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The Light Bulb in My Refrigerator

Eric Simon

My friends and relatives all want to know about the light bulb in my refrigerator.

A few months ago, our family decided to try being shomer Shabbat, or Sabbath-observant. It made an immediate, and remarkable, difference in our lives, which had become something of a rat-race.

Neither of us is a workaholic, we don't work overtime and our kids have always come first. But our daily commutes into Washington, D.C. take a heavy toll. We race to get the kids ready and dropped off (at two different places) to get to work on time, and then, at day's end, race again from work and through rush hour, to pick our kids up before the day care facility closes.

We try to squeeze errands in at night, but usually end up doing them on weekends. Twice a year, we take a one-week vacation.

Now, though, we take one, for 25 hours, every week.

The discussions with relatives have helped illuminate the differences. My sister asked, "you mean, you don't do any errands on Saturdays anymore?"

"No," I answered, "in fact, when we recently moved on a Friday, on Saturday we didn't even unpack any boxes."

"What a great excuse!" she chuckled.

"That's the point," I told her, "It's like an enforced vacation."

Before moving to our new community, we never walked anywhere (like most suburbanites, there was nowhere close enough). But now our family positively relishes the walk to shul and to friends' houses on Shabbat. A few weeks after our move, we were invited for Shabbat dinner to friends - and the leisurely walk back to our home was awesome and romantic, in a familial way. It was my wife and I, our two young children, on a clear summer night, with the stars twinkling brightly. We walked, talked and sang, with absolutely no deadline and no rushing. It was a simple and luxurious experience.

And yet, whenever we tell our friends and relatives about our new embrace of Shabbat, what they really seem to want to know about is the light bulb in our refrigerator. I appreciate their concern, of course, and even remember, a few months before we changed our lifestyle, shmoozing with a friend of mine who described his "observant" friend as "not one of those crazies who takes the light bulb out of his refrigerator."

Am I?

All I know is that I vividly remember from our pre-Sabbath-observance days, driving past dressed-up Orthodox families walking to shul on Saturdays. I felt sorry for them. What strict, humorless lives they must lead, I thought, with all their restrictions! Recently, though, walking with my family after lunch at shul through another idyllic, afternoon of children playing and grownups studying and shmoozing, I noticed the cars whizzing down the road on their way to the local shopping center. I chuckled as I caught myself feeling sorry for all those helplessly harried people in their cars!

Ah, yes, but what about the light bulb in my refrigerator? Inquiring minds, I realize, want to know. I'll get there but first let me tell you one thing. Our wonderful children have the childish habit of getting up before seven every morning, even on weekends. It used to be that we would just put a tape in the VCR, teach the kids how to start it, and "sleep in" till 8:30.

Now, though, they don't watch TV on Saturdays: It is Shabbat. And, as a matter of fact, the Sabbath has helped them realize that playing with each other is fun; it has become one of their favorite pastimes. Much to our delight, we discovered that our children now spend less time in front of the flickering screen the other days of the week.

It's not the light of the TV screen, though, that we're asked about, but the one in the refrigerator.

I'll come clean. Yes, I took it out. I took out the darn 10-watt bulb! I don't even know where it is now! And I don't miss it! The refrigerator is in our kitchen, and our kitchen light is usually on! I can see inside my refrigerator just fine without the confounded thing! In fact, I'd never even think about it, except that so many people ask!

For you see, we have discovered that the Sabbath, as the Talmud puts it, is a bit of the World-to-Come in the here-and-now. It is a holy gift, a beautiful package - but works for us only as a package deal. And my family and I feel privileged to have discovered and embraced it in its entirety.

But please, don't ask about the toilet paper.


AM ECHAD RESOURCES

Eric Simon, who served as a UAHC Regional Board member and as a member of the Executive Committee of the National UAHC Commission on Synagogue Affiliation, is currently active in Jewish outreach and educational activities in Northern Virginia.


 






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