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 There is no doubt in my mind that one of the major technological improvements that we benefit from in our modern world is air-conditioning. There are great areas of the world that were previously almost uninhabitable because of the heat of their climate but that today are thriving large cities simply because the homes, offices, factories and automobiles operating in those high heat areas are now air-conditioned. On my recent visit to the United States I spent time in a number of these communities.

All these communities are booming and expanding economically as is their Orthodox Jewish populations as well. People are leaving the older, larger cities that now have imposed an onerous tax base on its citizens and are moving to areas of the country where the tax situation is more reasonable and more benign.
However, these communities as late as 50 years ago were inhospitably hot and humid. Because it was like living in a desert or in the jungle, these communities languished in relative obscurity. Air-conditioning changed all of this. These areas are now the fastest growing populations in the continental United States. One should never underestimate the power of technology to change demography and the mobility of human beings. Even though we humans are the most adaptable of all creatures that inhabit this planet and can live in areas of extreme heat and cold, there is no doubt that we would all prefer to be comfortable and it is air-conditioning that allows us that luxury.
Here in Israel we live in a climate that produces very hot summer days for periods of the year. For various reasons, air-conditioning was slow to arrive in the Jewish state. Once it did though, over the last few decades it has been utilized with a vengeance. Public buildings, schools, synagogues, hospitals and professional offices are almost universally air-conditioned today. Even though air-conditioning is still considered a luxury for many private citizens – electricity costs here are rather high – a large percentage of homes and apartments in Israel are air-conditioned today.
The great Rabbi Yisrael Lipkin of Salant , whose wisdom I often quote, stated that” luxuries eventually become necessities.” And, so it is with air-conditioning, once considered to be a luxury and an expensive one at that, is now become a common necessity for our everyday living. No new home or apartment is currently constructed here in Israel without having the ability to install air conditioning either by a central system or with individual units.
The idea of making do with opening windows or the use of fans has long disappeared from the ethos of our society. The only question left to be determined is whether the temperature should be set as low as it is in most of the United States or be left at a higher degree that is more common here in the Middle East.
I remember first as a student in the yeshiva and later as a teacher, the difference that air-conditioning played in improving the quality of learning and study, and even in inducing new young people to come to a particular yeshiva to study. Even the most traditional institution of learning that proclaims that it has not changed one iota from the tradition of the 19th century, Eastern Europe, will find itself in premises that are air conditioned. This is not a concession to modernity but rather a realization that having air-conditioned premises today is a necessity. Though we have in our midst people who are against vaccination and who decry smart phones and do not allow women to drive automobiles, I have yet to hear voices raised against the installation of air conditioning in our schools and houses of learning.
Apparently, this area of human comfort has become so universally accepted that no one – not even the zealots amongst us – take heed of it or feels that it is an invasion by modernity on the turf of holy tradition. In any event, this learned article is being produced on a very hot summer day here in Jerusalem but in a very comfortable and relatively cool room in my air-conditioned apartment. I can hardly wait to receive the electric bill for this month, but I comfort myself with the realization that I am really only spending my grandchildren's money.
Shabbat shalom
Berel Wein

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