Too often, I hear condemners of gadget addiction, rabbis and laymen alike, placing special blame on people who take out their Blackberries prior to praying in synagogue. With all due respect, these condemnations are misplaced. It is true that many people are addicted to their smartphones and other internet devices. However, those who remove their Blackberries from their holsters or cases and place them on a table do so for a very practical and praiseworthy reason.
A common setting for Blackberries is to vibrate for incoming e-mail only when in holster. In this way, if you are already using your Blackberry it will not vibrate in your hands and disturb your work. Those people who do not want to be disturbed during prayer can either turn off their Blackberry completely, adjust their device’s setting or simply take it out of its holster. Placing your Blackberry on the table is not a sign of addiction to e-mail. It is, rather, a sign of wishing to pray undisturbed by vibrations signaling incoming e-mail.
Those who smugly condemn the Blackberry removers as internet addicts are not only wrong. They are guilty of failing to judge others generously. Ironically, they condemn the very people they should be praising and mislabel a desire to pray without interruption as the exact opposite.