Virtual Reality and Genuine Humanity – Can They Coexist?
Rabbi Dr. Shlomo Zuckier / December 7, 2020
These past months of social distancing have precipitated a fundamental change in human experience, where virtual reality has, to a large degree, become normalized as the platform for human interaction and religious experience. What are the implications of this shift – can VR seamlessly substitute for, even improve, in-person interaction? Or is it hopelessly flawed, denying our genuine human embodiment and our need for physical interaction?
Considering approaches in the realm of Jewish law and thought, this class explores how virtual reality is understood and applied by Jewish tradition and takes stock of its ramifications. Drawing upon an eclectic collection of sources ranging from the Bible and Talmud to halakhic decisors to contemporary thinkers such as Rav Shagar and Ray Kurzweil, this course aims to address the question of our day.
Session 1: This session lays out the issues of this course overall, and considers the perspective of Jewish law pre-2020 to various scenarios and their relation to Virtual Reality.
Session 2: This session considers Jewish Law as it relates to Virtual Reality, and particularly to decisions rendered offer the course of the pandemic.
Rabbi Dr. Shlomo Zuckier
Rabbi Dr. Shlomo Zuckier teaches in the Dr. Beth Samuels High School Program and the Drisha Summer Kollel, as well as other Drisha Programs. A postdoctoral fellow in Jewish Studies at McGill University, he received his PhD in Ancient Judaism at Yale University and was a member of Yeshiva University’s Kollel Elyon. Previously he served as Director of the Orthodox Union’s Jewish Learning Initiative on Campus at Yale University. Shlomo is an alumnus of Yeshivat Har Etzion and RIETS, as well as of the Wexner and Tikvah Fellowships. He has lectured and taught widely across North America, as well as at Yale Divinity School, Yeshiva University, the Tikvah Fund, and Bnot Sinai. A Founder of The Lehrhaus, Shlomo serves on the Editorial Committee of Tradition and has edited two books on contemporary Jewish thought.