The world around us evolves faster and faster and we continuously adapt to these fast coming changes. One example of how no one is immune, is watching religious orthodox Jews, who are more than any other group tries to preserve old traditions, pray in a group at the back of airplanes on trans-Atlantic flights between New York and Tel Aviv.
Orthodox Jews, praying at 30,000 feet above sea level, in a machine that moves almost at the speed of sound, is something that no one predicted two hundreds years ago, yet, it is a common event today. It happens so regularly that no one even stops to think how amazing it is.
The following is a list of possibilities that may look strange today, but may be the reality of our grandchildren. Are we prepared to discuss these issues now and provide some guidelines?
Our generation is the first to fully understand the impact of computers on our life. Some guidelines on how to deal with this change are better then none and now is the time to develop them. The great rabbis of the ancient world did it once before, when the second temple was destroyed, and Judaism was threatened by Christianity. They laid down the foundations for Jewish life. Foundations which Judaism in modern time is still supported by. However, we can’t expect that laws that were written 2000 years ago could be relevant in the computer age. Some revisions to accommodate modern life are necessary. Will the best rabbinic minds and the religious Jewish authorities of our generation produce guidelines that will help us make the transition easier?
Future Jews will need to adapt to many new developments; some technological, other social. Below are some examples:
There is a constant drive to standardize everything in our lives. This is the tool that humanity is using to fight epidemics, to feed the growing world’s population, and to prevent world wars. How can Judaism preserves its pluralistic nature when everything else is standardized? Will it evolve into a rigid “one size fits all” religion?
Our generation is a lot more mobile than ever before. Most of us either do it ourselves, or know someone who lives in one country and work in another. Many of our homes became our weekends homes. We live the rest of the week in hotels and rented apartments. Could Jewish people afford to concentrate in one or two places, or will they spread out to new colonies (space)? What will be the place of Israel in a reality where all of us are traveling constantly from one place to another?
If Jewish people have a home in Israel, but also have a second home where they work. They are both Israeli citizens and citizens of communities overseas. Do they have the right to have a representative of this community represent their political views in Israel? Will the Knesset (Israel’s parliament) expand to include representatives from the diaspora?
Women are no longer deprived of education and job opportunities. They are closing the gender gap in almost all areas, accept equality in orthodox Judaism. Will pressure from within force orthodox Judaism to accept female rabbis and cantors? Will this be the end of the way Judaism was practiced for thousands of years?
Gender equality is a theme that is not going away. Yet ,in orthodox Judaism, women are not allowed to sing in public, or to sit next to their husbands in synagogues. Will women eventually be able to remove this barrier and men and women be allowed to sit together during prayers in all Jewish movements?
The day that our food will no longer be prepared the same way it was done in the past is almost here. How synthetic food, which is not originated from meat or vegetable would be certified as kosher? Will synthetic products completely replace milk based products, to a point that the current separation between dairy and meat kitchens becomes obsolete?
In the past, changing realities produced new streams in Judaism. Is the change we are going through now will also produce a new major Jewish movement? What is the thing that today’s Jewish movements fail to address, that will push people to embrace a new movement. Isn’t this how Christianity started in the first place?
The fastest growing Jewish movement these days is Chabad. It seems that this movement found a way to preserve the tradition and appeal to new generations. Will Chabad become the dominant form of Judaism? If so, will the Chabad movement officially recognize the State of Israel? (Something that is done in practice already, but not formally).
Same sex marriages gains acceptance in the US and around the world (at a slower pace). How Judaism will address this issue? An issue which is knocking on its door already. Will all Jewish movements perform same sex marriages?
What will be considered work, forbidden on Shabbat and holidays, when computers and robots replace humans in all manual work?
Everything becomes virtual these days. Why not religion? Will traditional yeshiva schools be replaced by online yeshivas? Will remote conferencing be acceptable as a form of a minyan?
Will computerized version of a rabbi provide good enough answers to replace going to a real rabbi for advice and comfort? Will mortar and brick synagogues be replaced by virtual synagogues? What will be considered a “community”? Will digital screens replace the paper books in synagogues. Will pages be automatically flipped when needed? What will happen when there is a power failure? Will automatically started generator be acceptable? How Judaism will adjust to this changing reality?
Virtual reality is a tool that could be used effectively against Judaism. Are we prepared for it? Will Christianity and Islam find effective ways, using future technologies, to lure masses of Jewish people? How Judaism should use new technologies to prevent it?
Will marriage and Bar Mitzvah ceremonies be conducted in a way that they could be shared with guests around the world. Guests who will stay home and participate just as if they were physically present in the event (same feel and mingle experience)?
Will the Western Wall plaza be renovated to include a roof, making it de-facto the 3rd temple?
Will demographic shift in Israel change the country secular nature? Will such a transition be done peacefully or will it be a violent transition?
Will Jewish circumcision be conducted the same way it is done today, or will it be replaced by laser guided robots, supervise by a rabbi?
Will pills (legal drugs) to make the Yom Kippur fast easier be acceptable?
These are just few of the issues Judaism will have to determine in the next hundred years. However, one thing is for certain; Judaism will be different than what it is today, just as today’s Judaism is different from what it was a 100 years ago.