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For many decades of my adult life, I have been a reading addict. In my hay-day I would read two or three books a month on various topics, but mostly on history, biography, and Jewish subjects. My interests varied but I was always an avid reader of all books on the American Civil War, as well as on historical figures both in the Jewish or non-Jewish world. However, over the past decade my eyesight has deteriorated and for the past two years I have found myself unable to read a book. 
This was a great discomfort to me and I have tried various and sundry methods to see if somehow my reading ability could be restored. I have a special magnifying screen that I am able to use for my daily Talmud studies, but it is very large and bulky and not at all conducive for reading a book, a newspaper or a magazine.
As such, I steeled myself to the prospect that I probably would never again be able to read a book. I ordered audio books but I found them to be very difficult to absorb and I soon gave up on that idea. However, the Lord has so arranged our society that there are always new technical advances, which in any other age would be considered to be miraculous, but that we take for granted - and I kept on hoping that maybe some device would be invented that would allow me again to read books on a regular and comfortable basis.
Well, the Lord has heard my prayers, so to speak, and I am now using a device to be able to read books once more. About two months ago a dear friend of mine contacted my son and told him that he had read about an apparatus invented and marketed by an Israeli company that allows those who cannot see to be able to read books, identify money, and recognize people. My son notified me of this seemingly wondrous creation - it is called OrCam. 
I called the Israeli office here in Jerusalem and a wonderful young man came to explain the device to me and to help me try it out. It is really an amazing device which is a small computer and a camera that somehow takes a picture of the book page in front of you and then reads it to you. And then at the end of the page you hear a bell ring and you turn the page and it reads the next page to you, and it has as many other features. It pauses. It picks up from where it left off. It's very user-friendly and in my case I found it to be extremely efficient.
Part of the problem that exists with audio books is that sometimes it's hard to keep track of the sentence or the paragraph or where it began or where it ended, as that's something that can only be visualized. However, with this OrCam device the page is open in front of you and even though you can't read it, you do see where the page begins and ends and you do see where the paragraphs are and that greatly facilitates your understanding of what is being read to you.
So I took the device for a month on trial and so far I am very satisfied. I read for approximately an hour a day books that peak my interest and it allows me to fill my day much more productively than before. It not only reads in English, but with a choice of American or British English, and it also reads in Hebrew. The Hebrew takes a little bit of time to get accustomed to, but it is fairly accurate and certainly understandable. It serves the purpose that I need for research, for looking up a source, and for being able to keep up with the subjects that I am interested in or lecturing on.
This device comes in 40 languages and I imagine that if I wanted to learn Chinese, it could help me as well, but I'm perfectly satisfied to remain with English and Hebrew. It's been a blessing for me because to a great extent my eyesight has been restored, at least in a practical fashion if not in a physical fashion. 
I was having trouble identifying people's faces, trying to associate their voices and the other circumstances in a situation, but I must admit that a number of times I have embarrassed myself and the person that I was talking to, thinking that the person was Mister A when it really was Mister B. 
This OrCam device has a wonderful facial recognition program. When you see somebody and you say his name and click on the button, it records that face and that name and from then on whenever you see that person, you will hear the person identified by the device.
The device comes with ear phones so that the whole world doesn't have to hear what you are reading or who you are seeing. The earphones are very practical, but it takes a quite a bit, at least for me, to become accustomed to placing them comfortably in my ears. They are certainly of great value especially if you are in the company of other people who are not necessarily interested to hear what your computer is saying or in identifying other people. 
In addition, when you just raise your arm the device will tell you what time it is, what day it is, and what date it is. This is also a very valuable item since, for instance, when I lecture I usually have to estimate quite closely the time that I have to finish. And since I cannot really read my watch very accurately and I cannot read the clock in the synagogue at all, this would be a problem if it were not for this OrCam device.
The problem with the OrCam device is that it does not have a Sabbath mode and on the Holy day of the Sabbath I am back to surmising whom I am talking to and I am unable to read any books. This is a challenge for me, but on the short Saturdays of the winter it is quite bearable. We will see how I fare in the longer days of the summer, days that I usually would read quite a bit and rely on that time to do some studying, research, or even recreational reading. However, one has to bless for what one has and not complain for what one does not have. And this OrCam device has really been a great boon and benefit to me and I am very grateful for having the ability to read once again.
The device is naturally not cheap, but having the ability to use one's eyesight and to be able to read and recognize is an invaluable benefit that cannot be measured with money. In any event, I am one of the many independently wealthy rabbis that frequent the scene here in Jerusalem, and so I am spending the money of my descendants and I have no qualms about writing the check.
I appreciate your reading this and sharing with me my good fortune at being able to read again. In the event that you know people who are in the same circumstance I am and who are unaware of this device, I would suggest that you tell them about it. It's called OrCam O-R-C-A-M, and it really is a lifesaver.
Shabbat Shalom.
Berel Wein

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