by Mina Gordon
He was by far the most popular personality in camp. No matter what scrape he managed to get into each Friday, he always somehow found a way to keep his cool, ready to greet the Shabbos on time, with a smile. What was his name? Big Gedaliah Goomber, of course!
For those unfamiliar with our intrepid hero, Big Gedaliah Goomber was the fictitious Jack-of-all-trades whose wacky Friday afternoon adventures were immortalized in the song “Ain’t Gonna Work on Saturday.”
I was reminded of that song when I read about the “Kosher Switch” which is being promoted as the greatest Shabbos-enhancing invention since the crock-pot. Whether or not the “Kosher Switch” fits the Halachic requirements is something that can only be determined by seasoned experts in Jewish Law.
There is another issue that I can see being breached here aside from halacha, the chinuch aspect.
Why was the song “Ain’t Gonna Work on Saturday so popular in camp? What made “Gedaliah Goomber” so beloved? It was because he was ready to sacrifice everything for Shabbos! No matter what he was in the middle of, no matter how inconvenient it was, he stopped whatever he was doing when Shabbos was about to arrive.
What will make the sanctity of Shabbos stick in our children’s minds? How do we instil in them the determination to keep Shabbos when it is difficult? When our children see us cherishing the ‘shamor’ as much as the ‘zachor’, the ‘don’ts of Shabbos as much as the ‘dos’; when they see us cheerfully coping with inconvenience because Shabbos is more important than our convenience; when they remember the time their father got stuck in traffic, abandoned the car because the sun was setting and walked home; or when the kids slept in the closet because they left the bedroom light on, then the message of the sanctity of Shabbos will be strongly implanted in their minds and hearts.
The following true story may give an indication of the Rebbe’s view.
In the 1940’s, my father-in-law, Rabbi Sholom Ber Gordon became Rabbi of a large shul in Newark, New Jersey. The president wanted to use a microphone so that all of the congregants could hear him read from the Torah. He claimed that there were Rabbis who ruled that this was permissible. Rabbi Gordon explained that it was not.
The shul committee decided to speak to the son-in-law of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn. They heard he was a university graduate and figured that he certainly would convince Rabbi Gordon to be a bit more flexible on this.
When they presented their opinion to the future Rebbe, he told them something like this: Of the people who discuss this matter, there are four types. There are those who have studied both halacha and how microphones work; there are those who know halacha, but have no knowledge of microphones; there are those who have studied the workings of the microphones but are ignorant of Jewish law; and finally there are those that offer their opinion although they are ignorant of both subjects.
He concluded by saying this: “I am a Rabbi, and have an understanding of Jewish law. I have also studied engineering, and know how a microphone works, and I can tell you without the slightest hesitation that a microphone may not be used on Shabbos. Anyone that says otherwise must belong to one of the other three categories!”
There are many modern inventions that enhance the Shabbos, at the same time preserving its sanctity. A crock-pot used properly according to halacha, reminds us that we do no cooking on Shabbos; when a timer shuts the lights, we know it is because we can’t manipulate electricity on Shabbos; the more recent Shabbos lamps are a constant reminder of this as well; and even the eruv in a small area is a sign that only until here may we carry.
Trust me, I enjoy the modern-day inventions that make Shabbos more convenient as much as anyone else. But when rabbanim who are knowledgeable in the area of electricity and hilchos Shabbos are finding trouble with this “Kosher Switch” invention, it reminds me that it is the ‘inconveniences’ that guard and enhance the holiness of Shabbos.