Jumbotron at shul

Credit http://www.flickr.com/photos/kevl/2476161329/

I was sitting in shul this week falling asleep during the Rabbi’s speech, and I had the following dream, or maybe it was a random stream of thoughts, or maybe I had too much Single Malt Scotch during the haftarah.  But this is what I recall…

On occasion I have found myself at Conservative temples on a shabbos morning; usually for a Bar Mitzvah. One of the striking features of the lobby of the typical conservative shul is the flat-screen TV displaying the events of the day. It probably doesn’t phase anyone there, since they watch TV on Shabbos anyway. There is always one frum-ish member of the shul — someone who grew up frum, but needed a job as a rabbi, cantor, gabbai, or something — and he notices that I’m staring at the screen. He comes over to me and explains in his most apologetic tone that the TV is on all shabbos. No one turns it on or off. It’s just running some Powerpoint loop that was set up on Friday with all the details of the weekend. Then I’ll show up for mincha and see that the TV is somehow turned off. Hmmm.

But what if Orthodox shuls started to use this technology? Imagine if the bulletin board or the shlumpy easel was replaced by a nice flatscreen? I think it can only lead to a terrible decline in frumkeit. Now some may argue that a regular TV screen that simply displays a Powerpoint slide show of the daily events might be a good way to get people to know when shabbos is really over. They’d know who to thank for the kiddush, and when the rabbi’s Monday night shuir is (the same time as it always is, idiot). Powerpoint is pretty evil, maybe a Google Doc or a Flash movie,  or a Prezi — that would be cool.  But wait:  this can only take people off the derech.

The next step after a TV screen in the lobby is a TV screen in the shul itself. It will flash the text “SHHH, stop talking in the back, we’re trying to daven.” And “Please don’t enter or exit during the Rabbi’s Sermon.” It will occasionally flash the page number that everyone should be on. Maybe it will show the entire text of modim d’rabanan so those people who are too lazy to open their siddur can stop pretending they know it by heart when they mumble during the chazen’s modim. Better yet, it can auto-scroll through all those million mi-sheberach’s for the sick people that clog up that space before shevi’i.

Can you imagine a large screen in the front of the shul that shows the siddur and what you are supposed to say — maybe Karaoke style with yellow highlights on the words? Hey, why even meet at a shul? We could all go to the local movie theater — of course first putting up a mechitza. Then we’d have the entire davenning projected on the silver screen like movie credits, slowly crawling up to shomayim.  Who needs a kiddush when you have popcorn and twizzlers?

I could imagine another fancy shul with built-in tablet devices on the back of the seat in front of you. Going to shul would be like flying JetBlue where every seat would have an inflight siddur. You could pre-program your desired nussach and translation.  It would be like flying on a Chabad-air Boeing 770 jet with a fahrbrengin at ever seat.  Please fasten your gartel.  In case of a sudden drop in pressure, the overhead panel will open up and little tehilim books will fall into your laps.

Wait, no, I feel like I’m drooling a bit on the side of my mouth, and did I just snore loudly? yikes! I clear my throat and look serious, as if I never fell asleep.  I don’t think anyone noticed.  What was I thinking?

Ah, yes, the shul jumbotron.  Watching TV in a shul.  I bet they’d have to prepare some large strips of masking tape to make sure this idea works.  No, not for the TV power button, the masking tape would cover the mouths of the opinionated jerks who say “that so unfrum for a supposedly frum shul to have a TV.”  Or maybe it should just cover their eyes so that they don’t have to see it.

Search for Shabbos-approved TVs on 4Torah.com.

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