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The Electronic Chuppah

The Electronic Chuppah

New doesn't always come with improved.


There are some things in life you never thought you would see. I'm not talking about peace in the Middle East, or the fall of the Berlin Wall, or bubble gum ice cream. I mean something that I was witness to today; actually I was an active participant.

It all started innocently enough, the wedding was called for noon, and wanting to be early we showed up at 12:20 for what we thought would be a good hour till anything started.

It was lucky that we decided to be "early" because we got there just in time to walk the bride down the aisle. Since when did weddings start on time? Anyway, we embarrassingly found a seat and sat back to enjoy the show.

Almost immediately everyone could see something was amiss. The Rabbi who was marrying the couple looked nervous and soon a huddle formed under the chuppah. I am sure you've seen the scene before -- everyone who thinks they know anything joins in. It looked ominous.

What could it be? Did the bride change her mind? Did the Rabbi find a stain in his tie?

Then, someone seemed to have a solution and one of the men turned and looked directly at me!

You know those moments that all Jews fear, you are sitting in synagogue minding your own business when the president of the congregation comes over and asks you to make the blessing over the new Shlamboodle.

You would normally ask what on earth is a Shlamboodle? But he asks in a way that implies every idiot knows what it is, not only that, but, as the president explains, it's an honor.

Well, I was sure he was looking at the guy behind me, because I had no idea, "Why me?"

But it was me. He rushed over and said, "Do you have the blessing for the wedding?"

"All I have is a handkerchief. Will that do?"

I decided to join the huddle and figure out what was going on.

The Rabbi came in from New York to do the wedding, and somehow the hotel had lost his Prayer Book with the blessings in it, and it seemed that I was the most likely person to have one on me.

"Sorry," I explained. But, now it was my problem too. Unfortunately, he nor I had a clue what to do. Then it came to me. I have one of those Smartphones, the kind that does email, notes, schedule, and makes it really difficult to make a call.

When would anyone want to use a phone to conduct a wedding? This was that time.

I had bought some software from Pilot-Yid for the phone that has all the regular prayers on it, and when I went through the program I noticed it had the Wedding Service. At the time I thought to myself, when would anyone want to use a phone to conduct a wedding?

This was that time. Now I have to explain, this Rabbi looked like he could have just walked off the scene of Fiddler on the Roof, so I thought I had to explain what a Smartphone was. But it was a day for surprises -- he had the same phone!

But I had the software!

His face lit up. He did a great job and was very discreet. No one could tell he was reading the prayers from a phone. Too bad it wasn't on video – great advertisement for Palm.

So, what's the point? I'm a gadget guy, and everyone who is one, knows it. It's like we can spot each other in a stadium of 100,000 people, "Oooh, you got the X13750, version 3, how's the infrared transfer rate on that doombangle?"

(Hey, maybe a shlamboodle is like a doombangle?)

Gadgets are like cars -- what's the point of a $500,000 Rolls Royce if you have no where you really want to go. Technology is there to serve mankind, not the other way around. And it's great when that happens.

However, I see a lot of people serving technology. I can't tell you how many people I have met that upgraded to the next generation of Smartphone, only to complain that their old phone did a better job.

New doesn't always come with improved. The Torah points out (Genesis 13:3 Rashi), that when Abraham returned from Egypt, he stayed in the same lodgings as when he went. I never really appreciated the message. But with the i-phone "I'm-more-cool-than-you" insanity, now I do.

When you get down to it, these gadgets are just a fancy way of taking notes and organizing our time. We would be so much better off if we spent more time improving the quality of the notes then in the quality of the paper.

Wouldn't it be interesting if our Smartphones added up and categorized everything we did during the year. How many hours wasted driving to-and-from. How many weeks watching silly movies. How many days where nothing meaningful was achieved. How much richer our lives would be if the quality of our phone was matched with the quality of the time we were organizing.

Now that's smart.

I will tell you one way I find my Smartphone to be a meaningful addition to my life. At 11:50 p.m. every evening, an alarm goes off: "OID" it's called.

OID stands for One Idea a Day. Basically, I try to find one good idea a day. To me, a day without an idea is, well, a day without a shlamboodle. If you have a meaningful use for your Smartphone you can share with us, please add your comment below, I am always looking for a new meaningful idea, thank you.

One more note on the wedding. During the ceremony, while the Rabbi was conducting the service and I should have been paying attention, I was praying… real hard.

I was praying no one would call me and I would hear the Rabbi say: "Blessed are you…..he's not available now, can he call you back?"

Prayers do work; no one called.

July 26, 2008

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Visitor Comments: 13

(13) Rachel, October 15, 2008 8:39 PM

Thank you for the wonderful article! It is a beautiful thing to take something physical and transform it into something spiritual aswell. I can suggest that you can also have a reminder on your phone that says AP- standing for appreciation. Take 5 minutes and stope and apprciate all the amazing technolgical things that you have.

(12) Anonymous, August 1, 2008 11:29 AM


This was absolutely hilarious. I have a Blackberry and anytime anyone wants a quick answer to something no one can think of they all yell "get the crackberry". Technology is a beautiful thing if used for good and not evil.

(11) Anonymous, July 31, 2008 9:15 PM


I was absolutely delighted w your article and let me tell you i am electronically challenged.
suddenly, i had an idea: to ask you to send me a list of your ideas so that i can grow and learn in ways that perhaps wll never occur to me on my own. I have just started studying TORAH and already i find HASHEM is helping me expand my horizons with articles like yours.
Todah rabbah

(10) Anonymous, July 29, 2008 5:11 PM

more uses

My husband sets reminders for random times to tell me that he loves me (apart from all the other times which he tells me as well). Which always makes me feel good and happy :-)

I use my phone to remind me about loads of things, including saying tehillim and taharat hamishpacha obligations (as another reader said).

My husband and I also have memory cards in our phone which we download shiurim onto, and listen to them while cycling or walking to work, doing the washing up or any other housework etc. Great stuff!

(9) Allan Levine, Ph. D., July 29, 2008 3:28 AM

A terrific article, says improvise and be prepared

Jewish vigilence teaches us to find rescuing opportunities all over the place, often when least expected, for both fellow Jews and neighbor non-Jews. At the end these count greatly in the larger scheme of things. Thanks for your account and rescue at the opportunity! We hope to meet Rabbi Baars next time in the Nation's Capitol.

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