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How My iPhone Upgrade Redefined the Meaning of Life

How My iPhone Upgrade Redefined the Meaning of Life

Where does life truly reside, anyway?


It was one of one of those grand summits in the journey through life, when the entire landscape is set before you in ultra-high definition. Suddenly, you know where you are, where you are going and what you have to do to get there.

I upgraded my iPhone.

It was hard. I wanted the new one. But I couldn’t let go of the old.

Hey, for almost three years I had spent my entire life with that warm metal device firmly in my hand, securely in my pocket, on my dash, or lying next to my pillow, measuring my every movement so as to report on my sleep patterns in the morning.

And now, the salesperson was telling me that I had to let it go. For a $70 discount off my new phone, all I had to do was just leave this old one behind.

“What will you do with it?” I gulped. “My entire life is on there!”

“What will you do with it?” I gulped. “My entire life is on there!”

“Don’t worry,” he said, “we’ll wipe it clean before reselling.”

My second gulp reverberated through the noisy store. Panic-induced tunnel vision blocked all visual stimuli other than the image of my precious device. The sweat was oozing from my palms; the panic shrilled in my voice.

Fortunately, the salesman kept his cool. Apparently, he’d been through this before.

“All that data,” he told me, “will appear on your new iPhone. All your apps, all your music, your e‑mail, notes, docs, pics . . . all of it.”

“Don’t I have to transfer it first?” I asked.

“That’s not necessary. It’s all in the Cloud.”

“The Cloud?”

Enlightenment began here. The salesman spoke:

“Well, not everything. The apps you purchased, they reside in the app store, from where they were first downloaded to your device. They’ll download again, as soon as this new device becomes attached to your ID. The same with any music you bought from the iTunes store, or books from the iBook store. That’s where they came from, and that’s where they still are. You could say, that’s their real place.”

“And what about everything I’ve created on this phone?” I was trying to sound contained, to act my age, and not doing a great job.

“The docs I’ve written? The pictures I’ve taken? The recordings I’ve made?”

“I’ve checked. Everything you’ve done is stored there in the Cloud. Even your personal settings.”

“And it’s safe there?”

“A lot safer than on your device. Your device has only so much battery, can only can live so long. But in the Cloud, it might as well be there forever.”

Then he went on with his Cloud pitch.

“And once it’s in the Cloud, it’s so much easier to share with others. On our devices, each of us is in our own world. We communicate, we interact, but the devices—they divide us. But there, in the Cloud, it’s all one. So easy to create that synergy that comes through sharing.”

At his instruction, I entered my ID and password into that cute little upgrade. I watched in awe as its very soul reappeared before my eyes.

Looking into his eyes, I saw he was confident and earnest. I trusted him. I had to move on in life.

At his instruction, I entered my ID and password into the cute little upgrade. I watched in awe as it connected with the Cloud. Within moments, my treasured contents began to appear, like dry bones rising to life from the dust. All the apps that had once resided on my old device, along with all that I had created upon it, even my personal settings, popped up, one by one. Its very soul reappeared before my eyes.

I held it in my hand and began to stroke its surface, interfacing with its buttons. Yes, it was my old handheld self, but so much more sensitive, so much crisper and brighter, speedier and spacier. Life had just moved up a notch.

Life. Yes, that’s pretty much what’s on there. There’s this new voice that doesn’t understand most of what I say. Messages I have little interest in. Tchatchkas that I have no clue what to do with. Life.

Only now, it’s a higher life.

I lay in bed that night, my iPhone carefully placed facedown next to my pillow (plugged in, and not under covers, as per the instructions—and in Do Not Disturb mode), and I wondered, “What is this body, if not the real me? Where do I really reside? What’s up with Body 2.0? And all that I create down here, where is that stored? Who am I sharing it with? Who are we, really? Who am I?”

