Death of a Visionary
by Simcha Weinstein
I’m sitting here on my Macbook, trying to write my sermon for Yom Kippur. (Yes, rabbis also cram in our homework at the last minute). Sadly, as I surfed the web looking for ideas – yes, rabbis do that as well – there came the tragic news of the passing of former apple CEO, Steve Jobs, at the young age of 56.
Steve Jobs was the greatest inventor of our lifetime. His products have changed our lives. As the rabbi of Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, I’m surrounded all day by my students, tapping away at their Macbooks, dreaming and creating, while I have the entire Torah at my fingertips. My children have been enriched and entertained by all the apps created for Apple products.
As young people storm Wall Street, demonstrating against soulless capitalism (while communicating their messages via Twitter and YouTube), America lost a creator and dreamer who also happened to be a successful business titan.
Contrary to popular belief, Steve Jobs was not Jewish. He was adopted by Paul and Clara Jobs of Mountain View, California, and in fact was biologically half Syrian Muslim.
That Jobs dropped out of college after six months makes his legacy even more romantic. He and his partner started a business in a garage that grew into an international icon. Written off many times as doomed to fail, Apple hit its stride and launched the iMac, iTunes, iPods, iPhones and iPads. (I own them all, except the iPad – which would make a great Chanukah present…)
This weekend on Yom Kippur, millions of Jews around the world will mark a day of introspection. This is a time to ask ourselves: What do we want out of life? Where are we going?
There are days in life when we all have fleeting moments of inspiration, but they quickly fade away. Yom Kippur is a time to welcome and nurture these moments. To do that, we spend most of the day in the synagogue. We don’t eat or drink. We don’t even use our iPods.
And we ask for forgiveness. Of course, the Almighty already knows what we have done wrong. We are not informing God, but reminding ourselves.
At his famous 2005 commencement address at Stanford University, Steve Jobs, the enigmatic genius, shared the philosophy that drove him:
“Your time is limited,” he told the graduates. “So don’t waste it living someone else’s life.”
Even if we live to be 120, no matter how famous or brilliant or admired we may be, our time is still limited. Yom Kippur gives us a precious day, set aside for reflection and repentance. Let’s not waste it.
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Simcha Weinstein is an internationally known, best-selling author. He has appeared on CNN Showbiz Tonight and NPR, and has been profiled in leading publications, including The New York Times, The Miami Herald and The London Guardian. He chairs the Religious Affairs Committee at the renowned New York art school, Pratt Institute. His latest book is Shtick Shift: Jewish Humor in the 21st Century.