In with the Old; In with the New

I’ve never met my friend in San Francisco. Hanna was a regular caller to my three-hour show on the Bay Area’s KSFO.  In the radio business we discourage regular callers and most shows have a rule about how frequently they will accept calls from any one listener.  With Hanna, the rule went out the window.  She was so passionate, her voice quivered with emotion.  She always had an original take on the topic. Much of my fan mail mentioned Hanna admiringly.  One of my ongoing conceits on the show was my general assumption that every male listener to my radio show was handsome and virile and every female, young and nubile.  Nonetheless, I suspected that Hanna had seen a few years.  Her voice and accent suggested she immigrated in response to World War 2.

One day during an on-air conversation, I discovered she was without a computer and determined to humorously influence her to acquire a laptop or tablet.  She resisted with great resolve, irritating me by insisting she was too old to learn new technology.  During the ensuing few months I begged, cajoled and beseeched.  I began to feel my credibility was on the line so I threatened to start a fund among listeners to buy her one. She finally agreed to visit a store.  End of the story:  She bought a tablet.  She fell in love with it and it changed her life.  She often called the show  explicitly to thank me for encouraging her to leap forward into the email age.  I just got another welcome email from her last week.

Technology is from God. Each of us should be making as much use of it as is applicable to our lives and aspirations.

Now the Lord God took the man, and He placed him in the Garden of Eden to work it and to guard it.
(Genesis 2:15)

God expects each of us to wrest our living from an often reluctant earth.  It seems a formidable challenge.  However, He gave us tools: the ability to work and the ability to use our souls to innovate.  Many animals use ‘tools,’ but they always use the same tools. Only  mankind, touched by the finger of God, rubbed two sticks together to make fire. Later humans developed matches and then BIC lighters and then electricity and nuclear power. Only people innovate to help us bend the earth to our will.

God said to them, be fruitful and multiply
and fill the earth and subdue it…
(Genesis 1:28)

God didn’t say destroy or despoil the earth; He said, ‘subdue’ it. Find ways to turn deserts into orchards and swamps into vineyards.  Make that earth feed you.  Find ways to defeat disease and protect yourself from the ravages of fire, earthquakes storms and tsunamis. The earth is not going to care for you.  Indeed, it will imperil your very existence if you do not subdue it.

It is our God-given soul that grants us visions of what could be.  It is also our soul that discourages today’s lethargy and admonishes us to continually strive to make our tomorrows better than our yesterdays.

Ancient Jewish wisdom does not teach us to be “content” with what we have.  It teaches us to be “happy” with our portion.  A cow in a grassy meadow on a warm day is likely content.  A human should never be content.  Happy yes, but not content.  Contentment suggests that we have no compelling urge to move forward and improve our lives and those of our loved ones around us.  Happiness not only suggests, but demands that we are always striving. We should always be seeking for ways to shatter the obstacles to our growth and development in every facet of our lives.

And to Zebulun [Moses]  said: “Rejoice, Zebulun, in your departures… [you] will be nourished by the abundance of the seas, and by the treasures hidden in the sand.”
(Deuteronomy 33:18-19)

Ancient Jewish wisdom explains Zebulun’s blessing as an important  key to making a living—always be engaged in a ‘departure’ (from whatever economic situation you’re in) and rejoice in your ability to innovate change. If you’re using a wooden plough, make one of iron.  If you pull the plow with an ox, build a tractor.  If you heat your house with wood, try coal and then oil, gas and electricity.  If you have figured out how to mine and cast iron, don’t be content.  It’s a very inadequate material.  Try making steel.  Have someone work a bellows and blow air through the molten iron in a puddling furnace.  When you’ve got that down, don’t be content. Destroy all your puddling furnaces and replace them with Bessemer blast furnaces.  You will get more steel and better quality steel.  This is what the great 20th century economist Joseph Schumpeter  meant when he coined the term, ‘Creative Destruction.’  It means constantly exiting from today’s paradigm and finding a better and more efficient way.  This is exactly what Scripture is telling us to do in the verses in Genesis and Deuteronomy above.

Today we call it technology–a new word for an old idea: using our God given ability and desire to innovate and find a better way for today so that tomorrow will be better than yesterday.

Any person reluctant to use a smart phone is no different from someone in the 1900s insisting on undergoing dentistry without anesthesia or a traveler in the  1800s insisting on riding a horse rather than a railway. Each was a technology of its day.

I am not advocating being an early adopter.  I do not recommend acquiring new technology as soon as it appears.  I prefer for the manufacturer to get the glitches out first.  Buying the first iteration of a new product risks you ending up owning something unsupported and obsolete.  Wait to make sure it is viable and  catches on, then dive in and toss out the old.  Rejoice in your departures.  Provided of course that the innovation will help you work your Garden better than you could yesterday.

