Tefillin with ESP, siddurim with GPS, Shabbat robots with AI, all set to come to market
ASAP and disrupt the way ‘Jew do Jew.’ But will the upgrades prove helpful or aggravating?
Rabbi AVI Finegold
FOUNDER, THE JEWISH LEARNING LAB, MONTREAL
Rabbi PHILIP Scheim
BETH DAVID B’NAI ISRAEL BETH AM CONGREGATION, TORONTO
Rabbi Scheim: I was intrigued by the latest product announcement emanating from Apple headquarters in Cupertino, Calif.: iTefillin. Observant Jews are expected to line up overnight at Apple stores worldwide in order to be the first to acquire these new high-tech, state-of-the-art phylacteries that will automatically sync with one’s iPhone and iWatch. Emails will be readable on the shel yad (hand box) and voice calls and texts will be silently delivered to the shel rosh (head box), into one’s brain so as not to disturb the service in progress.
It will no longer be necessary for worshippers to check their messages during the leader’s repetition of the Amidah, since technology will have already transmitted them to the worshipper. The iTefillin, which will be self-winding, will be offered in a selection of three colours, all of them black. Apple has suggested that quantity discounts will be offered to Chabad emissaries, enabling them to upgrade the tefillin they invite passersby to put on.
Rabbi Finegold: The SiDDURpad is similarly poised to revolutionize the way we pray. While it is still in development, experts expect it to include a host of features that optimize your tefilah experience.
Not only does it detect your nusach using geolocation, it uses proprietary artificial intelligence to scan your kippah, skirt and/or T-shirt slogan, as well as your environment and neighbours, to correctly identify your denomination with 98 per cent accuracy. The SiDDURpad then gathers all of this information and automates your Shabbat prayer based on what time you generally show up to services, calculates your average davening speed using your weekday page scrolls and automatically cues up the tefilah and Torah reading, moving worshippers through the prayer all by itself (all buttons and screen taps are disabled for Shabbat, of course). It even places an appropriate pause for kiddush club based on which whisky is being served that week. Before Shabbat, simply enter in “Black Label” for a quick two-minute shot or “Macallan” for a more leisurely 20-minute break.
The SiDDURpad is endorsed by no major rabbis, but is sure to be a hit nevertheless.
Rabbi Scheim: It is not surprising that robotics, now making significant inroads into much of modern life, is set to augment the traditional Jewish lifestyle. The soon-to-be-released Shomer Shab-bot is bound to become the must-have piece of technology for observant Jewish families. Built to annoy, it will follow family members around, making sure that all relevant mitzvot are being fulfilled at the proper time.
The Shomer Shab-bot will ensure that individuals are awakened sufficiently early to make it to minyan or to recite the Shema. Through radar detection, it will determine whether tzitzit are being worn, sounding a tekiah gedolah should they be absent. (Egalitarian models will apply the same check to males and females.) It will serve as your personal mashgiach, seeing to appropriate kashrut conduct, and will emit debilitating electrical shocks should dairy be consumed less than six hours after meat.
As a bonus, the Shomer Shab-bot will aid in Pesach preparations by playing archival cantorial recordings at ear-splitting volumes in the presence of hametz. All in all, your Shomer Shab-bot will be the essential frum appliance that you will quickly learn to hate.
Rabbi Finegold: Sounds like someone took the Shab-bot Goy and tinkered with the software! You remember, of course, the Shab-bot Goy, the personal assistant that intuited when you need the lights on or if you turned the air conditioner too high and automatically adjusted things accordingly. The Shab-bot Goy had the ability to carry your keys outside the eruv for you, following at a discreet distance and waiting for you in the synagogue lobby. It even had advanced features like the ability to sort your cutlery, winnow, thresh and weave fabric for you.
Unfortunately, the Shab-bot Goy suffered from a short battery life and often stopped halfway through the walk home, forcing you to spend long afternoons at your neighbours’ homes. This, coupled with the tendency for people to only use it to turn on the TV and watch the game, left rabbis irritated at purchasers and consumers irritated with their neighbours. The Shab-bot Goy was ultimately discontinued, but I am glad that it can now see new life. Baruch mechayeh metim. Blessed are all of us who see life in the inanimate!