Have you caught some of the flak that people are giving to Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan over his remarks against Steve Jobs? Is it too early to criticize the dead or does he have something here?
For example, here at Israelity:
Britain’s Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks has accused Jobs of playing Moses for the modern day, “coming down the mountain with two tablets, iPad 1 and iPad 2,” and laying down the foundations for a “consumer society.”
The result, Sacks says, is not positive this time. “We have a culture of iPod, iPhone, iTunes. It’s all i, i, i, nowadays. (But) when you’re an individualist, egocentric culture and you only care about ‘i’, you don’t do terribly well.”
Thanks, Jonathan, for bumming out my day, not to mention disrespecting the genius of Steve Jobs who undoubtedly had many more similarly debased tricks up his digital sleeve before his painfully premature passing.
Now to be fair, Sachs isn’t entirely off base. I fully agree that an overly consumer-focused society goes too far into making one pine away for what you don’t have, rather than being grateful for what you do. This is not a trivial problem by any means, and it’s certainly been an important subtext to both the recent Occupy Wall Street protests in the U.S. and our own social justice demonstrations this summer.
And Sachs solution – “the world of faith, which the Jews call the world of Shabbat, where you can’t shop and you can’t spend and so you spend your time with things that matter, with family” – is right on, whether you’re religious or not. In our house, when the Sabbath comes, we urge our family to do their best to unplug; to turn off the electronic devices, for at least those 25 hours a week.
We’re not always successful, but Sachs has got that one right, and it’s been a critical factor to our family’s cohesiveness. But that was no reason to go and dis Steve. And no matter what you say, Lord Sachs, I’m still buying that iPhone 4S, whenever Israel actually lets it into the country that is (see my previous post here).
One more point: Rabbi Sacks’ office has subsequently tried to tone down their boss’s comments, saying that, “The chief rabbi meant no criticism of either Steve Jobs personally or the contribution Apple has made to the development of technology in the 21st century.” He was simply “pointing out the potential dangers of consumerism when taken too far.”
And, the statement added, the Rabbi “uses an iPhone and an iPad on a daily basis.”
Jameel at the Muqata really gives it to him:
The “i” in “iPhone” is not intended to be “possessive” any more than an ophthalmologist is a label for a selfish physician who cares more about getting your money than caring for your opthamological health.
He also brings in criticism of Rabbi Nathan Lopes Cardozo when he says:
Looking at Modern Hebrew advertisements we see a rather disturbing change. No longer is it lach that invites people to buy various tasty foods, but li (me): Bisli, Prili, Kinley, Egozi, Ta’ami. In fact, one of the most recent advertisements beckons consumers with, “Tehe egoist ad ha-sof” (Be an egoist till the end).
But here on the Blog of Garnel Ironheart is a rebuttal:
But is Orthodox Judaism immune to this consumerism? In the words of the immortal Al Bundy, “Uh, no Peg.”
Take a look at how our culture has become obsesssed with material goods. How many of us live in huge homes that we cannot truly afford but still manage to fill them with useless tzatchkes that we insist we cannot live without? Look around you in shulor even at your own neck. How much did that ornative tallis band cost? In the last year I invested in a set of tefillin for my son and was told that the starting price for a set that I could be reasonably assured was kosher and met everyone’s standards – the starting price! – was $1300 and that to remove all doubts I was looking at close to $2000.
How much do we spend on bar mitzvah celebrations and weddings when a table with a keg at one end and a hot, steaming plate of wings at the other is all you really need? How much do we spend on shteitls, suits and Borsalino hats to ensure we look just right when we go to shul?
Let’s bring Steve Jobs into this. How many of us have an iPad with all the latest Jewish app’s because shlepping a Gemara around is so 1990′s?
In short, how much of our Orthodox life is necessary and how much of it is there only because we’ve deluded ourselves and want to keep up with the Jonesteins?
Well, which do you think I agree with?