So the iPhone 5 has arrived. Ho hum. Another false messiah that millions upon millions will worship across the globe. So much so that many find themselves texting sweet nothings to their sweethearts while driving the car with kids in tow.

Israeli PM Netanyahu teaches his sons to text, old school. Photo: AP

Perhaps that’s what life in our wireless world has been reduced to: false messiahs and seriously short-sighted shortcuts. In the relentless rush of the rat race, these shortcuts are as ubiquitous as they are iniquitous. We think we need to convey a message so we punch out yet another banal text.

It gets worse, or better, depending on whether you believe tweets are for twits. Millions of people feel the need to share their innermost thoughts with the world, except it seems so many substitute the message for a missile at someone’s heart. So often the content is at best puerile and at worst depraved.

The digital revolution does, however, have myriad advantages. I’m not listing them because many are self-evident, especially if you’re reading this on a digital screen.

And nowadays we can do virtually everything from bed, if we so desire. Bed used to have two sublime functions: sleep and sex. But with the advent of the iPad, another darling of the digital revolution, sleep and sex seem to have been relegated to footnotes. For some folks, the sex may be even better in the virtual world. And, I suspect, sleep will one day be available for download. iSnooze, perhaps?

So driven to distraction have we become by the latest fleeting fads we’re more connected to the virtual world than the real world.

Which brings me to this week, the holiest week in the Jewish calendar. Last Monday and Tuesday were Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. The majority of Australia’s 110,000 Jews – save Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox Jews – probably remained logged on, myself included, even though it contravenes Jewish law.

But almost all of us, myself included, fell silent when the rabbi raised the ram’s horn, or shofar, and sounded the blasts that heralded in the New Year.

This unique drone pierced the air inside synagogues across the globe as most of the world’s 13 million or so Jews welcomed in the year 5773. And it will echo again on Wednesday evening to signal the end of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, when most Jews observe a 25-hour fast as part of the annual rite of repentance.

True, the shofar is wireless, but it’s also timeless. It hasn’t been updated since it’s dawn millennia ago – there’s no turbo-charged shofar, no iShofar, no Shofar 2.0. There are no copyright court cases and although there’s probably an app, it’s a poor cousin to the real deal.

The background – that Abraham, who was willing to sacrifice his son Isaac, sacrificed a ram instead – is not as didactic as the foreground.

For the sounding of the shofar is meant to shake us from our slumber, awaken our spirituality and provoke us to measure our moral compass.

Why? Because Rosh Hashanah is the beginning of the 10 Days of Awe, leading up to Yom Kippur when we are (hopefully) sealed into the Book of Life.

And so the ram’s horn reminds us that we are entering the 11th hour, and that we need to seek forgiveness for our sins of the last year.

You don’t have to be a Luddite or even a technophobe to be drawn by the idea of pressing the pause button amid the ruthless race for profit and profile.

That’s precisely what the shofar is for – to remind us to mute the unbearable noise that clutters our airwaves. It’s a signal to stop, pause, breathe and, yes, think – without distractions. To reflect on our behaviour in the past year and think about how to better it in the next.

It sounds simple, but it’s more complex than getting your iPhone to reveal your name when you call instead of the infuriating word “Blocked”.

And so the bottom line is this: in this day and age when our entire universe seems to have been contracted into 140 characters or less, timeless cultural symbols such as the shofar remind us of that brave old world.

The more our global village shrinks into sound bites, the more important the sound of the shofar (or the muezzin or priest for that matter) becomes for the next generation.

The more we text, the more we lose sight of the fact the original text – the Old Testament – is still operational in the new millennium.

The more we crave the next invention – iWallets or iWhatevers – the more we need a ram’s horn to remind us that the past has arguably more value, and values, for our children.

In short, the false messiahs of modernity are no substitute for the long-standing lodestones of antiquity.

And here’s the rub – you don’t need to be Jewish, or even religious, to subscribe to the subtext. All you have to do is turn off your iPhone, tune out of the Twitter-verse and drop in to your soul for a moment of silent introspection.

And best of all – it’s free.

Dan Goldberg, a former national editor of the Australian Jewish News, is the Australian correspondent for Haaretz, Jewish Telegraphic Agency and The Jewish Chronicle.

Comments on this post will close at 8pm AEST.

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    • Expat Ozzie says:

      10:32am | 25/09/12

      Dennis: So negative! You sound like those back in the day that thought Elvis was the root of all evil. I actually think the internet has been the single best thing in the last 50 years and hears why:

      1: I don’t have to waist some of my life standing in line at the post office or RTA for the opportunity to pay my bills as exciting as that is.

      2. I can book all my overseas travel from the comfort of my home. I get a far better deal with far more variety then ever before and I’m not being sucked into the deals set up between travel agents and their partners. 

