OK, so I lied. The VCR didn't make me Sabbath-observant. It made it easier for me to avoid desecrating the Sabbath. So it removed a negative, but that doesn't necessarily imply a positive.
So what made me frum? Two words:
What can I say? In some schools, peer pressure makes people smoke. In mine, it made me guilty about being a Sabbath desecrater. My parents sent me to a school where, for eight years, they taught me that Jews were supposed to keep the Sabbath. And even though a good portion of my class did not keep it, or Kashruth, or many other things (toilet paper included), we began to look at ourselves as a bunch of Juvenile Delinquents. The bad boys (and girls) of the school.
As I became more friendly with Orthodox kids, I found myself becoming more ashamed of watching TV, working in the store, and doing other things I wasn't supposed to do on Saturday. In fact I have one memory which I must have suppressed for about 30 years, because it just popped into my head as I was typing this:
I was working at my Dad's store on Lefferts Blvd one Saturday morning, and I must have been standing outside for some reason. Suddenly, I see a bunch of OJ's walking home from shul in their Saturday finest. And one of them is a friend from school, Ari (who lives down the block). I panicked. I tried to pretend that I wasn't working at the store, just visiting the neighborhood. Which was preposterous for many reasons: I didn't live anywhere near there, I wasn't wearing a suit, and most importantly, he knew it was my Dad's store and it had my name across the top of the sign! To his credit, he just wished me a "good Shabbes" and kept walking.
But I began to feel like I was leading a double life, and at some point, maybe when the VCR showed up, I decided to keep Shabbos and other Mitzvot.
The real question you should be asking is why do I stay Orthodox. Now that I am a grown-up and can do what I want. That is much more complex and I don't know if I can give a good answer here. I guess at some point I bought into the program. I've always been somewhat superstitious (with a mother like Rose, it's hard not to be). I've felt that Gd is real and watches me and pays attention to what I do and rewards me when I'm good and punishes me when I'm bad. Whether that's superstition or religion is a matter for debate.
And I looked at the people around me. Those who were Orthodox, and those who weren't. And from what I could see, the Orthodox were happier. Sure they kvetched more, but they had happier, more contented homes. Less divorce, less drugs, more time spent together. Judaism as a religion seemed to work. My friends and cousins who were irreligious intermarried and their kids are not Jewish.
This may be disappointing to some of you who expected a story about a sudden miraculous inspiring event or a flash of light or auditory hallucinations. I don't think my story is terribly unique, though. But my bottom line is that I truly think that this is the way Gd meant for Jews to live.
So what's your story?