Thursday, July 28, 2005

The VCR made me frum

Jack's recent post prompted me to write about something that I've been thinking about lately. He remarked that there are a few things standing in the path of becoming Shomer Shabbos. They are not major things. Some conveniences, some things that just likes to do to relax. He could certainly go without them if he had to (hey it's not like being stuck in the bathroom with no pre-cut toilet paper), but for now he's not ready to give them up.

I had a similar experience about 26 years ago. At that time, my Dad was still working Saturdays, and we weren't strictly kosher, but I was going to Services Saturday morning and many of my friends were Orthodox. Still, I couldn't give up TV. All of my favorite shows, the British Sci-Fi shows, were on Saturday afternoons, and I just couldn't live without them. A visit to my basement at the time would have proven how infatuated I was with them. Model Spaceships, Lego moonbases, etc.

I felt embarrassed when my friends came over Saturday afternoons. I had to get them out of the house before 5pm so I could turn on the tube. I'm ashamed to say there were times when my friends would stay and watch TV with me.

In 1979 we bought a videorecorder. At that time they were close to a thousand dollars, and required a computer engineering degree to program. This one had a remote control, connected with a long wire. Suddenly, everything changed. I was no longer tied to the broadcast schedule. I started taping my shows on Saturday, and going to Mincha instead of watching. It sounds pretty stupid, but this one device removed a major stumbling block from my path. After that, one thing led to another, and pretty soon I was tearing up toilet paper on Friday afternoons.

Looking back now, 26 years later, it's hard to believe that my faith hinged on a piece of hardware. I think we balance things in our minds. The importance of our faith versus the allure of our vices. Initially the vices outweigh the other. Gradually the scales may tip. Whether this means my faith grew or my desires diminished is still unclear to me. All I can say is, once the scales tipped the other way, momentum did the rest for me.


Stacey said...

Being Shomer Shabbos really means not being able to break toilet paper off?

elf's DH said...

This reminds me of a funny comment that was once attributed to a ba'al teshuva.

Q> What is "Shabbos?"
BT> It's a holy day when we don't rip toilet paper.

Kind of misses the point, eh?

AFAIK, the toilet paper thing is a rabbinic fence anyway. If there's only unripped toilet paper there, you use it, with a change; People should remember that before they do stupid things in order to uphold it, like not using toilet paper (yuck!) or throwing pretorn paper towels down toilets with septic tanks.

Anshel's Wife said...

My father sells plumbing supplies. My whole life he yelled at us not to put kleenex in the toilet. We have BAGS full of toilet paper rolls that have been cut down the middle with a razor blade.

Our rabbi told us that on nitelnach, the yeshiva bochurim use that time to rip up toilet paper.

I understand this post wasn't about toilet paper. I just had to add my little bit.

But the post was great. It just shows if you can overcome something you can achieve great things. Now, if I could only give up ice cream......

Stacey said...

I have a question for those of you who are Shomer Shabbos. Is this how you were raised? If not, when/how did you first notice the pull? Or is it something that was always there with you?

Many of you are already there and others (like Jack) are interested in that path.

I am curious about this topic because although I have a strong Jewish identity and involvement, becoming more observant is something that has never beckoned me. I am happy and fulfilled living at the observance level I maintain. So I was just wondering what brought those of you there? Did you not feel spiritually fulfilled otherwise?

PsychoToddler said...

Hey, don't try to derail this topic, Stacey.


Jack Steiner said...

It is a good question. I am interested as well.

PsychoToddler said...

Which question, the one about the toilet paper?

Jack Steiner said...

All of them.

... Is the Window to Our Soul said...

Stacey, I am right behind Jack. I feel the same as you, but what I am drawn to is the bond and closeness of the community. Friday night dinners, shabbat visits, it's quite the social scene and I miss not having a Chavarah to belong to. My children attend an orthodox school, yet perhaps it's because we don't belong to their shuls, or don't live in their neighborhoods (we would need to drive to them) or that we are not orthodox, that we are not invited more regularly.

And as for the toilet paper, didn't someone just write about a woman who had a terrible time in the bathroom because she couldn't rip the paper and she wasn't allow to ask either. For you men, I guess the daily prayer about being thankful that you are not woman would really have meaning. : )

... Is the Window to Our Soul said...

hey - no cracks about not being invited more regularly...ok, these things happen, I'm sorry my son puked all over the place and my daughter squish the hamster. Oops another time, another place.