What of the dangers of technology? New things are valuable as long as we remain safely anchored by correct old ideas.  Some people like new ideas (Save the environment by not having children–Bill Nye, 2017) and old things (antiques).  As for me I prefer new furniture, new cars, and new technology but I love old ideas, specifically those with a seal of approval from the Bible.


28 thoughts on “In with the Old; In with the New”

  1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

    Dear Kathy–
    I’ll try ensure that Hanna sees your kind comment as well as others on this page. Anyone who introduced you to Paul Johnson deserves your appreciation.

  2. Dear Rabbi,
    The Thought Tool is good spiritual food. Your work has been so helpful in my truth search. I was listening on KSFO when Hanna called in and said her daughter had taken her to the computer store and she had bought a device. We were all elated! She is responsible for my finding the British historian Paul Johnson when she spoke of his book “Intellectuals.” So glad to hear she loves her tablet and is doing well! Tell her I miss her!

    Kathy Worden
    Lumberton, TX

  3. Carl August Schleg III

    Howdy Rabbi- How is Hanna, I miss her and KSFO when YOU ROCKED there……

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Dear Carl–
      I hope she’s okay. Last time I got an email from her she said she was having a bit of eye trouble but her fury for those destroying our country was blessedly undiminished.

  4. Jerome Delaney

    Thanks for sharing about Hanna and I do recall her calling in when I lived in San Jose and I listened to you on KSFO
    As for “climate change,” I think the book “Israel Omen” should be required reading for all college students. It is a very short book but illustrates the various weather phenomena recently experienced. Our politicians should also read it because they are trying to force Israel to give away the land that God gave them so long ago.
    The book refers to Ezekiel and the dry bones. I found the book very interesting and have passed it on to my sons and daughter to read.

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Thanks Jerome–
      I enjoyed those days on KSFO. I had a wonderful listenership and appreciated them. And you were part of the fun. Ah the days…..
      I’ll try look at Israel Omen, thanks.



    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Let’s not fall at all, Jeanne, okay?
      Let’s rather make each step deliberate and purposeful progress along the road of life, the result of a decision.
      No falling forward, no falling backward, no falling in love, no falling at all!

  6. Dear sir Lapin,

    I loved this post, this is spiritual food right here. When I took the biology class in my nutrition course, i remember thinking ‘but isn’t it a waste? Apoptosis? Why can’t we just be perfect from the start and what is the spiritual implication?’ But I quickly forgot my deeper thougts because I had to pass the test for the umpeenth time because I got sidetracked trying to understand the spiritual side of anatomy. Like When i was studying the immunesystem I was like, so do we have several lines of defense as well spiritually? And how do I get spiritual cardio?

    Anyway. Today thanks to this article I was reminded of that unanswered question session and I have embraced spiritual and physical apoptosis. It reminds me of this lady at church who refused to workout because she didnt want to sweat…because sweat would mean that she would lose minerals that she needed to make it to the age of 150. Needless to say I am still praying for her soul. Now I am by no means the brightest crayon in the box. But she had the nerve to protest when I said ‘are you serious -___-?’ Maybe she will listen to you. My soul.

    Anyway, have a great day,

    kind regards,


  7. Such a refreshing change from the mainstream media! Yay, Hanna! I acquired my very first cell phone a year ago because I was driving a long way at night. I earned my doctorate with substantial computer use several decades ago, before the Internet, so this was a steep learning curve; and I endured rolling-on-the-floor laughter when I first showed up with the cell in one hand and “i6 for Dummies” in the other. Tip: to get a full range of emojis easily, use the phone keyboard in landscape (can’t demonstrate here). But you can teach an old dog new tricks! 😉

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Thanks Deb–
      I’ll try make sure Hanna sees this page.

  8. Richard Ingersoll

    Rabbi Lapin,

    I watched your television show last night that addressed the character nk I think that’s what I remember. But during that episode you said that you and Susan had decided early in your marriage not to have a television. How does that square with this post?

    Thank you,

    1. Hahahahahha! Bet you were keeping your ‘how bout dat’ cards in a special place just in case the opportunity arises to flip them out.

      Sir if I may, tv is purely one sided consumption of spiritual food that most people probably don’t want to ingest. Other devices are interactive, you can connect to others, choose what it is what you want to consume, do work etc. I don’t think they eschew the contraption called a tv but that they just are not eating what it serves on the menu.

