It was shortly before Shabbat that I pulled out my iPhone. One stroke downward and I see:

“The next thing on your calendar today is light candles at 5:54 PM, in 10 minutes.”

At that point I realized that my iPhone is the Primordial Snake from the Garden of Eden.

You thought the serpent is the epitome of no-good from the get-go, right? You might think it outrageous and heretical to say otherwise. I mean, what would your Sunday Hebrew-school teacher have to say if you made any other suggestion? But then, Rabbi Shimon ben Menasya (Sanhedrin 59b) shatters that myth: The snake, he says, was created to be Adam and Eve’s personal assistant.

And who wouldn’t want a snake for an assistant? Who could better stealthily spy on all the comings and goings of the garden? Be the best and clearest source of all necessary and unnecessary information? Provide cool entertainment and witty comebacks? And with voice recognition and audible verbal feedback to boot.

“The snake was the cleverest of all the beasts of the garden.” (Genesis 3:1)

A true visionary (visionaries often appear outrageous and heretical), Rabbi Shimon goes so far as to say that had the snake not received its curse, we would all have our personal ophidian assistants today.

So, maybe we do. Maybe the snake has returned, and I’m holding it in my pocket.

Which is fantastic. Really wonderful. G‑d’s ultimate gift of hi-tech productivity enhancement.As long as the snake was listening to Adam’s instructions, and not the other way around, everything was great.

There’s just one small but crucial caveat. One we were supposed to have learned from history: As long as the snake was listening to Adam’s instructions, and not the other way around, everything was great. Which is where Adam blew it. Once that protocol was reversed, that’s when the whole mess began. That’s when the assistant became the master, and the master became the slave.

Has the snake learned its lesson? Have I, this great-great-grandperson and heir to Adam and Eve?

Personally, my ophidian assistant never desists in its ploys to reverse that protocol. On Shabbat, there’s even virtual buzz—I can feel it vibrating in my pocket when it’s shut down and stuffed away in my drawer. Now, that’s not nice. When will this creature ever give up?

Nevertheless, I love my iSnake. It provides me so many opportunities for growth. There are times of the day–like those when I could actually be productive, or contemplative, or just sit back and relax–when every thirty seconds I experience another compulsive limbic rush to check messages and e‑mails. Or to look up what is the capital of New Brunswick. Or just to chat with Siri, since no one else is listening to me.

“C’mon, Tzvi—information tastes good! Keep collecting it, and soon you’ll know as much as G‑d Himself! Besides, it’s a lot easier than all those other things you really should be doing.”

And I resist that urge. And I grow.

After Shabbat, there are a hundred messages waiting for me in the Alert Center. Too bad. They will have to wait. I am Adam—not the slave, but the master of this garden.

My Shabbat candlelighting time notice is thanks to the iCal download
available on’s Candle-lighting time page.