15 Sivan 5779 / Tuesday, June 18, 2019 | Torah Reading: Shelach Lecho
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Pokémon No Go

What is causing car accidents, people walking off cliffs, helicopters being hired to shuttle players around, and kids going far outside their parent-approved zones?


As Dr. Harry wrote in Pokemon Go Away, this game has “taken the world by storm” and made history with the sheer number of people playing.


As I sit here typing, my phone is plugged in and charging through my computer as my avatar (I think that’s what it’s called) stands in a virtual world overlaid onto a map of my real world location. She, my avatar, occasionally paces and then resumes standing – a GPS signal circle constantly emanates from her…. Searching for Pokémon in the general area I’m assuming. None are around, if you are wondering. A close up of her face is in the bottom left corner of the screen with a number listed – my “level” or “experience / XP” in the game. She appears to breathe in this close up avatar; I find it creepy and generally avoid looking at it. Why do I have it on my phone? I wanted to know what the hype was about, what my niece and nephew are spending their time doing, and if I would like it.


I’m not a “gamer”… I certainly don’t fit the profile of one either. However, once upon a time, I made a living working in a high end, top of the line arcade. With the magic key that allowed me to add as many credits as I wished to any game my breaks were often taken up conquering our newest machines or increasing my skill in pinball.  So, although I’m not a gamer, I can find my way around one and I can understand the attraction and challenge people find within them.


In the blips of news and conversations I’ve heard there is talk of car accidents, of people walking off cliffs, of helicopters being hired to shuttle players around, of kids going far outside their parent-approved zones, of private property being trespassed upon, of businesses using it as promotion, of historic sites trying to get removed from being a “Poke stop” I believe it’s called. There is talk of how good this game is – how it is getting people of all ages up off the couch and out walking and exploring.


What I can’t get over though is how quickly a large percentage of the population, a percentage that until this game came out really didn’t get involved with electronic games, has been swept up into this virtual world. And it’s not just the playing of the game that is concerning but the complete immersion they experience – so much so that people are being hit by cars that they walk in front of in oblivion to the real world. For all intensive purposes they were “in” their virtual world…. That is until their very real body stepped in front of a very real car, or off a very real cliff.


I wondered what the message is. What is Hashem trying to show us with this game and the extreme attraction it has drawn? Here’s what I’ve come up with – it’s all about desire and choice.


Do we desire to get close to Hashem or do we desire to be drawn into the things of this world? Do we desire to find our true path in life, to accomplish our true mission, or do we desire to live in a “virtual” world where we “level up” by acquiring more things, more debt, more vacations?


Where is our desire leading us? What choice will we make?


Head down, ignoring reality, focused on things that will not matter in the world to come? Or head up, talking to Hashem, strengthening our emuna and focused on the eternal? Where will we be focused when Moshiach arrives, may it be soon!?


I suggest getting off the couch and going for a walk is a great thing. But instead of going on a Pokémon safari, how about taking that hour and talking with your Heavenly Father? Build that very real relationship with Him and hold off on worrying about your ”XP” in this world.


And, just as if on cue, a Pokémon popped up on my screen.  What’s my choice? I think I will go for a walk without my phone – and when I get back, my avatar is retiring permanently. The game may be fun, but it is far from truth and distracts us from accomplishing our missions.


Here’s to leveling up where it really matters – in deepening our connection with Hashem.



* * *

Jennifer invites you to participate in a regularly held Noahide on-line study group that reviews the garden series books of Rabbi Arush. You can contact her at jenniferjwoodward@gmail.com to be added to the weekly newsletter for dates and times. Visit the blog at noahidenews.blogspot.com

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