Thursday, March 31, 2011


Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Tazriah/Hachodesh

26 Adar II 5771/April 1, 2011

Are smart phones making us dumber?

In January, Cathy Cruz Marrero, 49, was replying to a text message from a friend when she fell head-first into a water fountain at the Berkshire mall in Wyomissing, Pennsylvania. In an interview on ABC's Good Morning America following the event, Marrero said, "I was like, 'I'm hoping nobody saw me. So let me just walk away’.”To Marerro’s consternation, the video was posted on YouTube and has had over two million hits.

We are extremely captivated and allured by the conveniences and wonder of technology. But it seems that instead of using our technology for the betterment of our lives, we have become enslaved by technology.

I don’t think I can express this idea any better than the great philosopher Bill Watterson:

William Powers, author of “Hamlet’s Blackberry” explained the mindset of the general public regarding the malaise of technology: “You want to be connected all the time. This is where society is headed. This is where the cool people are. This is where the knowledge is. This is where all the forward thinking people are. And that in fact has been true for the last 15 or 20 years. That's the direction we've all been moving in. I called it digital minimalism in my book. The more connected you are the better. (But) I think its finally donning on people that, that really deserves a second look. That it's not taking us to the place as thinkers, as friends and parents, and teachers, all the roles we play in our lives, that use of digital technology, nonstop around the clock, isn't serving our highest purpose as it's becoming clear to most thoughtful people.”

For us, to whom thought and concentration are essential so that we can ponder the Torah and the Ways of G-d, this challenge is even more daunting. There is unquestionably much to be gained from technology, and surely much Torah to be learned as well. Still-in-all, like everything else in life, we have to ensure that we can develop a balance, and that we are not unwittingly allowing our priorities to become secondary to convenience.

I conclude with the following story which speaks for itself:

One day Fred and Edna, an elderly couple, went to visit their friend Murray in the hospital. Fred was visibly shaken to see his good friend on life support, hooked up to so many monitors and beeping machines.

When they arrived home Fred turned to his wife of sixty years and said, “Listen Edna, I want you to promise me that if I ever become dependent on a machine that you’ll pull the plug. I just can’t bear the thought of living that way.”

Without responding, Edna stood up walked across the room, and unplugged the television.

Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos,

R’ Dani and Chani Staum