    2. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Dear Richard,
      Nice question and you’re entitled to seek consistency in a BIbical lens to the world. The answer is at the end of our third-to-last paragraph above. The key sentence we wrote is:

      “Provided of course that the innovation will help you work your Garden better than you could yesterday.”

      Beyond any doubt, a television in your bedroom will harm your marital relationship. What is more, having a tv and allowing its screen to modify your mind will definitely hinder you from growing your garden.

      We’re so happy you are watching our daily television show (…on your computer not on a big screen TV dominating your bedroom!)


  9. In working with inventors & entrepreneurs through the Inventors Network KY, I took particular note of Rabbi Lapin’s revealing and clear description of how that “Technology is from God….It is our God-given soul that grants us visions of what could be”, and that technology is simply a “new word for using our God given ability and desire to innovate”. This is something that I see on a regular basis. This important truth is something we try to teach and integrate into our entrepreneurial education programs here.
    Thank you for all the great work you do and wisdom you impart.
    Don Skaggs
    Inventors Network KY

  10. Shannon, she who loves maths

    My extra nerdy .02: Your list on the evolution of power is in the wrong order. It is fire, lighter, matches, electricity, nuclear…unless you meant specifically the Bic- which came dead last in 1972 or 73.
    The lighter came out a few years before matches, it was concocted of hydrogen, platinum and an insanely dangerous contrivance. The first matches weren’t much safer come to think of it. The type of chemicals used were poisonous, and later highly combustible and poisonous.
    Wow, the age of discovery was full of absurdly risky behavior. Alas, without some risk, where would we be?

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Dear She-who-loves-maths,
      You’re quite correct but we figured the correct order looked counter-intuitive. So, to remain chronologically accurate, we referred to a BIC not the generic lighter. That way we could go with the order we thought more readable knowing that only one of our readers would notice and write. And we’re so glad you did!

  11. Rabbi,
    Thanks for a great Thought Tool. As someone who works on a variety of air and space projects, I am an enthusiast of all things technological so I appreciate this topic.

    One observation with reference to your penultimate paragraph – despite my interest in innovation and finding a “better way”, I have a deep interest in history too. That includes “old things” such as antiques. I do find it useful to learn how we ended up where we are today in order to consider a way to make tomorrow better.

    As the scriptures teach us,
    “Remember the days of old, consider the years of many generations…” Deut 32:7

    Thanks again.

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Yes Stuart,
      Knowing the history is not only interesting but more importantly, it shows us what didn’t work and what did. This is the main reason that GICs no longer make any serious attempt to teach young Americans their true history.

  12. Daniel, my friend, as I was reading your piece my thoughts went immediately to Schumpeter! I have described his theory of Creative Destruction in some of my writings using the example of buggy whip makers who saw a horseless carriage go by their factories. Those who scoffed went out of business. But, the one who tied the buggy whip together and used it as a fan belt prospered…

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Dear Don,
      Susan and I very much enjoy your lucid economics pieces; keep on writing, you’re only getting better and better.

  13. I listened to the KSFO podcasts and supremely enjoyed Hanna’s calls.
    Each was a paradigm shift on the topic or the meaning behind delving into that series of topics. Which is why they were so welcome, interesting and fun!!
    And you encouraged her enough to shift her own paradigm re: computers.
    Thank you for all that you do.
    I really appreciate your take too.

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Thanks Gene–
      so good to hear from an old KSFO friend. That was a fun show to host.
      Happy we’re connected again,

  14. Having heard your Hanna address you and us on the air, my heart throbs at your story of how you encouraged and facilitated Hanna’s embrace of new technology. More than that, I love your message of how we are to be happy with our lot, yet proactive rather than merely content in subduing the earth. What a refreshing message from you, when today our senses are saturated with the plaintive, despairing wails of those who worship the earth. They would convince us that we humans as despoilers are unworthy of the earth and should wipe ourselves out rather than imperil her. In the 1970’s it was “Beware, the ice age cometh!” And today the hue and cry is “Beware, the earth is heating up!” But the life-denying message of despair is the same-old, same-old. Therein the most hideous reality is that these prophets of doom are being seduced into the worship not only of the earth, but also of its man-made idol, Mega-Government, which will in fact destroy us rather than save us, all in its own good time. Somebody from your esteemed chat room once echoed G. K. Chesterton: “Those who do not believe in God will believe anything.”

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Dear James–
      Thanks for writing; their unshakable belief in climate change is largely in order to justify larger government and internationalism as well as to try and economically cripple the USA. They hate the West and its technological superiority.
      Indeed they do believe in anything–they must.

    2. “When men stop believing in God, they don’t believe in nothing. They’ll believe in anything.” – Gilbert Keith Chesterson.

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