy. If you read a book, you have to use your own
imagination. But if instead you watch a movie made from
that book, you don’t have to imagine much at all.
And since you can Facebook and instant message and
text; you don’t even have to call anyone, much less see
them face-to-face. I’m afraid that there is less human
contact than ever. When you have the whole world on
your phone, you don’t have to move.
We have to take these marvelous new tools and learn
how to use them to be more human, not less.
So that’s my message about jailbreaking. Access to
everything is great. But it’s only a first step. Now we
need to figure out how to learn more about the world and
about ourselves.

Rabbi Scolnic