I recently wrote an article for Oy!Chicago detailing how eight months ago, my life changed via receiving an Amazon Kindle for Chanukah. Now one way I did not foresee my Kindle changing my life was by way of religion. I mean, come on, it’s an eReader. What can it possibly have in common with religion?
And that’s where I was wrong.
I was bored one day (probably when I should have been doing homework) and decided to surf Amazon.com to see what obscure books I could get for my Kindle—not that I’d actually buy them, but because I love randomly finding books that are so strange, unique, and “out-there.” After about ten minutes of perusing the Kindle bookstore page I found myself on a page I never would have thought existed.
Now it’s not so strange that Amazon would have digital copies of the Tanakh for the Kindle. There are regular, bound paged books of it so why not translate that to the Kindle? There are Kindle copies of the Bible so it would make sense to have the Jewish version represented as well.
The thing that is strange about having the Tanakh on the Kindle is the ironic aspect of it. To help explain, I reached out to Rabbie Dov Hillel Klein, from the Chabad house on Northwestern’s campus.
“According to traditional Judaism one cannot use electronic books on Shabbat,” Rabbi Klein said. “It is forbidden to initiate electricity on Shabbat. Likewise, one cannot use electronic prayer books on Shabbat. I use electronic prayer books during the week.”
So if it is forbidden to initiate electricity on Shabbat, then how are you supposed to use electronic prayer books on Shabbat? Yes, you can use them during the week, but the whole reason behind the Kindle is to make reading books convenient. You don’t need to carry heavy, hardcover books around when you have the slim, 8.7 oz Kindle that has the capacity to hold thousands of books for you. But you still need that hardcover Jewish Bible for Shabbat. So what’s the use in having a digital version if you still need the “old-fashioned” version for when it really counts?
I am a firm believer in technology furthering our society. I fully embrace any/all new gadgets and implement them in my life. The Kindle was no exception. I wholeheartedly welcomed it and allowed it to completely revamp the way I read. In the argument over whether eReaders are destroying the traditional way of literature or helping to further it along, you won’t find me on the side of the old-fashioned.
But perhaps when it comes to religion, technology just can’t provide the same benefits as traditional methods of prayer/study. That’s why it’s called tradition.