Divre Harav – April, 2021

We had a technological failure at Purim which got me thinking again about the role of technology in creating community. How many things need to work properly in order to create a community via Zoom or in order to be included in a community by watching a broadcast? The building needs to have power, the camera, sound system, and broadcast equipment needs to be turned on and working, the internal network needs to be active, the network of the company from which we buy internet needs to be working, the software of the video broadcast company and their network needs to be working, and your internet, equipment, and software needs to be working. And of course the entire system from one end to the other needs power. If any single piece fails, the broadcast fails.

It reminds me of the logic behind our approach to Shabbat. The minimal use of technology on Shabbat encourages us to turn to face-to-face community. In its most traditional form, when the community walks to shul, the only technology we rely on to gather a minyan on Shabbat is having sufficient heat and light in the building. Even adding the element of transportation to shul, we’re still relying on fewer points of failure than the broadcast.

Video-conferencing software like Zoom has been a blessing and a life-saver during this pandemic, allowing us to interact with each other virtually in ways that have begun to feel normal. However, periodically, the technology reminds us that virtual is not the same thing as actual. Even post-pandemic, we’ll continue to broadcast our service for people who cannot come in person. But as the Purim failure reminds us, if you are comfortable and able to come in person, you can bypass the technology when it fails by hopping in your car and driving to the synagogue. Within 15-20 minutes (or less for most people), you can be in the sanctuary plugged directly into the community without missing too much of the service.


As the vaccine becomes available more widely, I urge you to sign up for a vaccination. The Committee on Jewish Law and Standards has ruled that vaccinations are an obligation, to protect your health and potentially that of others around you as well. And I hope you will begin to be more comfortable returning to in-person services on Shabbat. We have had a consistent minyan since mid-October thanks to about 20 people coming either weekly or once or twice a month. We need your help during Pesah. The Sanctuary, however, is a large room and we need a few more people to fill it up with sound!

Hag Sameah!

Hebrew Words of the Month:

  • telephone selulari or nayad – cellphone or mobile phone
  • mahshev – computer
  • reshet – network

Divre Harav/Words from the Rabbi – Summer, 2011

I love books, and I hope to be able to hold a book in my hands and read for the rest of my life.  I love turning the pages.  I love flipping back and forth between pages.  Sometimes, I go back to a book I have read in the past because I remember a particular passage or concept, and I find it based on the location in the book, where it is on the page, and I can scan paragraphs very quickly to find what I am seeking.
Some of you know that in my pre-rabbinic early college life, I studied computer science.  I begin my love affair with calculators when I was about 10, graduating on to desktop and laptop computers, PDA’s, and iPad, and dabbling in programming, testing software, using electronic communication, and creating web pages.
The experience of reading electronic materials is very different, and although I like reading short articles, I still prefer the feel and small and texture of the book.  Nevertheless, just as the scribes of old would have been foolish not to see that the codex was going to replace the scroll and the  printing press was going to replace the codex, we would be foolish to imagine that the proliferation of ways to read electronic documents will not someday displace the book.
We supplement our written communications, the Voice and the Shabbat announcement page, with a weekly email and a web site that is intended at some point in the future to evolve into a replacement for the Voice.  We designed the web site with specific features in mind to help this happen.
First of all, although a web site is something that you can go to for information, it is also designed to be able to send the information to you automatically. For example, if you use a google calendar to keep track of your personal calendar, you can subscribe to the synagogue calendar, so that events, classes, and meetings automatically appear in your calendar.  Do this simply by adding AhavasIsrael@gmail.com in the entry box under “Other Calendars” along the left side of your google calendar page.  You can also subscribe to the Jewish Holidays/candlelighting times and UJS calendars, but the calendar addresses are a complicated string of numbers and letters – email me and I’ll send them to you.
You can subscribe to my columns in several ways.  If you go to EmbodiedTorah.Wordpress.com, there is an entry box on the right side to type your email address and click “I want to embody Torah,” and you will get email notifications of every blog post.  Alternatively, if you go to the Divre Harav section of the web site, there is a set of five little buttons beneath the right menu.  The last of these buttons is an RSS feed.  RSS is normally explained as “really simple syndication,” an easy way to subscribe to articles on web sites.  If you click on the RSS button, your browser or computer should give you options for how you want to read the articles.  You can choose to read them in your browser, in your email program, or in another RSS reader program.  You can also subscribe to any page of our web site, such as the upcoming events, the home page (where the most important/urgent articles will be posted), the library news column, and the presidents column.
The Voice will continue to show up in your mail box 10 times a year, but if you take advantage of ways to subscribe via our web site and calendar, you will be completely up to date at all times.