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Googling to God

Googling to God

My spiritual journey of a thousand miles began with a single click.

by Jonathan Milner

I fondly remember my first Google. The summer of 1999. It was a typically balmy Australian afternoon. Well, probably. I don't recall even glancing outside that day. Or for weeks afterwards, to be honest.

Our shiny new family computer had just been installed, and the world was at the fingertips of a inquisitive 16 year old. Of all the knowledge mankind had collected throughout our existence, there was practically nothing out of reach. What were my most innermost desires?

"C-H-E-A-T-S F-O-R N-I-N-T-E-N-D-O G-A-M-E-S"

And there they were, like magic. Nice one, Google.

We became the best of friends. He'd help me through school biology essays, no matter how late at night (or early in the morning!). Choosing the right university was simple -- he knew all about them! My adventures through South American jungles would have been a mess if it wasn't for his advice. And graduate opportunities? No problem. He even suggested the quickest ways to the interviews.

Life was running smoothly. For a typical 22 year old male, all the boxes were ticked. Career? Check. Car? Check. Fun in the sun? Check, check. But spirituality? Not even on the list.

Judaism was like our family's pro-team in a sport that I just didn't like.

No wonder. I had always viewed Judaism as our family's pro-team in a sport that I just didn't like. Sure, I was a season ticket holder, but it was rare that I'd attend any of their games. The spectacle was hardly that, and navigating my way through the match-program only confused me more. But even as my loyalty steadily wavered over the years, I always admired the cheering fans in the bleachers. But what they saw in it all, who knew.

Following another intolerable Rosh Hashana, it occurred to me; maybe Google had the answer. After all, he taught my father all the songs from Fiddler on the Roof. But I forgave my electronic buddy for that. Eventually.

"J-U-D-A-I-S-M"

Spilled across the screen were a multitude of sources for me to explore. One of the more credible looking options was "Aish.com -- Your Life, Your Judaism."

Click.

As the front page loaded, the article "Falling in Love with Judaism" by Rabbi Nachum Braverman caught my sceptical eye. I looked over my shoulder, making sure that no one was in the room.

Click.

Suspiciously intrigued after a rushed glance, I read through the article again. As I digested its words I felt my guard drop. After the third reading, which was a more methodical study, my cynicism melted away. I was ready to explore.

I had questions. Loads of them. But I wanted the fundamentals tackled immediately:

 

How do we know that there is a God?

 

Is there any evidence that the Torah was actually written by God?

 

They had answers. Loads of them. But I wasn't expecting them to be drenched with logic and critical analysis. Weren't all religions dependent on a leap of faith, empty of intellectual appeal? The articles I'd scrutinize at home, the daily/weekly emails I'd read at the office, and lectures I'd listen to while I drove to and from work suggested otherwise.

I decided that if there is a truth, I wanted to know it, intimately. And my ol' pal Google was going to be my navigator.

Over the coming months he led me to all ends of the Earth, from Tibet's mountains to Oxford's philosophy library. And I didn't even need to leave my study. But I kept coming back to Aish.com's virtual study hall in Jerusalem. After analysing another frighteningly rational insight into Torah, I'd find myself sitting quietly at my computer, staring at Kotel via the website's live feed.

I was terrified. I'd stumbled on the truth, and I didn't know where it was taking me. Why and how should all this obligate me? But as a matter of integrity, what I know must become part of who I am.

Plucking up the courage, I emailed my local Aish HaTorah branch. Before I could blink, I'm sitting at a rabbi's Shabbat table with 10 other guests. And I wasn't the only guest wearing a dusty kippah.

I started to attend stimulating weekly classes, where I immersed myself more in Torah thought and discovered that there were others like me who were falling in love with Judaism.

As I slowly become more exposed to the depth and beauty of Torah, I knew I needed to take some time off work to study full time. The inevitable moment eventually arrived:

"F-L-I-G-H-T-S T-O I-S-R-A-E-L"

My spiritual journey of a thousand miles began with a single click. Now I'm in the grandstand's front row, touching the Kotel's tear-stained stones, and I'm cheering my heart out.

 

Published: June 16, 2007


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Visitor Comments: 31

(31) anonymous, April 24, 2014 11:12 AM

great article

I can relate to this (and not just coz I'm aussie)
I too have discovered a lot about my Judaism thanks to the internet. I hate to get controversial but it bothers me terribly that some orthodox sects prohibit the use of internet. I for one will always be a strong advocate for the internet. As Lori Palatnik says, "The Almighty is bringing us together, one click at a time"

(30) Maureen de Vries, April 17, 2014 12:57 PM

G-d

I think your articles--particularly this one is kindling my belief in G-d. Not from my own understanding. But that HaShem is greater than I.

(29) pinchas Spicer, October 22, 2009 9:00 PM

on ya Aussie!

Us Australians are very used to sporting analogies. The sporting cullture is bred into us right from the first ability to throw a cricket ball. This is why I look back and laugh at another of G-ds little tests for the Australian Baalei Tshuvah: The sporting grand finals are always at the same time as the spiritual ones, namely Rosh Hashona and Yom Kippur. Do we cheer on our favorite team in the footy final, or sacrifice everything to go to shule. Its a tough choice in a land where "too much sport is barely enough" (quote from a popular local comedy team). After the reallity sets in and we finally make it home to Hashem, for people such as Jonothan and I, there is no competition anymore. Its now a case of "too much Torah is barely enough"

(28) jeremy, October 10, 2007 2:45 PM

wow awesome do you have more articles on the web

wow awesome do you have more articles on the web

(27) Eric Lander, August 21, 2007 11:06 AM

I had the pleasure of spending the last 3 months in Yeshiva with the author, befriending him and learning from him. Jono, your journey is truly inspiring, and you should be zocheh to inspire others through all of your days. Keep learning hard, and thank you for your words and friendship! See you soon im yirtzeh Hashem Yisborach.

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