Technology & Spirituality, Compatible?

Friday, 28 January, 2011 - 1:50 pm

When explaining the flood of Noach, the Zohar comments: "And six hundred years into the sixth millennium the gates of wisdom from above and the fountains of wisdom from below will open, and the world will be corrected as a preparation for its elevation in the seventh [millennium.]”

The prediction corresponds to the year 1840. The "gates of wisdom from above" represents the Torah's inner teachings. The "fountains of wisdom from below" refers to science and technology. Indeed we see that in both of those areas there was explosive development around that time. The industrial revolution was followed by amazing leaps in the development of science, medicine and technology. Similarly in Torah development, the teachings of Chassidism had begun to spread and become accessible to multitudes of people via the printed and later the digital word.

All of this, the Zohar explains, serves as a preparation for the "Seventh Millenium" the era of Redemption. We can understand how Torah development serves this cause. But what role does science and technology play to this end?

The Rebbe explains in one of his talks (adapted in English at that firstly, the era of redemption will be the time when both the physical and spiritual will be equally aware of the Divine truth of existence, as it states in Isaiah, "and the glory of Hashem will be revealed and all of the flesh will perceive that Hashem has spoken." Furthermore, he argues, scientific and technological developments help us gain an appreciation and insight into previously abstract spiritual ideas. He cited the example of the telephone and radio as examples of "an ear that hears" even though it is not present in the room. Atomic science serves as an insight to the idea of Absolute Unity within all of creation rather than disparate elements that are unrelated. Finally, he concludes, when we harness technology in the service of G-d it all comes together.

This is one area where the Rebbe's approach was unique amongst Torah leaders. He did not shy away from utilizing communications developments such as radio, tv and satellite technology for spreading the teachings of Torah. How much more so today when we have the internet and advanced communication capability, where all of the above is even more highlighted and apparent.

I would like to share, on a personal note, how one area of technology is significantly enhancing our family's spirituality. One of the rapidly developing areas of technology involves online educational settings. Chabad is on the cutting edge in this area. My daughter Mushka participates in an online classroom (part-time - as a supplement to the wonderful education she receives at Torah Academy). She has real-time instruction from live teachers as well as visual and audio interaction with the teacher and other students in her class. They utilize a multiple interface approach (typing, speaking, listening etc.) that is all interactive and within a secure online environment. This technology has allowed her to grow in many areas including scholastically and socially. She just finished her first face to face meeting with her teachers and classmates when they got together for a graduation trip (8th graders).

For all of the negatives of the internet (and they are numerous and real), we must recognize that everything in this world exists for the glory of Hashem. We must utilize what is there for its proper purpose. When we do so, ultimately goodness will prevail and the world will be filled with G-dliness and goodness.

I extend heartfelt condolences to the Goldin family of Gulfport upon the passing of the patriarch of the family, Mr. Jack Goldin. He and Mrs. Goldin have much to be proud of in successfully raising generations of Jewish Goldins on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. May his memory be a blessing and inspiration to his family and those that knew him.

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