Erev Rosh Hashanah 5776

October 8, 2015

Thanks to Rabbi Rojzman for bringing to my attention the idea of the apps in our phones and to Rabbi Harris for his suggestions and guidance.

A group of German archeologists spent many years digging, and after much hard work they discovered 30 feet under the surface some copper fragments. They were so happy and excited about this discovery that they determined that the ancient German people already used phones 35,000 years ago and they had connection via copper cables.

When the British scientists saw the success of their German colleagues they decided to start digging too. A couple of months later they found some pieces of glass so they reached the following conclusion: the ancient British people from 50,000 years ago had more advanced communications than the Germans because they communicated via optic fiber.

In Argentina, the country where I come from, they also decided to start digging. They dug 100 feet and found nothing. So the Argentinian scientist decided that the ancient Argentinean people from 75000 years ago already had wi fi.

Two months ago, when I moved to Bethesda, I gained a new appreciation for how to use cell phones. Do not laugh at me… By learning how to use the phone, I mean how to use the apps or applications. For example I learned there is an app to park. Amazing. Unbelievable. You use your phone to pay parking. There is an app called Uber. Also there is an app to deposit checks… There is an app that tells you what are the funniest things to do in DC are. There is an app that tells you where you can find the cheapest gas….

Wait a second… I lived 4 hours away from here and never used any of these apps!!! Never heard of them!! So, dear friends the apps can do many things. An app can teach you how to play chess. An app can show you what streets are blocked. An app can tell you when the next storm is coming…

Apps can help you a lot.

I even found an app called “Ignore no more.”

Few things are more frustrating than your children refusing to answer your calls or respond to your text messages. The situation is made worse when they know there is little you can do about it. You call them and they do not answer. Ignore No More changes that.

“Ignore No More” is an app that gives you control over your children’s phones. If your children ignore your repeated calls and text messages, Ignore No More blocks your kids’ phone and the only way to unblock it is by… calling your mother… They call back, now they can use their phones.

What a great app.

There is an article in the Harvard magazine called: “Is there an app for that”? The article describes trend that young people will avoid topics that do not have a solution through an app.

Did that sound right to you? The article says: “The new generations will try to avoid the topics that cannot be solved without an app”.

So when I read that sentence I thought, where does that put our tradition in the mind of the next generation? After all, Judaism has a long lasting message. Our tradition should relevant for the new generations even beyond apps.

There is an app that teaches you the sounds of the shofar, but no app can make you feel the vibrations of the shofar in your soul or how to make those sounds yours.

Even though there is an app that tells you when your relative’s next yortzait is, there is no app that tells you how to react to the fear of aging.

There are many apps that have not been created yet and some things in life can never be reduced to an app…

There is no app that teaches you how to react when the doctor tells you to go and repeat the blood tests because something doesn’t look good.

There is no app that tells you how you are going to react if, Gd forbid, one of your kids is sick.

There is no app that explains how to support your kid when they cannot find a decent job after graduation.

There is no app that teaches you how to live with the fact that despite your yearnings and efforts, another month has passed without getting pregnant and the clock of life is ticking faster and faster.

There is no app that solves a marriage from monotony and flatness.

There is no app that explains you how to live, to feel, to experience your Judaism.

But since we live in a society that looks for answers in apps all the time, today I would like to recommend you two apps to you. I strongly believe these apps have a deep message that speaks loudly in these High Holidays. These apps hopefully will help you shape this New Year.

The first one is called “Sleep Talk recorder.”

My wife is a psychologist so I sleep with a person who knows how to interpret my dreams.  The main problem is that when I sleep and dream she is probably doing the same, so it is very helpful having an app that records your dreams.

I remember when I was a child my parents always knew what I was dreaming because I used to scream while sleeping. Once, in one of my dreams I had an argument with Guillermo Vilas, one the famous tennis player back then and I told him I was going to beat him.

Another night I confessed my love for my 3rd grade teacher. Now we are friends on Facebook so I can say we are just friends.

But on a more serious note, how would our lives be different if we could remember and fulfill our dreams?

How would we act differently if we could recollect the things that are essential to us, our dreams, our ideals, our passions?

