Saturday, October 9, 2010

Not The Usual Shabbat (Sabbath) Soundtrack

Yesterday, Friday afternoon a few hours before Shabbat pufft the electricity went out.  I waited maybe a minute and then checked the fuses in the electricity box, aok, nothing personal.  This was a lot bigger than just my house.  So, I went back in and waited a bit.  I heard noise from  neighbors.  They were checking their fuses. 
"Oh, you, too."
"Yes, maybe someone should call the Electric Company."
Electricity powers the neighborhood water, so no water, just the weak flow from the emergency tank.  OK, I kept waiting and doing what could be done without electricity and without water.  Shabbat was getting closer.  Report from the neighbors. 
"It's big, a high tension pole.  They're working on it, but it won't go on before Shabbat."

Now this isn't just a homey domestic post more suited to me-ander.  This is very serious.  Because of Shabbat, there are all sorts of Halachot, Jewish Laws.  What can we do in terms of food, cooking, keeping appliances on and off?

I'm not a rabbi and neither is my husband.  I welcome expert comments.

I don't have a gas oven nor a cover to put over the gas stove to keep food hot on Shabbat.  We use an electric "platta," hotplate.  Luckily we boil water for regular (when we're alone or have few guests) Shabbatot in an old kettle.  I filled it with bottled mineral water because of the water problems.  I finished cooking on the stove, but the vegetables which had been baking in the oven couldn't be finished and were too hot to go into the refrigerator. 

The first thing to remember when the electricity is off is not to open the fridge or freezer.  Luckily I hadn't put the salad my husband had bought on Thursday in the fridge, so when I made the salad on Shabbat I didn't need to open the door.  But I did have to open it to get out the chicken and the soup.  Luckily I had separated the soup into two containers, one for Friday night and the rest for the rest of the week.  I worked as quickly as I could with the chicken taking out what we were going to eat at night and returned the rest to the no longer so cold refrigerator.

I heated up everything I planned on putting on the platta and had my husband set it up as if there was electricity.  It's very well insulated and absorbs the heat from the hot food.  I piled the maximum amount of covers I could over the hot food and water.  My hope was that the water would still be hot when the electricity came back on.  I knew that if that was the case, we'd have hot water for tea on Shabbat and coffee for me in the morning.

I added candles to our table and a 24 hour yartzeit candle nearby, so we'd have light to see our food.  We and our guest ate the meal to candle light, romantic they said.  We couldn't see each other's wrinkles and grey hair.  Only after we finished eating did the electricity return.

Then we could see how correctly (or not) we had set the lights.  Some neighbors only discovered that they had left the oven on in the morning. Others were in the dark.  

When you find yourself before Shabbat without electricity you should start preparing as early as possible before panic sets in, not to count on the electricity returning in time.  It's really necessary for one person to take responsibility to systematically go through the house to try to turn lights on and off according to need.  That includes electric boiler.  Water heated by electricity is a problem on Shabbat.  Many Israelis are used to relying on the solar heater, especially when it's this season and our minds are still used to the summer.

Now, I must admit that we forgot one electric appliance... the TV.  Yes, when the electricity went back on, so did the television.  I managed to cover the screen with a pillowcase, but as I said in the title of this post:
"Not The Usual Shabbat (Sabbath) Soundtrack"

Shavua Tov and Chodesh Tov
Have a Great Week and Month

ps Nobody's perfect, not even me!


Anonymous said...

Being in Jerusalem, we've never had such an extended blackout (except during the big snow storm, some what seems to be 200 years ago).

However there was a winter Shabbat night about 10 years ago where the lights went off for an hour or two, which occurred during the Shabbat evening meal.

We ate and sang by candle light and it was actually very special.

Batya said...

It happens in the states, too, so you're not immune in Jerusalem. The timing meant that you had to know halacha.

Nasch said...

This happened to us over chag. My inlaws have a pretty advanced house and everything is run by one big computer (you should see the room for it) and it crashed. I'm in chul, so were talking three days of nothing working and of course we counted on being able to cook on chag. The electricity actually was working, but the computer is in control of that, so we couldnt use it. In the end, some tech in another country logged into the house and got some things running. My husband and I went to our home to bring all the lamps we could find, so we could actually use the electricity. My father in law spent the day runnign around trying to keep control. But as you said, he was the boss, deeming where all the lights should go and my husband did the halacha side, so it all worked out in the end.

Batya said...

Nasch, that sounds really complicated. It's dangerous to give computers too much responsibility.

Anonymous said...

Nasch, don't say we didn't warn you and your in-laws.

Nasch said...

Haha, shy guy, thanks for that. I really don't want to know what would happen if the house would have an attitude like that.

Batya, it is very complicated. On the other hand, it's an extremely environmental friendly house, like it heats itself and the water through energy it extracts from the earth. But yeah, they definitely need to rethink how much power to give to a computer.

Batya said...

shy, thanks
Nasch, the new world... Sucot it to remind us to leave all the technology...
We're too dependent on electricity and gadgets.