      3. If I’m looking for a new rental house to live in I can narrow down places to look at and view houses on-line from any where without wasting time and money driving all over town. It is especially handy for moves over long distances.

      4. eLearning and the ability to further my education by distance while still working a full time job. This is a bonus for me and the economy as it is a direct productivity improvement.

      5. Phone calls over IP. Massively reduced the cost of staying in touch especially when overseas. Can also transmit video so my grandfather who can not travel can still see his grand daughter grow up. He’s 94 and love this bit.

      6. Access to information. So I don’t just have to swallow the line someone else wishes to espouse.

      7. On-line shopping. A direct productivity improvement by cutting out overheads in the goods supply chain. Also allows me to easily acquire items that are not easy to find locally.

      8. Teleworking. A direct productivity improvement for many including me. I don’t have to waist my life commuting to work everyday.

      9.  Instant data access. If I need to look something up or have a question I can get answers fast.

      10. High quality free open source software.

      There is plenty of good about the internet stop just focusing on the negatives.

    • Babylon says:

      11:49am | 25/09/12

      The internet was described as ‘the biggest crime scene ever’

    • TheRealDave says:

      11:52am | 25/09/12

      Lets count up how many wars, genocides, slaughters, murders etc can be laid at the feet of religion versus those that can be blamed on the Internet.

      Not even close wink

    • Inky says:

      04:41pm | 25/09/12


      I’ll say. Every night alone the internet has thousands of virtual wars and murders alone…

      And don’t forget, this causes people to go out and do it for real as well.

      And lets not forget how the internet declared war on Scientology, what religion is next?! where will it end?

    • Mahhrat says:

      07:40am | 25/09/12

      So many strawmen, so little time.

      The one that rubbed me most the wrong way was the comments on the traditions of your religion.

      Here’s the thing about tradition - it has no right to exist simply because it always has.  By that logic, women should still be seen but never heard, I would be a peasant belonging to my lord, and we should all hate ourselves because a man ordained by other men says I should prostate myself before a power that I cannot ever hope to see, hear or understand except by doing exactly what the man before me says I have to.

      The message you’re sending - that we should unplung and experience the world in deep and meaningful ways - is an incredibly good idea.  Pushing it through the filter of organised religion simply dilutes the message.

      I wish all Jewish people - like I wish ALL people - the very best this week, and I hope you gain great peace and all good things in your observances.

    • Gregg says:

      09:59am | 25/09/12

      Not all tradition is bad and in fact quite a lot is very good whilst obviously there are also aspects that we can do without, some more so related to religions than others.
      I had a different appreciation of the article Mahhrat, not so much anything being pushed through religion in any way but more just a dig at where modern communication trends are heading and the potential harms and then a quick switch to some interesting info on the Jewish religion and at same time indicating how there are some things which modern communication will not change.

    • Tubesteak says:

      07:58am | 25/09/12

      “In short, the false messiahs of modernity are no substitute for the long-standing lodestones of antiquity.”

      No. It’s time to cast off the shackles of ancient ignorant dogma and embrace modernity, logic and reason.

      Behead all those that insult the science!

    • subotic H Lacks says:

      08:33am | 25/09/12

      Science, that unfailing last bastion of truth & justice.

      Unless you’re black. And poor. And when scientists steal your cells and make a gazillion dollars of your stolen cells and your family tries to claim them back they get pushed under the rug and your cries for justice are ignored, nobody cares, because it’s all in the name of the gods of science & technology….

      But yeah, science is never wrong. Much. Just ask Henrietta Lacks.

    • SydneyGirl says:

      10:09am | 25/09/12

      subotic no one “steals” cells, cells per se just exist.  Studying cells is a lot more complicated and yes there is technology involved and that technology eventually serves a lot of purposes. Had Gey not been a researcher quick to spot the behaviour of the cells and study them the flow on from HeLa would never have been there.

      That said scientists can be a completely unscruplous lot.  But that unscruplousness is probably not specific to race, class, gender or money despite what social studies folk say.  And if they are they are subject to it in the same way that everyone is.  Science is rarely wrong (eventually bad work gets discarded) but scientists are fallible.

    • subotic says:

      11:12am | 25/09/12

      If I take something that doesn’t belong to me, that’s stealing, regardless of the object or the reason for taking it. And if I do it in the name of science, that makes me more culpable, not less.

      According to the historical record, Gey did indeed “take” Mrs Lacks cells and tissue without her or her family’s consent. And the reckless usage of the HeLa cell line has led to more problems than average Joe Citizen will ever know.

      Can you imagine if unbiased information about the HeLa cell line truly ever leaked out?

