Over the past few weeks, I’ve become an improved Jew. I learn more, say more brachos, bench more, and didn’t have a problem remembering the day in the Omer. I haven’t been to Israel recently, didn’t have a near death experience that reawakened my spiritual side, nor did I feel empty in my life and decided I needed to search for more meaning. So what caused this recent growth spurt in my Judaism? I got an iPod touch.
After a year of poor customer service, software freezes, and complete memory erasures, I said goodbye to my Microsoft Zune. I swallowed my counter-culture pride, went to B&H, and bought the much-advertised Apple product.
At the time of purchase I had no idea that both the iPod touch and iPhone were capable of doing so much more than playing music and movies. What makes these devices heads and shoulders superior to their principal competitors are the applications you can purchase or download for free.
At the moment, my iPod has a complete dictionary, tells me the weather anywhere in the world, has a variety of games, updates me on my stocks, and has a NYC subway map. A little over a year ago Apple decided to let outside software engineers design applications for the iPod/iPhone. By doing so, Apple paved the way for the magnificent Jewish applications that have given my neshama a pleasant boost.
My most frequently used “app” is the Siddur, created by RustyBrick, the Monsey based company that makes some of the best Jewish applications for the iPod. The frequently updated Siddur app costs $9.99 and is worth every penny. Not only does it include all standard blessing and weekday prayers, but it can also run on “smart mode.”
On this setting, tachanun and Torah reading will be available on Monday and Thursday and hidden the rest of the week. Hallel will only appear on days it is said. Even more remarkable is that Maariv on Friday night, along with Shacharis and Mincha on Saturday are hidden, as to prevent someone from being mechallel Shabbos (even though they’d still have to turn the iPod on to open the Siddur, but still, it’s a nice touch).
Not impressed yet? The Siddur application can also find your location via GPS and show you every minyan time in a 40-mile radius and how to get there! It also includes all the day’s zmanim wherever you are in the world. A recent update now shows a public list of cholim to daven for (one can download the Tehillim application for $1.99), and there’s also a handy luach.
The $4.99 Kosher application, from RustyBrick in collaboration with Shamash.org, works similarly to the Siddur, in that it can find your location and show you all nearby kosher restaurants. There is also a regularly updated database showing every kosher eatery on the planet. Not sure about a kosher symbol? This app has over 100 in its database with contact information to the rabbi/organization giving the certification.
While I personally haven’t used the Mikvah application ($7.99) I can only imagine its ability to find the nearest mikveh, and of course show you how to get there, is of great benefit for those in need of a purifying dip. The app also includes the book The Guidelines to Family Purity by Rabbi Yitzchak Jaeger, a schedule, check list, zmanim, and contact info for each mikveh in its database.
RustyBrick also has many free Jewish applications, most popular of which is Shabbat Shalom. This app has been downloaded over 40,000 times and gives complete Shabbat zmanim for every city in the world. The free Omer application was a recent hit as well. It automatically updated your iPhone/iPod to the right day of the Omer, no matter where you were in the world.
RustyBrick’s primary motivation is to help the Jewish community and, therefore, create applications based on requests and demand. So if you have an idea for a great Jewish app you can contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Chabad, via Jewishcontent.org, also provides dozens of noteworthy applications, almost all of which are free. They have a more basic version of the Siddur, loads of Chasidic seforim downloads such as Tanya and Rambam’s Sefer HaMitzvos, and a wedding guide (according to Lubavitcher minhagim). The application I find most useful is Chumash & Rashi. Aside from being a complete Chumash it also has a built in calendar made for doing Shnayim Mikrah. If you open it on Sunday it will start at rishon, Monday will open to sheni, Tuesday shlishi and so on.
I’m the type of person who enjoys gematria, and have been putting good use to Gp Imp.’s Gematria Calculator. The company also has a convenient Shabbat Alarm Clock, a Hebrew keyboard app, and a handy tzeddakah calculator/tracker (this one will come in handy come tax season).
Crowded Road has released the very impressive iTalmud. This app has a built-in daf yomi calculator, allowing you to jump to the day’s daf. One can also listen to integrated shiurim as well. Due to the immense size of the Gemara, there is a content download manager that allows a user to download, discard, or re-download specific pages in order to save memory.
To give you an idea just how much of an impact these Jewish applications have had on my life, in the last 24 hours I’ve used my iPod to say mincha, bircat hamazon, learn a portion of this week’s parsha, find a kosher restaurant in the Wall St. area, and figure out the gematria of my sizeable Hebrew name (Meir Shimshon Yonatan) .and sometimes I even use my iP od to listen to music.
Author’s note: All features work for the iPhone. Some application features for the iPod touch require Internet connection via Wi-Fi.