Sunday, July 15, 2012

A Blessing for Everything

There is a line in the 1971 movie The Fiddler on the Roof where Motel the tailor asks the Rabbi, “Rabbi, is there a blessing for a sewing machine?” The Rabbi answered, “There is a blessing for everything.” 


I remember Fiddler on the Roof.  I vividly remember the scene from the movie where Motel's new sewing machine was a big deal. Everyone in the village came to see the "arrival" of the sewing machine. That machine was life changing. In the hands of Motel the tailor, that machine, that piece of technology was going to change the lives of everyone in the family, and possibly everyone in the village. To have such a marvel was indeed worthy of a blessing.
This one piece of technology has consistently changed the world for over 160 years. We think of the great inventions of our time, and things like the automobile and the computer come to mind. But the sewing machine is really the forgotten champion. From the clothes on your back, to the couch that you are sitting on, to the drapes and curtains in your home, few things in our world were not touched by this one invention.

And yet, it gets such little respect.

Go to and check out the past 160 years of an invention that is still with us today. It really is amazing.

The thing that stuck in my mind from the movie was the fact that as it was happening, while it was happening, Motel the tailor (and his entire family) knew that their lives were being changed forever. They felt their lives being transformed in an instant, via technology. They knew that this sewing machine, this new technology was going to create opportunities that could never have been imagined without access to such a tool. And so, they asked for a blessing - a blessing for a piece of technology - their new sewing machine.

I was born in 1960. I saw our family go from Black and White TV to Color. I watched in amazement as we had an automatic garage door installed, one of the first in the neighborhood. In the 1960’s, anything “remote controlled” or radio controlled was a big deal. 

Watching Apollo 11 land on the moon, while it was happening - live - was so amazing that we really do not give it proper credit. I watched people switch from typewriters to the Wang 1200, a "word processor". I watched the birth of the personal computer, the car phone, and America Online. “You’ve Got Mail” was a big deal just a few years ago. Today, we have too much email. I watched having email waiting for you go from being a pleasure to a pain in the ass. I remember running home to see if I had any new mail in my AOL account. Today, I pay for email tools to keep people from sending me spam.

Fast forward to today. We have talking cars, HDTV and robots. We have digital watches that have more computing power than what existed on the Apollo 11. We can make our own movies, fly our own planes, and we can create electricity from wind and solar panels. Launching a rocket into space is now so commonplace that it does not even make the news.

And then it happened. We stopped asking for blessings for these amazing life changing things.

Today we take technology for granted, as if we are all simply entitled. We just expect cell phones to work all the time and everywhere, and television to be in HD, and movies to be on demand. We expect classrooms to be online and computers to be faster and faster and faster. And we expect it all to be free - or at least free like Google and Facebook are “free”.

And that ladies and gentlemen, is a big problem.

“Rabbi, is there a blessing for my iPad, my Facebook page and my Twitter account?” The Rabbi answered, “There is a blessing for everything.”

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