      The panic? And you think antivaxers are rabid now?

      If only…..

    • SydneyGirl says:

      12:31pm | 25/09/12

      Re the misuse of HeLa I hadn’t pinned you as paranoid sort subotic.

      There wouldn’t be much medical research if folks didn’t work with the human body and left it intacta. Your cells are nothing, just cells. Even isolating them requires technology. Consent is a different matter and one of ethics but let me just say that a black researcher or a woman is equally likely to proceed without consent.

      I just find this anti-science thing tiresome and I have no idea why educated folk continue to deny it. Its a process of inquiry, nothing more nothing less.  Of course scientists can misbehave and try and twist facts but so can shamans, faith healers, anti vaxers, anti HeLas and so on. Neither are the latter lot particularly listening to “cries of justice”. At least in science you are a messiah only until the next experiment comes along.

    • Tubesteak says:

      12:51pm | 25/09/12

      She sells C cells by the seashore?

      How do you own something you can’t sell anyway? That’s unpossible.

    • subotic is destiny's child says:

      03:27pm | 25/09/12

      Ah SG, I’m not paranoid, but Giorgio Tsoukalis’ hair does freak me out a little bit…..

      The thing that bugs me about Mrs Lacks’ case is that science just assumed that it was perfectly fine to go ahead and do things without permission or consultation. Sometimes it really is nice to ask if it’s ok to, say, “take some of your cells so we can make franken-vax out of them”.

      I’m not anti-science, but for the same reason I dislike religion thinking it has this all encompassing “right” to manipulate people’s perception as it sees fit, the same principle applies to science.

      And, as System Of A Down so rightly point out, science has failed our earth. Many, many times….

      As for “your cells are nothing”, next time I grab the collection of your joined cells commonly referred to as your arse, I should get a free pass, right? They’re only cells!

    • SydneyGirl says:

      04:35pm | 25/09/12

      Subotic, I guess I arsed for it right?!  A cell is just the basic unit which is replicated more or less in the same manner in all humans.  Its difficult to say what is meant by owning one’s cells, if you went in for a blood test you don’t own the results thoguh there has to be consent and confidentiality. And didn’t someone mention the photograph the other day,  that the person being photographed doesn’t own the photograph?

      That said, I agree that there are lots of dubious things that happen including with HeLa.  But that is human nature at work.  Scientists are often wrong but the scientific process is the best we have at the moment and is hopefully self corrective.

    • Nathan Explosion says:

      08:20am | 25/09/12

      The wife is a big fan of Jedward and their tweets are often unintentionally hilarious - “OMG Edward just broke a bowel (sic) and the coco pops went everywhere!!”.

    • Borderer says:

      08:31am | 25/09/12

      Criticising probably the greatest marketing strategy of all time smacks of jealousy. Car companies would be sacrificing their children to have people queuing for days to by their product..

    • Grant says:

      08:32am | 25/09/12

      Irrelevant, Infantile, inane, self righteous and superstitious.  Hopefully humanity can rid itself of this child like cognitive processes over the next few thousand years.

    • Tim the Toolman says:

      09:27am | 25/09/12

      “Another false messiah”

      Uh-huh.  As opposed to all of the true messiahs.  Right.  Well, I’m off to ride my invisible pink unicorn to collect that damn teapot I lost around Mars somewhere.  I’ll say hi to the FSM for you.

      “long-standing lodestones of antiquity.”

      Ok, well, on that note, glad I’m getting off this planet.  You can go back to your stoning, burning, slavery, infanticide, myths, ritual sacrifice, witch hunts, jihads and so on…  Good luck with that, if that’s what rocks your boat.

    • fml says:

      09:35am | 25/09/12

      Can shofar or any religious artifact for that matter, cure my indigestion? heart burn? Tinea? Tinnitus? Lumbago?

    • fml says:

      10:52am | 25/09/12

      Only science can, Only the science man can!

    • Inky says:

      04:59pm | 25/09/12

      The science man can cause he mixes it with love and makes the world taste good~

      wait… er… I think i got a little carried away there

    • P. Darvio says:

      09:56am | 25/09/12

      No wonder the World and society is so screwed up when grown adults, who should know better, write utter crap like this religious diatribe.

    • Colin says:

      09:58am | 25/09/12

      I dont take advice from cavemen who endorse genital mutilation of infant males

    • Zeta says:

      10:03am | 25/09/12

      Yeah, because those long standing lodestones of antiquity were the golden age of Judaism – amirite?

      How many good years did your people really get out of the last 5000? Maybe 300? That’s in total. You walk to Israel, get enslaved about a dozen times, get invaded by Philistines, Babylonians, Persians.

