[Note: This week’s Haveil Havailim is here.]
First came SimCity, a computer game in which players could experiment with zoning and urban planning and monitor their results. Later editions like SimEarth and SimLife were variations on the same theme, with larger ecosystems.
Then came The Sims, and players managed the lives of characters in a household.
This past May I heard about SimPlants, in which people experiment with care of a potted plant.
In all of these SimSystems, players receive feedback and scores letting them know how they are doing. As a parent, I would love to use SimChildren, to experiment with virtual children before making a real-life decision:
- It’s Friday morning and the two-year-old has a low fever. Motrin seems to handle it, and he isn’t complaining about his throat, but what if it is strep? Shouldn’t we get him checked so that he won’t have to go through Shabbos with strep (and infect every other child in shul)? But that would mean losing a couple of hours sitting in the doctor’s office, and it’s probably just a 24-hour virus….
- The pre-school teacher thinks your child needs occupational therapy for fine motor control. You think your child is just a little immature. Do you follow her recommendation and sign up for twelve weeks of OT/PT? Or do you wing it?
And those are just the small stuff; what happens when you get to choice of high schools, driving lessons and a car, teenage friends and dating…?
SimChildren, coded by experienced parents with no fewer than eight children of their own, would remove much of the mystery, allowing accelerated responses to these difficult decisions.
But professionally, as a shul rabbi, I would really love to see SimShul, in which a rabbi or president could experiment with a virtual congregation. For all the work underway to improve rabbinic training - and there’s a lot of good work out there, from Young Israel’s rabbinic training program to the RIETS training programs to the Legacy Heritage Foundation/Center for the Jewish Future’s rabbinic mentorships to Yeshivat Chovevei Torah’s pastoral preparation - the best tool would definitely be SimShul.
With SimShul, you can try whatever you like, and see the results before taking the risk: Raise the mechitzah, cut down on kiddush spending, add ויתן לך on Saturday night, increase the number of allowable הוספות (extra aliyot) in the Torah reading, lengthen the Shabbos morning derashah, dump that guy from the board, eliminate the Shabbos morning derashah, start a building campaign, you name it.
We would need different versions, I think, for different religious stripes, different demographics, different cities with different personalities. Just within the Orthodox community there’s Yeshivish, Modern Orthodox/Centrist, Shteibel, Carlebach, Historic Institution, Startup, Breakaway, Chabad, New York, Baltimore, Los Angeles, Chicago, Small Town, Young, Older…
Yes, this would be a little complex, but think of the benefits... I would pay good money for this.