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Can I Preset My TV for Shabbos?

Sunday, 28 October, 2018 - 11:26 pm


Question of the Week:

I am almost 100% committed to keep Shabbos this week in honor of the world wide Shabbos project. There's just one issue. My favourite TV show screens Fridays 7:30pm. So I was thinking, if it's permissible to set a timer before Shabbos to turn the lights on and off, then why isn't it permissible to set a timer before Shabbos to turn my television on and off? I can't see what the difference is.


My favourite show is also on Fridays at 7:30pm. And I never miss it. It's a hilarious reality show, and my kids star in it. We call it "The Shabbos Table."

The formula is pretty standard every week. We eat. We sing. We try to start ameaningful discussion. One of the kids makes a cheeky comment. Everyone laughs. We change the subject. A guest starts talking politics. A heated argument ensues. We change the subject. We share inspiring stories and the kids show off what they learnt at school. We eat more. We sing more. The kids fall asleep on the couch. We say grace after meals. Show's over.

That's the show you should never miss. When you tune in to your own family, when you listen to the people around you, you'll find real life dramas and sitcoms, soap operas and breaking news flashes. This show is unrehearsed, unscripted and messy. But it's real, and it's yours. And there are no ads.

This is what Shabbos is for, to connect to family and friends, to commune with people and G-d. Rather than following the lives of strangers on a screen, we give full attention to the real people who actually matter to us. Rather than wasting our time on the passing fads of pop culture, we immerse in the eternal truths and soulful wisdom of our own culture.

The laws of Shabbos set the tone for this immersion. We are allowed to preset a timer to turn on the lights, because that will enhance our Shabbos. But we can't set a timer to turn on the TV, because that will destroy our Shabbos. Watching television on Shabbos is choosing someone else's reality over your own. The show must go on. But the show must be yours. 

Reality TV is an oxymoron, and fake news is a redundancy. If you want to get real, you need to get Shabbos.

Good Shabbos,
Rabbi Moss



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