October 2011: There’s No App for That

In our drive to squeeze maximum efficiency out of every aspect of our modern lives, we have inadvertently developed a new level of laziness. I am referring to, of course, the ever prevalent “app” (short for applications because we can’t be bothered to waste time speaking whole words anymore) that many of us use on our smart phones or tablets. We have apps for games so we do not have to interact with other people, apps to find our way to places so we do not have to get out a real paper map or plan ahead, apps for picking restaurants, apps for condensed news, and of course apps to manage our apps. One of my favorites is a conversion app that I use for work. Now I never have to remember how many BTU’s in a gallon of oil (I am sure everyone has this number on the tip of their tongues) or how many liters in a gallon.

There are also apps for prayer books, the parsha of the week, and Hebrew translators. But one thing there is not an app for yet is peace, happiness, or spiritual well-being. For help with that you still have to come to Temple. Judaism is a communal religion, and when we pray during the high holidays we are constantly reminded of that communal nature. We pray for forgiveness for our collective sins, not simply those that each of us have committed, and by having a focused silent devotion for personal prayers (the Amidah), we are subtly reminded that the rest of the prayers are not so personal – they are communal.

As we begin to think about the holidays, we check our closets to make sure we have appropriate clothing back from the cleaners, we make sure we have not misplaced our tickets, and coordinate with work to make sure we have the time off. But it is also time to be part of the community. It is time to plan dinners with the extended family, time to get together for a dinner with friends in the Sukkah, and time to interact with people, not machines, for a few days.

The Holidays are a time to return to the Temple, to set personal spiritual goals for the year, and to catch up with the community. Whether your personal spiritual goal is attending Shabbat services once a month, attending minyan once a week, or just coming to the next Temple-sponsored social event, I encourage you to reach a little beyond the comfort zone for your annual goal.

For those of you still looking for an app to download, I hear that the acne-removing flashing light app has been rebranded to a spiritually-fulfilling flashing light, complete with new age music, and is available for $4.99.

L’Shana Tova,