15 Kislev 5781 / Tuesday, December 01, 2020 | Torah Reading: Vayishlach
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The Rosh Hashanah Fridge    

The Rosh Hashanah Fridge

We were in a borrowed apartment for the High Holidays. Rosh Hashanah was a 3-day weekend; we turned the fridge to Shabbat mode, but instead, it went into thaw mode...


This past Rosh Hashana, my husband and I were guests in the home of people we don’t know well. We stayed in their home for three nights while my husband led Rosh Hashana services in a nearby synagogue while they visited their married daughter in another city. Before they left town, we stopped by to familiarize ourselves with the house, to get keys and, most importantly, to learn how to activate Shabbat mode on the Frigidaire.
Turning on the Shabbat mode allows the refrigerator to be used by Sabbath-observant Jews on Shabbat and Jewish holidays by preventing the interior lights from going on when the refrigerator door is opened. I was shown which buttons to press in order to activate Shabbat mode, and, in the presence of our hosts, I was easily able to accomplish the activation.
Erev Rosh Hashana, I confidently went to the refrigerator, opened the door and pressed the key sequence, just as I had done the day before. But the panel did not respond in the same way. Instead of flashing the code that indicated Shabbat mode had been activated, both the refrigerator and freezer registered 77 degrees.
I called the gracious homeowners and sheepishly explained what happened. Directed again to press the same series of buttons, I activated Shabbat mode, but the temperature on the unit still jumped to 77 degrees. By the next morning, melting ice made it clear something was, indeed, quite wrong. As a Sabbath observant Jew in the midst of two days of Rosh Hashanah followed by Shabbat, there was little I could do to remedy the situation. I tossed and turned at night with anxiety over having damaged someone else’s property. When I slept, I dreamed of refrigerators.
A non-Jewish member of the maintenance staff of the synagogue tried to help by resetting the Shabbat mode. His results were the same. The unit simply wouldn’t hold the proper temperature. He called the Frigidaire service center whose only advice was to schedule a service call.
Had this been my own home, I would have put it out of my mind for the duration, telling myself, “There’s nothing to be done now. I’ll take care of it when the holiday is over.” But being a guest in someone else’s home increased my anxiety by a factor of approximately ten thousand.
Two full days into our refrigerator ordeal, I was accompanied by a constant hum of uneasiness. At Shabbat dinner with old friends, we discussed the spiritual implications of the unfolding Frigidaire episode. Since all this occurred during the Ten Days of Repentance between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, during which time we focus on our deeds and our misdeeds, this was a particularly relevant exercise.
My host suggested that perhaps it was a kapara, an atonement, a relatively small price that Heaven was extracting for a much greater sin. In any case, the fact that I was unable to do anything to resolve the situation for three days was a chance to strengthen my emunah – my belief that everything is in G-d’s Hands and that everything is ultimately for the best.
I didn’t learn the about the story’s silver lining until Yom Kippur.
The synagogue agreed to cover the cost of the repair and, until the spoiled food could be replaced, the homeowners enjoyed a few dinners out. But what really stopped me in my tracks was that, during the necessary service call, it became clear that the refrigerator’s motherboard needed replacing. In the midst of the repair, the refrigerator was moved from its place and the technician discovered a frayed wire. Had it not been detected, that frayed wire could have caused much more serious damage than some spoiled food.
All the anxiety I had carried was for naught. The trouble with the refrigerator - like every other apparent trouble in life- was a blessing in disguise, revealing a much more serious problem, caught in the nick of time. I was finally able to relax. Hashem, it seems, had been hiding in the Frigidaire the whole time.

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