The sound of sin
By SHULEM DEEN - SALON
Added: Fri, 20 Apr 2012 21:40:53 UTC
How one little Panasonic radio tore apart my marriage -- and my Jewish faith
When I first brought home our sleek, silver, double-deck, Panasonic stereo cassette player during the summer of 1993, my then-wife, Gitty, frowned.
“It has a radio,” she said with an accusing glare.
The device, fresh out of the box, lay on the chintzy oilcloth on our kitchen table, and she stuck her index finger at a spot on the top, near the volume control. Tape, AM, FM, printed in tiny white letters along the ridge of the circular switch. There was no denying it. And in our all-Hasidic village in Rockland County, N.Y., radio — along with TV, movies, newspapers and other sources of secular influence — was verboten.
“We’ll do what everyone does,” I said, slightly annoyed at the suggestion of impiety. Many of my friends had cassette players, and when the device came with a built-in radio tuner, there was a standard procedure for it: Krazy Glue the switch into the tape-playing position, paste a strip of masking tape over the channel indicators, and put the antenna out with the next day’s trash. As Talmud students, we were nothing if not resourceful; loopholes and work-arounds were our forte.
It was several weeks after our marriage, and Gitty and I, both 18 at the time, were still nearly strangers (Gitty is not her real name). Our match, like all the others in our community, had been an arranged one, the whim of a local matchmaker. We’d had a 10-minute meeting during which little was said, followed by a brief celebration with cake and wine at the home of the rebbe, the grand rabbi of our sect. When the rebbe said, “Mazel tov!” the match was official. Six months later, without seeing or speaking to each other during that entire period, Gitty and I were married. And now, several weeks later, we tiptoed around each other, still concealing personal quirks and character flaws, such as forgetting to put out the trash Tuesday nights or secretly picking a bone from the carp during the Sabbath afternoon lunch — a violation of the Sabbath laws.
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