Here’s something to think about: Has technology helped or harmed religious commitment?

Science and religion have long had a tumultuous relationship. In the 16th century, the findings of Copernicus and Galileo sent a cold shiver down the clergy’s spine, and science threatened to replace G‑d with reason.

But religion was not displaced. In fact, scientific findings often point to the brilliant design of G‑d’s universe.

Fast-forward to the 21st century.Scientific findings often point to the brilliant design of G‑d’s universe By now, science has unraveled staggering developments that have radically altered our lives, and the progress continues at a speedy pace. Scientists propose that in the years 1990–2000, there were more scientific advancements than in all of history combined!

Here’s the contemporary question: Can technology and religion work in unison?

On one hand, high-tech seems at best a distraction for the spiritual seekers. At worst, it opens up a whole new world of temptation. Has a Jew anything meaningful to gain from a Facebook page, the iPad with 3G or a savy smartphone? As staggering as instant communication may be, does it really paint the world a better place?

The Zohar, authored close to 2,000 years ago, has something surprising to say about the value of technology. According to the Zohar, the development of technology is conducive to spiritual growth and is actually a prelude to the coming of Moshiach.

The Zohar sees this prediction in the Torah’s vivid description of Noah’s flood: “In the six-hundredth year of Noah’s life . . . all the wellsprings of the great depth burst forth, and the windows of the sky opened up.”1

The water poured from the heavens and gushed from the earth through natural wellsprings. Mirroring this description, the Zohar predicts a future flood—only this flood would be a downpour of wisdom. The Zohar predicts a future flood—only this flood would be a downpour of wisdom(Water is a Kabbalistic symbol for wisdom.) Each part of the future flood is foretold in the Torah:

“In the six-hundredth year of Noah’s life . . .” The 600 years of Noah’s life allude to the sixth millennium of the world’s existence, more specifically the six-hundredth year of the sixth millennium. Transposed onto the Gregorian calendar, that’s the mid-19th century—more specifically, the year 1840 CE.

“The wellsprings of the great depth burst forth . . .” This, says the Zohar, is an allusion to the scientific developments that will emerge from human ingenuity and flood the earth in the sixth millennium.

“And the windows of the sky opened up.” The heavens, too, will gush forth with esoteric and mystical wisdom, a reference to the deepest understanding of Torah, the Kabbalah.

The Zohar concludes: Both the upper and the lower wisdoms will come to prepare the world for the seventh millennium, the messianic era, when “the world will be filled with the knowledge of G‑d as water covers the ocean bed.”2 Fifteen hundred years after being penned, the Zohar’s predictions began to unfoldAs a prelude to this cosmic shift, we’ll be privy to some exciting advancements.

Fifteen hundred years after being penned, the Zohar’s predictions began to unfold.

The year 1820 marked the onset of the Second Industrial Revolution, also known as the Technological Revolution. Technological advancements began to spiral in a speedy upward motion. Railroads, electricity, the telephone, and eventually, the automobile and airplane changed life as we know it.

The early 19th century also marked a massive cultural tide in Jewish society. A century earlier, the Baal Shem Tov had catalyzed the Chassidic Revolution, and by the 1800s the deepest teachings of Torah, known as Kabbalah and Chassidism, were being widely studied and disseminated. Jewish rituals that had been understood at face value for millennia were now taught with entirely new depth and breadth, seen through the lens of Jewish mysticism. The secrets of the universe that were once exclusive to the mystics began to saturate Jewish society in Europe and beyond.

Two schools of wisdom had powerfully emerged. Just as the Zohar had predicted, the middle of the sixth millennium brought a torrential flood of knowledge.

The Zohar predicted that both the upper knowledge and the lower knowledge would come as a prelude to the messianic era. In fact, there’s an ancient custom to sample the Shabbat food on Friday. In the same fashion, G‑d is giving us a taste of the abundant wisdom that will be available in the seventh millennium, the time of Moshiach, a bit early, in the sixth millennium.

But how is the Technological Revolution part of a prelude to the profound knowledge of G‑d that will be available in the times of Moshiach? How does technology reinforce a G‑d-centered reality? How do the upper and lower “waters” work in perfect unison?

Perhaps you don’t realize that you have just joined the world’s largest Jewish virtual congregation

Welcome to the website you are currently visiting. Perhaps you don’t realize that you have just joined the world’s largest Jewish virtual congregation. With multiple millions of visitors per month, and more than 100,000 Torah articles, technology has allowed the Torah’s sphere of influence to expand by gigantic proportions.

For many years now, live radio and television transmissions and satellite hookups have been used to broadcast the teachings of Torah and Chassidism. They reach people who would otherwise have no access to or interest in Torah study. Technology provides an enormous microphone and an ever-expanding network of influence to saturate the world with Jewish vibrations.

In addition, technology teaches us about G‑d in a more palpable way than we could ever experience from a philosophical text.

The books say that G‑d has “an eye that sees and an ear that hears.”3 He is omnipresent, observing everyone simultaneously. A hundred years ago, we took the books’ word for it; but with Google Earth, it’s suddenly no longer so far-fetched.

The books say that G‑d gives continuous vitality to His creations. A hundred years ago, we believed it. Now we understand it. If an electric power plant energizes millions of electrical appliances with a consistent electrical current running through each utility, then G‑d’s creative process becomes more comprehensible.

Of course, G‑d can’t blow His cover. So, instead of making it obvious that technology’s main function is to spread the knowledge of G‑d, He gave it a godless facade. To maintain the equilibrium of good and bad in the world, G‑d also gave the forces of evil the opportunity to stick their black thumb into the pie of technology—hence the Internet addictions, “crackberries” (people addicted to their BlackBerries), and lots of immorality to hide the true nature of our technological flood.

Kabbalah, however, is unequivocal in its assertion that technology is not only good, it’s amazing.

How do you think that technology is helping to transform the world for the good?4