Moving Commentary4

Buying appliances works differently here. When they drop off a refrigerator, you can’t just plug it in. You have to make an appointment with a technician from a service company to do the final assembly of door handles, etc. The same with any major appliances, like an oven or stove top.

We bought a 220 refrigerator from a chassidishe shop which matched internet prices. It arrived on time, within a few days. We scheduled the technician’s visit, which also did not take too long.

Definitely not chassidish. Definitely secular. As he was finishing up, I got ready to ask some general questions relating to disabling some functions so that we could use it on Shabbos. I never got the words out of my mouth.

“So here is what you are going to do on Shabbat,” he volunteered out of nowhere. Out of that same nowhere, he produced a plastic contraption that mounted on an inside wall of the freezer, and kept the light in an off position. He then mounted two strips of Velcro on top of the main compartment, which marked the position at which we were to place two small magnets each erev Shabbos to disable lights and sensors there.

Sensing that the fellow understood something of the issues, I asked him about the icemaker. “You will have a problem taking out ice if we don’t disable it entirely, which I will show you how to do.” I thought I could score, and show him that we were really more reasonable than he thought. So I told him that taking out the ice did not have to be problematic unless doing so would immediately turn on a circuit. The fact that more cubes would be produced by a cycle that is preprogrammed would not necessarily be forbidden. “No,” he replied, eager to pasken. “That won’t work. This model has sensors that respond to any removal of ice. You can’t use it on Shabbat unless you disable the entire mechanism.”

I had never been overruled on a halachic decision by a secular Jew before.

He left shortly thereafter, but not before wishing us a Shabbat Shalom. (When the stovetop technician arrived this afternoon to do his thing, he was initially kind of curt and gruff. Until he finished. Then he warmed up, and wished us first a Shabbat Shalom, before deciding that Gut Shabbos was more appropriate.)

A few minutes after Mr. Refrigerator Technician left, the doorbell rang. Someone identified himself as coming from an organization that does checks on the suitability of appliances for Shabbos use. I was pretty impressed by how quickly they were going to service our refrigerator. Turned out that he had the wrong address. Still, before we pointed him in the right direction, he – this time an observant Jew – was able to explain the service of his organization in dealing with the complexities of modern circuitry.

What can I say? These interactions remind me of the classic Yogi Berra story (OK, maybe it wasn’t Yogi, but these stories tend to get attributed to him). Someone asked him if he knew that Dublin once had a Jewish Lord Mayor. He responded, “Only in America!”

Meanwhile, I tentatively have found a local Ashkenaz minyan that operates on time, with a yekkish gabbai who keeps things honest. After davening onen morning, he casually tells me that I have been sitting in the seat right next to the one used for years by R. Aharon Lichtenstein zt”l all the years that he lived in Yerushalayim (i.e. till all of his kids married) before he moved to the Gush.

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12 Responses

  1. Scott Weisman says:

    Reb Adlerstein, welcome home. If you ever find your way to Beitar Illit, we have a yekke minyan, that has two ex-Angelenos (me and a friend) in the kehilla. We would love to have you attend sometime.

  2. Natan Slifkin says:

    “A few minutes after Mr. Refrigerator Technician left”

    I think you mean RABBI Refrigerator Technician.

  3. Leah says:

    Klita ne’ima.
    Super impressed that you didn’t ship over a good old American Whirlpool….!
    Thank you for joining us (Olim vatikim)

  4. dr. bill says:

    i was shocked when i called samsung with same refrigerator issue; the agent put me on hold and came back with the magnet solution. for the freezer they had no solution; however, my wife did. i am sure in israel they would.

    the gabbai in the shul you attend is rumored to have told his wife on the night they start to say ve’tain tal u’mattar that she should not worry if he is a little late.

    and i cannot resist – one of my favorite unkelos speculations on this week’s parsha: as is well known, unkelos does very occasionally provide a more midrashic interpretation. on the passuk – yehudah attah yodukha ahekha, i wonder if unkelos is pointing out what we do not expect in the torah, but would expect on occasion in more modern literature. or just a more midrashic interpretation.

  5. AEmet says:

    As a ba’al teshuva and former student of Rabbi Adlerstein’s who also recently made Aliyah, I greatly enjoyed this article.

  6. Elisheva Weyuker says:

    These kinds of interactions reinforce that you are in the land of Am Yisroel!

  7. My comment: Great story and one which can counter the complaining I sometimes hear about [native] “Israelis” from Americans who I believe would benefit from a dose of open mindedness. But can we please stop using “The Gush” to mean Gush Etzion? There are many “gushim,” as I’m sure you know: Dan, Shilo, Shchem, etc. (I understand if it was maybe this gabbai who used the term himself.)

    • dr. bill says:

      Pardon me, but “The Gush” is a term of honor that Har Etzion, also called “the Gush” deserves. 22 years ago, I and a fellow executive were hosted in Israel as representatives of a Fortune 20 company. Almost all meetings and meals were in hotels to satisfy my kosher diet. one meal was held in a private home; the wife of the host told me of her great efforts to get a kosher caterer in what is still now a rather frum-free area. as we helicoptered near the Gush, I told that host that my son was studying there. his comment – they produce great rabbis and investment bankers at that unique yeshiva.

      I think that deserves a definite article in addition to the heroism of its failed defense in 1948.

  8. Nachum says:

    It is highly unlikely your technician was secular, much less “definitely secular.” Only about 40% of the Israeli Jewish population calls itself “secular,” and, to engage in some stereotyping, they’re not the kinds of people who become refrigerator technicians. About an equal percentage of Israeli Jews call themselves “traditional” (and a sizable percentage of those call themselves “traditional religious”) and, apart from headcoverings, are often indistinguishable in practice, belief, or both from those who call themselves “religious.”

    You’ll find as you settle in more here and venture further and further afield that this fact will hit you more often. If it’s not to un-tzanua, sneak a peek at the barely-dressed young woman sitting next to you on the bus and see her reciting Tehillim with a devotion that would be the envy of your shtetl-dwelling great-grandmother.

    (And even many of the self-described “secular” actually are very similar as well. There are “secular” Jews who are pretty careful about halakha and believe in all- OK, maybe most- of the Ani Maamins. It’s a social definition more than a religious one. Only about 2% of Israeli Jews call themselves “anti-religious secular”, and maybe a bit over 5% are hardcore left-wing atheists- and those, ironically, may be even more Jewishly knowledgable than most of the others. To cite the old joke, you need to be a real apikores to fit into that category, not an am haaretz.)

  9. DF says:

    An enjoyable account, like all the other Moving Tales, though I must say – the “personal visit” from the Halachic Appliance committee sounds more than a bit creepy. Did you call this organization to come to your home?

  10. Raymond says:

    When I read the above article, it was as if I were hearing Rabbi Adlerstein’s actual voice, loud and clear. I started reading the article at work, but had to stop in the middle and then finish it at home, because he made me laugh too hard.

    In any case, to each his own I guess, but I think it takes a special, sturdy kind of Jew to make it over in Israel. I just do not see myself having that kind of temperament. Still, thank G-d that there are so many Jews who have moved there.

    Honestly, I still can hardly believe that Rabbi Adlerstein has left Los Angeles, but I will try not think about it too much because I already have enough things in my life to feel sad about.

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