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September 18, 2014 / 23 Elul, 5774
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Opening My Eyes on Lag Ba’omer

Boy wearing Oculus Rift

Boy wearing Oculus Rift
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Part of the fun of writing articles for public consumption is the possibility of receiving comments that are, well … colorful. Thankfully this week I merited such an occurrence (okay, several).

Whereas likes and shares are well appreciated, in all seriousness, it is these colorful comments that foster fortitude and make for hopefully better articles in the future. Therefore unless the comments are totally off the wall (had a few of those also), I try my best to think about them and act on these “pleasantly said suggestions” where appropriate.

There was one in particular that I read last night on Lag Ba’omer which contained two fundamental questions: What has religion got to do with virtual reality (the article was about the Oculus Rift VR headset)? And: Why are you speaking out against the progress of technology?

Having written about the convergence between Jewish thought and technology actively for over two years now, I was taken aback. It’s been now been over 200 articles since I began this journey, but now 200 articles later, I felt as if I was back to square one.

For a moment, I felt floored and doubted whether I was doing a good job, and whether these articles were clear enough. Then I remembered something that I had read literally seconds before that comment. Thankfully, this was one of those instances when the desire to do many unrelated things at once paid off.

Open My Eyes

My primary activity was reading a new translation of a Lag Ba’omer discourse by the Lubavitcher Rebbe. The topic of the meditation was the verse from Psalms, “Open my eyes (gal einai) that I may behold wonders from your Torah.” Being as I work at an organization named after the beginning two words of this verse — Gal Einai — I was excited to see this new translation.*

I was at the end of Page 8 when I changed screens to read this comment questioning my approach, and everything I had been actively writing during these past two years (and another ten years before that). I was devastated, not because I think a writer can be expected to make every reader happy, but because the approach was misunderstood. Without knowing how to respond, I decided to plunge myself back into the discourse, rereading the section I had just read before the comment. And here it is:

“Hashem made the revealed aspect of Torah in such a way that a human being is able to understand it intellectually…by designing the Torah in such a way that the “soul” (secrets) of the Torah – even the “soul of the soul” – can be seen within the “body” (logical aspect) of Torah…

To give a practical example, if Hashem didn’t create the Torah in this way, there would be a distinct section of the Torah that taught the secrets of the Torah, but we wouldn’t be able to relate to it from the existence we live in…”

You can read the full 23 pages for yourself if you like, but the text shot back at me like a flash of light. The section speaks about the ability to relate to both the secrets of the Torah, and the physical reality we live in. As the Lubavitcher Rebbe emphasized years after this discourse was said, to “open our eyes” to see the reality of the Redemption before us.

But there are an innumerable amount of physical things “from the existence we live in” that a person can choose to meditate upon. Thus that article was an attempt to convey the spiritual side, the secret behind a piece of technology called Oculus Rift.

About the Author: Yonatan Gordon has spent most of his past 13 professional years in the world of Jewish publishing. He was the Marketing Manager at Kehot Publication Society (publishing arm of Chabad) for the better part of six years. He is founder of the website Community of Readers.


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