When I was a kid and my parents decided to observe Shabbat, the local rabbi told them it was OK to leave on the TV on Friday night.
This enabled my older brother and me, preteen and teen, to keep up with CBS’s action-packed night lineup of the “Dukes of Hazard,” the “Incredible Hulk” and “Dallas” after shul and dinner.
Not far into the implementation of this fairly incongruous arrangement, the rollout of affordable consumer VCRs in the early 1980s made “can’t miss TV” a moot concept, and we no longer had to worry about concealing from our more observant Midwood neighbors the flickering blue light in our bedroom windows.
Fast forward 40 years or so, to a time when DVRs, on-demand and streaming entertainment further destroy any rationale for Friday night TV, and we find ourselves at Game 6 of the ALCS, pitting the surging wild-card Bronx Bombers against the West Division champion Houston Astros.
If the Yankee bats continue to deliver as they have in Games 4 and 5, it’s likely the team is headed for their first appearance in the Fall Classic since 2009.
Full disclosure: I’m a fair-weather Yankees fan. Not only didn’t I cheer them on through the slumps, I never even saw a full game in the regular season. I can’t name half the players (Jeter and A-rod, it seems, retired a while back). Haven’t wolfed down an overpriced kosher hot dog at the Stadium in a couple of years.
But with a home team in the playoffs, every New Yorker should cheer. The entire Tristate area is on the edge of its collective seat, the score makes the front page of the tabloids and we are all figuratively (if not literally) in pinstripes.
And this is not just any playoff series, or any Yankees team. This squad packed heavily with relative newcomers has delivered some electric baseball this October, bouncing back when the chips are down not just in individual games but twice in 2-0 deficits in the division and league championship games (why don’t they call it the pennant anymore?)
Aaron Judge’s acrobatic fielding and lethal bat, Todd Frazier’s go-ahead, 3-run homer in Game 3 to help block an Astros sweep with a crushing 8-1 victory and Masahiro Tanaka’s shutout in Game 5 made for ecstatic viewing for diehards and sporadic fans alike, with promises of more thrills ahead.
Just as thrilling as the Dukes of Hazard crashing their (now-politically incorrect Confederate-flagged) stock car through a barn or the green-skinned Lou Ferrigno tossing around bad guys back in the `80s. I haven’t seen Friday night TV since then. Well, hardly ever.
When New Year’s Eve 2000 fell on Friday night, we invited ourselves to non-observant friends’ homes to watch the world usher in the new millennium, figuring it was something the older kids (then 6 and 4) should have a chance to remember. It’s been a long haul since.
So, at a time of great moral upheaval in the world, would leaving a TV or radio on (or a computer with a live update feed from MLB.com) to follow this epic baseball clash be such a terrible transgression? The neighbors in my new Long Island suburb could care less.
The kids might be a bit judgmental, though, after all my years of preaching that Friday night is primarily about spirituality and family. There’s also, of course, that Higher Authority that Hebrew National used to warn me about.
And I keep thinking about the rabbi of my childhood, now long passed, who had the wisdom to give my family a pass on Friday night TV, cautioning that as long as we didn’t switch it on or off or change the channels, TV viewing was, though “not in the spirit of Shabbat,” also not an outright violation. In all likelihood, he reasoned that the path to observance was best taken slowly, in phases, rather than one giant leap, if it was to be an enduring one.
So it will honor his memory to prove decades later that his approach paid off and that our TV will remain off tonight. Besides, there’s a better show to watch that’s literally closer to heaven and involves no electronics — tonight’s Orionid meteor shower.
That way, the only Judge I’ll have to think about is the one wearing Number 99 in right field, wondering as the Shabbat candles flicker how many would-be home runs he’ll haul in, and how he’ll hit himself, hopefully sending the Yankees to take on the Dodgers.
Adam Dickter, a former staff writer for The Jewish Week, works in public relations.