Rabbi Tzvi Freeman, a senior editor at, also heads our Ask The Rabbi team. He is the author of Bringing Heaven Down to Earth. To subscribe to regular updates of Rabbi Freeman's writing, visit Freeman Files subscription. FaceBook @RabbiTzviFreeman Periscope @Tzvi_Freeman .
Imagery by Natalia Kadish. Natalia is a surrealist artist inspired by the joy received from learning Torah and contemplating the infinite. See more of her art at
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Discussion (51)
May 20, 2014
Excellent! Excellent! Excellent!
Perfect metaphor for our personal journey how difficult it is to let go of the old ,release and embrace the higher level reaching toward us and we, petulant children having tantrums! Is the new toy better than the old, we cry? Trust, just trust and release.
Thank you,
March 11, 2013
Iphone's or any cell phone
I lost all my info on my cell phone, so I know what it feels like to loose all your info.
It takes time to build up all the info over a year or two and wham, it's all gone. But, we are here to learn a lessen from what happens in our lives. Even with technology, we did not create this technology by our self, G_d helped us with the this technology or anything that you can think of. G_d is the Creator of all. G_d helps us to create anything that is for the good of our using it. The technology that we use today, can and has brought us the Book of Moses online, or anything that concerns G_d. I say thank you for the technology G_d has given us.
Gauteng SA
February 11, 2013
My writings are my essence, iCloud and being erased
And the somber tone of this thread of conversation leads to a personal favorite, namely the epitaph of John Keats. "Here lies one whose name is written in water..."

The 'writings' are only present for the moment, the instant of actual writing.

We enter this world with a very small footprint...quite literally, if you think about the beautiful tiny feet and toes of a newborn. It would seem that in similar fashion the vast majority of mankind also depart leaving a very small footprint.

In choosing life as Moshe our teacher advises us, is the 'biggest footprint' or the 'smallest footprint' the proper choice for the culmination and completion of our days?
February 6, 2013
it is sort of disturbing when you write "its very soul appeared before my eyes"

Sounds like you transferred your love for the Lord G-d to this miniature Icloud, as you even stroked it. Isnt that a form of idolatry, when your possessions means so much to you that you are panic stricken that it will be erased or taken away from you? or does it mean you are putting your trust and hope in technology, instead of the Living God? sorry but I dont understand, maybe in a way I do, as I panic when I lose my car keys. :-) G-d bless
Sientje Seinen
February 6, 2013
One More
The Internet begun during the 2nd World War was first DARPAnet, then ARPAnet and only after that the WorldWideWeb or Internet [look it up]. DARPAnet was designed to survive a nuclear holocaust with layers and layers of coverage making the term "multiple redundancies" its formative thematic norm.
I suppose surviving Armageddon is pious and devout or the converse.
Always yours,
Dr. Elyas F. Isaacs PhD,DPH,DDiv.
New York
February 4, 2013
It's Was Just Like That
It was just like that for me, Rabbi. Almost word-for-word. Our essence vs. our deeds. Nicely captured. "It's in the Cloud." ...I once read a science-fiction story about how the Cloud eventually becomes self-aware. If it comes true, G-d would know what to do. He already did, as I am coming to understand the Mystical roots of what you have to say. Many thanks to you for a beautiful story with a beautiful meaning.
Barry Schwartz
Hercules, California
January 29, 2013
re technology and storing of data
Are you referring to that our life experiences are stored somewhere in the clouds, and that we are all accountable to the Lord G-d, so that when we pass over to the other side or cross the river of Jordan into the promised land, G-d judges us on the way we conducted ourselves here on earth, as it would be written in the book of Life? not sure what you mean by all that data you transferref from one Iphone to another, if that is the case could you then not add more data, or change some of it?
Sientje Seinen
January 28, 2013
"Reading the Story a Little Deeper"
I know, Rabbi. I know from experience how it feels to write something and then have your readers completely miss the point you meant to make, and pick up on a different idea entirely and run with it.
Still, the point to me was the one about upgrading to sophisticated technology when so many people have no technology at all.. That is the point that got through to me.
I speak too from the experience of e-mailing myself photos thinking that that way they would be "forever" accessible.
I lost some after only a few years and have no idea if I shall ever see them again. Whereas my 50-year-old (and older) snapshots are still in my albums ...
January 27, 2013
Your article frankly disturbs me. While there is a place for sophisticated technology, I fear it makes the path towards diminishing faith in a supreme being, whose memory banks far exceeds that of the "cloud,"a real threat. It's just a toy, yet people seem far too willingly to sacrifice something unique within themselves to succumb to the sweet allure of a device, most choose not to understand and that stagnates philosophical critical thought.
Bruce Portnoy, O.D.
January 27, 2013
rabbi! the torah says to guard your life! it is very dangerous to stay for extended periods of time near that type of radiation, so to follow what the ultimate programer wants, avoid such dangers in the future