I have a siddur app on my iPhone. Some people say I should only pray with a real paper and cardboard siddur. Will G‑d still listen if my siddur is electronic instead?


Aside from holding the entire Torah, Talmud, Maimonides, Code of Jewish Law and Tanya et al, providing access to thousands of classic works with the app and allowing mobile surfing of, another way you can assist that little device to fulfill its true purpose in life is by praying with it.

You've got a built-in compass, so you know you're facing east. At least one siddur app adjusts to display the relevant prayers for that day. It's lighter than any hard-copy siddur, and some of us find scrolling easier than to page flipping.

There are also disadvantages: If you bow too deeply, the display turns upside down in an attempt to accommodate. Beyond that, a real siddur has a certain sanctity to it that a virtual siddur cannot attain. It’s not disposable—a siddur is buried when it’s done its term—and the text is an integral part of its hardware rather than cyberdust that goes poof into the world of electron charges every time you turn it off.

You definitely can't pray from an iphone on Shabbat. G‑d rested from electronics on that day as well—and He instructed us to do the same. That's great. Just as resting on the seventh day undermined the institution of slavery in the ancient world, so it releases us from our slavery to technology in the techno-world.

During the week, the only halachic issue with an iPhone is the distractions bundled with it. Attempting to engage the Ultimate Master of the Universe while texting back and forth with your buddies is not going to work. Same thing with those auto-notifications about your email, etc.. Prayer is entirely a one-on-one connection—it demands your absolute and undivided attention. Imagine standing before your boss asking for a raise or having a heart-to-heart talk with your beloved—and texting your friends while you're at it.

Then of course, there is the very annoying issue of ring tones—the latest plague upon all houses of worship. These tones, after all, are designed to distract and annoy. One slips into a mode of rapture and mystic union with the divine only to be rudely cast back into the harsh material world by a neighbor's pocket blasting the cancan. The entire ambience of prayer falls through the floor.

The ring tone issue is easily solved by switching to vibrate. Notifications can be turned off in Settings. But you're still going to have those incoming calls and text messages popping up over your siddur. To avoid these, the only trick I know is to switch to Airplane Mode. It seems to me that this is a must for proper praying. Look, if you can do it on the runways of Planet Earth, you can do it on the runway to heaven as well.