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Appliance Science

Why there are halachos about having gratitude toward inanimate objects



nd Hashem said to Moshe, ‘Tell Aharon, take your stick and spread your hand out on the waters of Mitzrayim’….and there will be blood.” (Shemos 7:19)

Why didn’t Moshe hit the Nile? Rashi explains that it wouldn’t be fitting, since the Nile had protected Moshe as a baby. Similarly, before the plague of lice, Moshe didn’t hit the sand because the sand had done him a favor when it hid the Miztri Moshe killed.

This obviously begs explanation. How can we say that an inanimate object did a favor and that we must act properly toward it? (Rav Shach, Meirosh Amanah)

Throughout life, we form many bonds and relationships. In our home, we’ve added to those connections by developing a kinship with many of the inanimate objects who share our four walls. We even name them. You’d think that being on first-name basis would mean we had a mutual, trusting relationship, but unfortunately, as any therapist will tell you, not all relationships are two-way streets.

Years ago, we had a freezer named Buster Brown. A stolid, dependable sort, he served us devotedly for a decade, until one Pesach he finally called it quits. I took his time of passing hard, as we’d filled him with our non-kosher l’Pesach goods and sold him for the week. Consequently, we didn’t discover his demise until after Pesach, when we were confronted with the stench of hundreds of dollars of rotting meat. T’was off to the dumpster with Buster.

I’ve since learned not to place all one’s meat in one freezer basket, so we’ve replaced him with Papa Bear, Mama Bear, and Baby Bear Freezer, may they all live until 120.

One must realize that everything in this world was created by Hashem’s word. An inanimate object is not a self-contained entity, but a part of Hashem’s word. The sun, the earth — everything is there because Hashem commanded it to be.

This isn’t just a nice philosophy or an interesting theory. It’s fact. There’s nothing besides Hashem, and therefore everything, both living and inanimate, is part of His Will.

Our washing machines have earned the rep of the most difficult houseguests — the kind that drops in, stirs up trouble, then disappears when the going gets tough.

When we first married, we bought a seventh-hand machine that roared like an airplane every spin cycle. My neighbors complained bitterly about living so close to the airport, so I could only run the machine, which we dubbed Tower Air (the younger generation won’t understand this reference), sparingly. By the time it croaked, it was appropriately fit for the rust-bin.

Next came a giant American machine, Uncle Sam, who was imported from the Land of the Free to this country, where nothing is free. The astronomical water bills it raised soon made Uncle Sam lose his luster, and by the time he’d lost a few screws (which could only be purchased in the States), we were more than happy to replace him.

There were a few other machines that came and went. Take Big Bob, a machine that boasted ten-kilo capacity, yet would croak when running any load larger than five kilo. The technician refused to fix it, saying, “This machine only says you can run ten kilo, but it doesn’t work that way.” I’ve yet to figure out this logic.

This is why there are halachos about having gratitude toward inanimate objects. As the Gemara tells us (Bava Kamma 92b): If you drank water from a pit, don’t throw a stone in it.

But it’s just a pit! No. It’s there because of Hashem’s will, and it’s therefore connected to our lives.

At this point I was getting tired of the rapid succession of washers and of asking neighbors for favors while schlepping bags of wet laundry.

Finally, we purchased two small machines, dubbed Jack and Jill. If I thought I did laundry all day long, I now do double the amount, but I have such a productive feeling watching them spin side-by-side in tandem.

I try to make sure they know how grateful I am for being there when I need them and for letting me air (and clean) all my dirty laundry. Perhaps if they know how much I rely on them, then even if Jack takes a spill, Jill won’t go tumbling after. I think I can count on them. After all, they’re part of the family.

(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 677)

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