Julie Schonfeld: The Jubilee of the Moon Landing is a Chance to Assess Technology’s Promise

Astronaut Buzz Aldrin next to the Passive Seismic Experiment Package with Eagle in the background. Photo by Neil Armstrong/NASA/Creative Commons

Julie Schonfeld is the former chief executive officer of the Jewish Conservative denomination’s Rabbinical Assembly and is now managing director of Leading Ethics, which helps organizations build an ethical culture. The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily represent those of BCNN1.

The Apollo 11 space mission, during which humankind took its first steps on the moon, was so momentous we hardly need an excuse to celebrate it. We do so this year to mark the half-century since Neil Armstrong stepped on the moon’s surface, of course, but the particular significance to a 50thanniversary goes well beyond marking our calendars. The biblical idea of a jubilee, to be celebrated after seven cycles of seven years have passed, is an ancient one that renews the relationships between the sacred, infinite value of every human being, the interconnectedness of society and the abundant gifts of the earth.

The Book of Leviticus instructs us to celebrate a jubilee as a season of liberation. All debts are cancelled, and all slaves go free. The flaws and limitations of human beings — our greed, our desire for money, power and status and our willingness to sacrifice the well-being of others for our own gain are, all at once, put aside in the 50th year.

“You will make the 50th year a sacred celebration and proclaim liberty throughout the land and all its inhabitants, everyone will receive back their original property and the enslaved will go home to their families.”

The ideas of equality and freedom described in this passage are so central to the founding ideals of the United States that this passage is inscribed on the Liberty Bell. Because of its association with freedom, that which we most crave, the word jubilee came to be associated with the hyper-superlative word, “jubilation” or intense joy.

The tech age that seemed to dawn that day 50 years ago has indeed been one of superlatives and hyper-superlatives. Since Apollo 11 landed on the moon, technology has been portrayed as a force that would make us happier, more prosperous and more free. Technology would make the impossible possible. From every new bold destination reached, we could strive yet again.

Technology is an audacious expression of human hope and our striving to attain the fullest yield of human creativity. The look of wonder on the faces of regular people watching the Apollo 11 spacecraft take off captures a timeless and sacred experience. What makes the recently released Apollo 11 movie so spectacular is the emotional experience of people watching the mission — from the NASA team in Houston to the Americans camped out in the parking lot of a J.C. Penney department store.

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Source: Religion News Service

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