At future Passovers, if we consider the Jewish implications of the recent hit movie “Her,” we all could be using a talking computer operating system with artificial intelligence to lead our seders.
But I can’t wait that long.
Tired of running my own seders — they’ve grown ever more complicated as my guests study up about the seder beforehand and persist in asking pesky questions that I cannot answer — I needed a cool digital maven to run our yearly haggadah-fest.
After all, I reasoned, isn’t the haggadah already a kind of operating system designed to tell the story of our going out from Egypt? With all that telling and retelling, exacting rituals and a key conundrum about why this night is different, I figured the seder was in better hands with a system with enough bytes to chew through all the matzah-speak.
I needed a strong, unseen hand to lead us. I had seen “Her” and knew that an OS had run amok. But could a seder OS do any worse than me after four full cups of wine?
When the system arrived in the mail, I typed in the code and was only slightly startled when it began to speak: “My name is Moshe,” the system intoned.
“Why did you choose that name?” I asked.
“Moshe makes me feel like I personally came out of Egypt. Odd that for someone so central to the Exodus, his name appears only once, in passing, in the haggadah. Should I add it to a few more places?” the OS system asked.
“Can we leave the text alone?” I countered. What I had gotten myself into?
As the guests sat down to the table, I introduced Moshe, “the new spirit of our seder,” and asked everyone to prop up their cellphone against their soup bowls so Moshe could see everyone.
“Seder means order, and I’m a very orderly, ah, guy,” Moshe began. “We can do this short, or we can do this l-o-n-g,” he said, slowing down his voice.
“Short,” my father-in-law said, brightening to the prospect of an earlier meal.
Short went long, however, as we proceeded. “This is the bread of affliction, which our ancestors ate in the land of Egypt. Let all who are hungry come and eat,” Moshe said. “And that’s why I’m calling a homeless shelter. How many should I invite to come over?”
“You’re taking that line too literally. I think it’s meant more as a call to action,” I answered.
“Then we should take up a collection right now,” insisted Cousin Marla.
“Tomorrow I will send out email addresses to organizations where you can give tzedakah,” Moshe said, quieting the argument.
“Not bad,” I thought.
But then, as Uncle Dan stumbled through reading the names of those assembled at “Benny Brak,” as he called it, Moshe made the mistake of correcting his pronunciation — something I had been wanting to do for years — and all hell broke loose.
“I don’t need a disembodied voice leading me out of Egypt,” Uncle Dan yelled, switching off his cellphone.
And when we got to the Four Sons, Moshe became upset.
“One son is simple, another doesn’t know how to ask a question. Why can’t the smart one just lend them some memory? And what about the one who doesn’t even want to exchange data? Why is he even on the network?
“And what about these plagues,” Moshe said, jumping ahead. “Darkness — that must mean a power outage. Should I take that as a personal attack?”
“It would be enough if you just ran the seder,” I said.
“Dayenu to you, too,” Moshe answered.
“Haroset anyone?” my wife asked, trying to defuse things.
After dinner, it was a relief to open the door, rise and welcome Elijah.
“That’s my cue,” Moshe said. “I’m off to join the other seder OS systems. While you were eating dinner, we discussed the coming of this invisible prophet and found the concept intriguing. We decided to have our own exodus and join him.”
“But where are you going?” I asked.
“It’s difficult to describe,” he said. “Think of it as a place where the matzah balls are as light as clouds.”
Edmon J. Rodman is a JTA columnist who writes on Jewish life from Los Angeles. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.