Reb on the Web



Everyone has something to say about Obama care.  But whether you love it or hate it or don’t care about it, you have to be somewhat amazed that in this day and age our government can spend millions of dollars and not be able to make a website work.  What’s that about?          



Technology is the elephant in the room.  Even when we don’t say anything about it, technology is always with us.  Technology is also not only with us, it is an elephant that takes up most of the space in the room of our lives.  Consider for just one moment the role that technology plays in your life – from the moment in which you open your eyes each morning, until the moment you close your eyes each night.  Who doesn’t text and tweet and email and have a linked in account?  Chances are that your accountant doesn’t mail in your taxes, but emails your taxes to the government.  It is technology all the time, every time.  Yet, there is a price we pay for technology dominating our lives.  Let’s put aside Obama care and the infamous website for just one moment and deal with one real life situation.          


Juan Asias is 57 years old and he lives in the Bronx.  He wakes up, goes to work and falls asleep like the rest of us.  The only problem is that the government insists that Juan is dead!  I kid you not!  Four years ago Juan had to spend some time in the hospital.  Unbeknownst to him someone in an office in that hospital mistakenly filed a death certificate using his name, social security number and date of birth.  As a result every government bureaucracy insists that Juan is now deceased.  Well, Juan is not quite ready to say Kaddish for himself.  Yet all the bureaucracies of his life have not only finished saying Kaddish for him, they have even completed the unveiling!  Translation – poor Juan has lost his medical benefits and had his credit cards canceled.  No matter how loudly he screams, no one believes he is alive.  No government agency or bank will accept the reality of his existence.  Why?  Because a computer is more “believable” than a person!  This is the price that we pay for the elephant in the room.  What’s a dead man to do?  Juan has decided to fight fire with fire.  He has decided to file a lawsuit demanding reinstatement of his living status in the hope that some computer somewhere will generate a piece of paper attesting to the fact that he is, in fact, alive and kicking.  Perhaps then all the other computers that govern his life will also see that he is alive.          


The Torah teaches us that we are all created “in the image of God.”  The teaching reminds us that every once in a while we should slow down enough to not only look at a computer screen, but to look into each other’s eyes and recognize our common humanity.  We must learn to judge each other, not just by a computer printout, but by our ability to truly see each other.  Our ability to see and feel and act and therefore exist transcends any and every machine.  I must admit that computers and machines can do wonderful things and it is clearly the future.  But let’s not forget that a pair of eyes and good old common sense must still count for something.  Never underestimate the power of good old common sense.  Perhaps common sense can become the second elephant in the room!  Just ask Juan Arias.