      Where is the long standing lodestone of antiquity in there we should be pining for again? Am I missing something glorious about the last 2000 years of Israelites being systematically persecuted, exiled and murdered?

      The last 50 years have probably been the best 50 years in the history of Judaism. Let’s kick the ballistics – God hasn’t cursed you for ages, he hasn’t sent floods to purge you off the map, he hasn’t persisted in offering your people ridiculous, Harlan Ellison worthy emotional tortures like “Do you love me? Then kill your son.” Y’all bounced back from being the victims of genocide to being a regional superpower, Jews have rights – that’s a pretty basic bonus of the 21st Century that you did not have for centuries prior.

      But what’s your take away from all that? Instagram is such an existential threat that we should long for ages hence, you know, those ages where your people were scattered from their homes? A couple of hipsters with a Tumblr have you aching for the halcyon days of the Diaspora?

      Not for nothing – as a race of people whose homeland was successfully invaded by Philistines, I wouldn’t lead with my chin on actually being a Philistine.

      All that modern technology that’s making you wince, is also keeping Israel safe and rich. The central processing unit of almost every dual core smart phone was invented in a lab in Haifa, Israel.

      Christians are just bad of course. Humanity has a few rare decades of peace and relative prosperity at the expense of a few antiquated social mores the religious cling too and suddenly, they’re all wishing they were living in a hovel and shitting in a ditch again.

      Fundamentally, I think this is what monotheism does to you. It drains the capacity for progress from the human soul, and replaces it with a backward looking zeal for self-torture.

    • HC says:

      11:03am | 25/09/12

      I say this as a jew myself, and I’m fairly sure I’m paraphrasing another more famous jew when I say this; but we’re never truly happy unless someone somewhere is persecuting the sh!t out of us smile

      These days the only thing we can lay claim to be persecuting us seems to be modern technology according to this article, my we’re clasping at straws these days tongue laugh

    • Gregg says:

      10:05am | 25/09/12

      Jessica Irvine yesterday had an article on the common humanity of China and a bit about their own version of twitter.
      China is certainly a hub for manufacturing much of the modern communication devices and it would seem there’s also probably quite a bit of wailing done up that way and not at their great wall, no religion involved.
      It is a good example of another direction that the continual drive for new gadgets is taking us and also an example of why countries like Australia will never be on competitive footing for manufacturing.

      Thousands of people living in company dormitories sounds like a real fun way to live.

    • Wilma J Craig says:

      11:14am | 25/09/12

      Aren’t all these ever-increasingly-faster-becoming-obsolete mobile phones, cells, “handi”, call’em what you will, nothing more than just a money-making racket for the manufacturers all of whom are shrieking with laughter as they drag their billions of dollars to the bank?
      The Telcos will be doing the same.
      I and my friends all got ourselves caught up in the madness (at our age we should have known better!!!) when these phones became small enough to fit in our pockets or purse! “You NEED one of these for Security as you get older, what if you fall” all that sort of nonsense. So we bought Pre-Paid for “It’s Cheaper & a better proposition if you are on a Pension!” More nonsense. We found that we seldom used them as we were usually at home when friends wanted to contact us and the call charges were/are obscene. The Telcos made a fortune out of us from any calls we made but even more money at the end of ever month when they simply grabbed any balance remaining! I was in hospital for 6 weeks. I had just recharged my mobile two days before I unexpectedly had to have an op. I was not allowed to use my mobile in the hosptal but though I explained the situation to my telco when I got home their response was ” Too bad, lady, we CAN’T make exceptions for anyone”
      Too bad, telco, for I simply stopped re-charging your damned mobile, threw it into a drawer & changed telco.

    • Babylon says:

      11:53am | 25/09/12

      Hoping for lots of the usual anti religious statements from the Gillard Government supporters, to show those people who believe in God that they’ve no business voting for the ALP presently.

      Don’t let me down you Socialist Lefties, remember what Karl Marx has taught you!

      Lets have your usual profanities on the sacred so others can be warned.

    • TheRealDave says:

      11:54am | 25/09/12

      “In short, the false messiahs of modernity are no substitute for the long-standing false messiahs of antiquity.”

      Fixed for you - no charge.

    • stephen says:

      05:06pm | 25/09/12

      People invent things, they get bored, then they invent something else, yet the mothers still beget babies, and the men fight.
      Technology is and always was and always will be this conceptual paraphrase : personal things that we make are made in our own eyes and they are meant to be our mirror, yet we already know the questions which we ask them, so the ipad, laptop and all the information givers only complete the knowledge loop eg ... if we know what to ask, then in most respects, an unexpected answer will require proof. eg, the ‘paraphrase’.

      So everybody gets the same answers, but our minds make mincemeat of the concepts.


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