We are going to read tomorrow about Isaac’s binding.

The text tells us: G-d said to Abraham, “Abraham!”

And he answered, “Here I am.”

Then G-d said, “Take your only son, Isaac, the son you love. Go to the land of Moriah. There kill him and offer him as a whole burnt offering. Do this on one of the mountains there. I will tell you which one.”

According to many commentators this was a dream!!!

And here is Abraham immediately wakes up and acts. He text says:

“Vayashkem Abraham”

He wakes up early in the morning ready to fulfill his dream.

He did not have a “Sleep Talk recorder” app but he knew our tradition calls to wake up for action. He is ready to fulfill the dream as we should be.

Rosh Hashanah is about the dreams that we all have for this New Year. Rosh Hashanah is the time when we take time out to think of our goals in life.

Rosh Hashanah is the time when we envision how we are to face up to this year.

So friends, dream. Dream and remember those dreams.

The second app I would like to recommend is called “Serendepitor”.

“Serendipitor” is an alternative navigation app for the phone that helps you find something by looking for something else. The app combines directions generated by a routing service with instructions for action and movement inspired by different artists. Think of a combination of Waze and a tour guide. Enter an origin and a destination, and the app maps a route between the two. You can increase or decrease the complexity of this route, depending how much time you have. As you navigate your route, suggestions for side attractions will pop up. If you go from Bethesda to downtown Baltimore, you may discover libraries, art shows, concerts, and more by just enjoying your way, and enjoying your time with those who are with you.

Let us take a look again at tomorrow’s Torah reading.

On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance…   So Abraham and his son went on together.

Abraham and his son had three days to look, to observe, to enjoy the journey, to be together.

According to the Midrash they walked through valleys and rivers and cliffs and views. They were together.

We do not need an app that tells us how much time we should spend with our families. It is in our tradition the best example of being with those you love. That is what we do on Shabbat, when we light candles, when we sit with ours just to be together, as a family.

At some point in life we need to pace ourselves, to take the time to see what is happening in our lives, the good things you are missing on the way, because at the end of the day we all know we share the same destination.

I just moved to Bethesda and sometimes it is so exciting to get lost, to ignore the GPS, to prove the GPS is wrong, and enjoy your neighborhood, your area, your opportunities.

Life is not about reaching the goal, but the beautiful stations and the beautiful views we see along the way towards that goal.

So these new apps will help us dream and remember those dreams and to enjoy our journey.

We need to learn how to live our lives beyond apps, or at least try to learn a deeper message from apps.

There are no apps for the deepest questions, for the profound and meaningful questions we have. Our tradition offers this High Holidays and every single day a deeper question and hopefully a deeper answer.

Dear friends, let me finish with a story.

Some time ago in one of my trips to Argentina I met with two friends. One is a Catholic minister and the other one is a Muslim imam.

We met at a coffee shop in Buenos Aires, and all three of us instinctively put our cells on the table.

Immediately I grabbed all three phones and told them to tell me what is the most meaningful app you have in your phone from your religion.

The priest told me he has one called “Ask Jesus.” It brings up different passages of the New Testament.

The imam told us that his app reminds him 5 times a day to pray and has a compass that points to Meccah.

They were curious about my Jewish app so I told them I have a new app that tells you, how your New year is going to be.

That made them even more curious and they wanted to see it. So I explained I would let them use it but they may have to answer some odd questions.

The first friend used the app but was surprised by some of the questions it asked. How many times a week you call your mother? Do you prefer bagels and lox over gefilte fish? Who was your bar mitzvah tutor? I told them not share their answers until both were finished.

When both of them finished, they looked at the phone and smiled at me. Can you guess what the app answered? The app “how is your year going to be” answered:  It is up to you.

Dreaming and enjoying the journey is up to you.

It is time to dream, to remember the dreams, to see who is next to you and continue enjoying our tradition.

It is time to leave our phones aside and connect with Gd and with our community.

It is up to you,  not app to you.

That is how our tradition can inspire us but ultimately, it is up to you.

May G-d inscribe all of us in the book of life. Shana Tovah.