User-Centered Design: Ignoring the Terms and Conditions

In the Gemara in Avodah Zara there is an interesting discussion about some mythic time right before the revelation of the Torah. There we read:

Rabbi Ḥanina bar Pappa taught, and some say that it was Rabbi Simlai who taught: In the future, the Holy One, Blessed be God, will bring a Torah scroll and place it in God’s lap and say: Anyone who engaged in its study should come and take his reward. ( Avodah Zara 2a)

In this time different nations of world come forward for the option to accept the Torah. From Rome, to Persia, to Edom, in each case they are presented with a Torah that has a rule that they cannot follow and they do not accept the Torah. Finally., Na’aseh V’nishma, the Jews come and accept the Torah sight unseen.  This idea of people accepting rules without their understanding the consiquences is not a new thing.

We see this with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. I simply love this image I saw last year on social media:

While there is no rabbinic evidence that it was an apple, it is facinating to understand that our accepting the Torah as we see in Avodah Zara is itself a return to Eden.

It is also facinating to realize that Apple itself was designed to be used before being understood. I remember fondly when our family got the original Apple Macintosh personal computer. Its beige case consisted of a monitor and came with a keyboard and mouse. A handle built into the top of the case made it easier for the computer to be lifted and carried. It was famously designed to be taken out of the box and used right away before reading the instructions.

Image result for macintosh with handle

Apple’s user-centered design invites you to use it before you understand the rules of how to use it. This gives us another read of the Eden story. It was not a fall from grace, but a classic “unboxing“. Fortune favors the bold who just jump in and start playing before understanding. This reading of eating the forbidden fruit and our Gemara makes us question the benefits of reading the directions, terms, or conditions first.


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