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What's App-enin for Pesach?
Talk about a tech-minded culture: This Passover season, you can get rid of chametz with the help of your cell phone. Seriously.
A free iPhone app just released by New York software development company RustyBrick provides guidance for seeking, selling and destroying the leavened goods.
The app includes rabbinic explanations of the Jewish laws regarding the removal of chametz prior to Passover, as well as blessings, a flashlight and a checklist for the tradition of making a final sweep of the house by "candlelight" to find 10 hidden pieces of bread -- a ritual to show that everything has indeed been thoroughly cleaned, said RustyBrick CEO Barry Schwartz.
"Orthodox people could use this as opposed to using a prayerbook," he said.
In fact, he continued, the app comes with some information that's nowhere to be found in a prayerbook, such as the exact time, adjusted to any time zone through GPS technology, that chametz may no longer be consumed -- and likewise what time bread can be brought back into the home after the holiday.
Another tab outlines the procedures for burning or selling the collected chametz. For those who can't or don't want to physically remove it, the app has a link to Torah.org, where a staff rabbi oversees the electronic transaction to a non-Jew. Though the buyer never sees the bread, the exchange completes the required legal sale, said Schwartz.
Some rabbis might find that method controversial, he noted, but that's another story.
In addition to RustyBrick's "No Chametz!" (www.rustybrick.com/iphone/chametz) -- aptly illustrated with a "No Smoking" symbol over a pristine piece of processed sandwich bread -- a handful of other Passover-related apps offer background on the holiday and a daily countdown to Lag B'Omer.
Technophiles can also build up to Passover with a less useful, but perhaps more entertaining array of videos and interactive media available online.
Aish.com's two-minute "Google Exodus" video, a spoof on how the story would unfold if the characters had access to today's technology, has already gotten more than 1 million hits.
Or, test your holiday trivia with a short online quiz developed by Jenkintown nonprofit Moving Traditions.
Twitter users are invited to take on the persona of a character in the Passover story and tweet messages relating to the 10 plagues that led to the freeing of the Israelites from Egypt.
Some gung-ho players have created separate accounts in order to tweet as "twitplaypharoah" or "twitplayammon," who recently lamented the boils that had afflicted him: "OH! Can't even sit down! How can we heal this? I just googled this!"
A link follows, leading to a slideshow describing the medical definition and causes of boils.
The exchange is reminiscent of the more organized "Tweet the Exodus" project that Dallas Rabbi Oren Hayon launched last year, recruiting fellow rabbis and educators from around the country to take on the star roles. For two weeks, some 1,400 followers tuned into Hayon's carefully scripted dialog, which often came with links to related web resources or cheeky video clips.
Hayon said he was gratified to see that people were so into the experience that they wanted to continue it. A colleague involved in starting this year's "twitplay" contacted him to see if he wanted to direct it, but Hayon said he was happy to step out of the way and watch it evolve.
"It's actually a really nice 'Chapter Two' to the whole thing," he said. "I couldn't have hoped for anything more."
Follow along by searching for the tag #exod2011.
Unless, of course, this season provides you with a less than subtle reminder to escape the bondage of your cell phone.