Ever since the internet was first on the scenes, it has revolutionized the way so many people live, and that includes Orthodox Jews, who use it to assist them in their religious observances. A little-known website called MyZmanim.com changes the way that a more than 3000 year old tradition can operate.
An Ancient Tradition
For over 3000 years, Jews have faithfully followed halacha, or Jewish laws, many of which are time-sensitive. One of such law dictates that one must pray three times a day at specific times. Another time-sensitive law is observing the Sabbath which spans from Friday’s sunset until Saturday’s nightfall, meaning that for 25 hours, they may not perform any melacha, the Jewish concept of creative work. This includes activities on your smartphone. In order to keep the commandment of observing the Sabbath, Shabbos as it is called, religious Jews must know the exact time of sunset on Friday and nightfall on Saturday, and such explicit times are calculated by plugging the variables into the respective practice’s formula, which is itself derived from factors such as “sunrise, sunset, the amount of time between them, and the sun’s angular position” as explained on Chabad.org.
The Wonder Website
In past times, all of these calculations had to be done by hand. It was very time consuming and confusing. But with recent times more and more advanced technologies are being introduced to make observance easier. The latest of such technologies is MyZmanim.com ('zman' is the Hebrew word for 'time', and 'zmanim' is the plural form) which has all the components and does all the calculations for you instantly. All you need to do is just type in your zip code or city name and the website will list all the zmanim for that place and selected date.
sample page on MyZmanim.com
Some Potential Drawbacks
MyZmanim may not be the only resource to find zmanim on the internet, but it is certainly the most comprehensive, and even has handwritten approval from notable rabbis, which can be found on the website. Since MyZmanim makes finding zmanim as simple as just a few clicks, the average observant Jew can effortly get through the day with the help of his trusty iPhone, even at the last minute. But the lack of effort means that he loses the ability to think for himself and becomes completely reliant on MyZmanim, so if a circumstance arises where he is on his own, it would be very challenging. Referring to the dependence observant Jews have on the website, Yehuda Meyers, a rabbinical student at Yeshiva University, says, “It depends on the kind of person. If they are learned, then they will know how to operate on their own, but if they are not so learned, then they are more like dependent on MyZmanim” and that, “ people have so become accustomed to using it that they stopped trying to calculate the zmanim on their own, and if they are in a situation where they do not have access to MyZmanim, then they will have a problem.”
It is clear that the internet has many assets that are valuable to its users. As shown, that is not just applicable to the mainstream society, but also to a minority group who practice an ancient culture. The range of communities and types of people who have been impacted by the internet stretches around the world. We may not know what the future holds, but it goes without saying that our lives will become increasingly facilitated by advancing technology.
Meyers, Yehuda. Telephone interview. 28 Mar. 2017.
MyZmanim Page. Jpg file, 5 Apr. 2017.
"Zmanim Briefly Defined and Explained." Chabad, www.chabad.org/library/
Accessed 7 Apr. 2017.