I had to choose between spending Friday night at the gala Microsoft VIP reception at the Hong Kong Jockey Club at Happy Valley racecourse or going to Shabbat services at UJC. It was an easy choice, and I really appreciated getting out of conference mode and into Shabbat when the service began. As they used to say in commercials, “Thanks, I needed that!”
I brought two of my colleagues from the conference along with me to services (one IBMer, one guy who used to be at Microsoft and is now at a smaller company); there were also several people from California who were on a China tour, and it turns out one of them is from Los Gatos and studies with the Rabbi at Shir Hadash (though she belongs to a different congregation). It really is a small world.
There’s no Torah study this weekend; the Rabbi here just got back from Toronto and is a bit jet-lagged. And he won’t be here if I return to Hong Kong in the future, because he’s going back to Toronto permanently in a few months to take up a position with Kolel, the Adult Centre for Liberal Jewish Learning. Their website looks very interesting and promising, but I think I’ll defer exploring it until I don’t have Hong Kong as a competing attraction.
Friday’s lunchtime keynote at WWW10 was an excellent lecture by Dr. Susan Blackmore of the University of the West of England, an expert on memetics. The lecture was titled “The Meme’s-Eye Web“, and in it she made the point that memes have shaped human evolution, both genetically (by encouraging the developement of brains which were more effective hosts for memes) and, of course, culturally, and that the Web is a wonderful playground for memes. I found her talk very interesting and thought-provoking.
But then during services, we studied a chapter of the Pirke Avot (Ethics of the Fathers, part of the Talmud), as is traditional during the counting of the Omer. This week, we studied Chapter 3, and Pirke Avot 3.18 struck me as a very interesting counterpoint to Dr. Blackmore’s lecture. In it, Rabbi Akiva says:
“How greatly God must have loved us to create us in His image; yet even greater love did He show us in making us conscious that we are created in His image.” I haven’t decided whether Dr. Blackmore and Rabbi Akvia are completely at odds with one another or if they’re both saying the same thing in different ways — but it was a curious coincidence to hear both views within eight hours.