Mesorah (Jewish stuff)

Things I Learned When My Fridge Stopped Working on Rosh Hashana

Yes, you read that correctly.  When I opened the refrigerator on Thursday night to take out the food for the next meal, I noticed that the temperature inside the fridge was . . . not cold.  I closed the door and immediately re-opened it, thinking maybe I was imagining things.  But, no, it was definitely room temperature in there.

Still experiencing a sizable amount of denial about the situation, I placed my hand along the side of the fridge, feeling for vibrations which might indicate that it was really working, just poorly.  Nothing.  I opened the freezer.  Defrosting was occurring.  Water dripped onto the floor.


I closed and reopened the doors to the fridge and freezer a couple more times, just to verify, I guess, with a sinking feeling, that none of the food I spent three days making was going to make it much longer unless I came up with a plan.

Lesson One:  It’s good to know your neighbors.

My first thought was to see if any of the neighbors had room in their fridge and freezer for the food we needed for the rest of the holiday (a total of five meals).  My second thought was that everyone’s fridge was probably packed, so I might have to knock on a few doors.  While I was out on my quest, my husband verified that the fridge was, in fact, still plugged in.

Wonderfully, I actually only had to knock on two doors (the first was a no answer, so that was easy in a way).  Not only were the neighbors very sympathetic to our plight, but they had plenty of space for our food (they had two fridges – a big family) AND sent over a slew of (big) children to help transport the food.

Since I had to go to their house about ten times over the holiday, we got to see each other a lot, and during my many visits, they invited us for a meal for the next set of holidays, I borrowed a book to read, my kids played with their toys, and I got to shmooze a decent amount.  Despite the inconvenience of having to constantly pick up and bring back my food, it was really quite nice!

Lesson two:  Sometimes you have to make difficult decisions

Hopefully you’ve never had to look in your fridge and assess which items are worth saving and which are better off being replaced.  It was daunting, because, obviously, I’d prefer to save everything.  Even that sriracha sauce I only used once, because, you know, maybe I’ll use it again sometime in the next two years or something.

But I couldn’t exactly just transfer my whole fridge to their house, so I just chose the items that were most crucial to the meals I would be serving over the remainder of the holiday and Shabbos.  This means we lost most of our condiments, and a few other random vegetables (though no one’s going to miss the celery.  Poor unwanted celery).

Lesson three:  Make the most of even a crazy situation

Feeling upset about the situation would have been a totally reasonable reaction.  But my husband and I were so flabbergasted by it that we mainly just shook our heads and said things like “you can’t make this stuff up.”  We don’t believe in coincidences, so instead of just being annoyed about the inconvenience, we thought, “hmm, this is happening to us for a reason, so what can we learn from this?  What might we need to work on in our lives and spiritual practice?”

Yes, when I thought about having to call someone to come take a look at the fridge, potentially needing to buy a new appliance, figuring out how to manage without a fridge for a few days, I felt overwhelmed.

But since you’re not really supposed to plan for after Yom Tov or Shabbos while on Shabbos, and since we couldn’t do anything about it immediately, there was not much to do besides shake our heads and accept that it was decreed for us that this Rosh Hashana and Shabbos we would not have refrigeration.

Lesson four:  Sometimes the solution is simple

After Shabbos ended, my husband went down to our chest freezer in the basement to freeze some ice packs for our camping-at-home refrigeration plan (we would put ice packs in a cooler and keep the bare essentials in there).  He came back up almost immediately, and in a tentative voice said,

“Honey?  You’re not going to believe this, but the freezer downstairs was off.  All the food in there is spoiled, too.”



This really happened.

He figured out that a fuse blew, and it “just so happened” to be hooked up to the chest freezer.  Okay, so apparently it was decreed that we would lose all our food.  Fine.  It should be a kappara.  I can handle that kind of loss, especially since, mercifully, the chest freezer was not all that full.

After he flipped the fuse back on, I had a crazy thought.  Maybe the fridge was attached to the same circuit.  We do live in an old house, and electric stuff in old houses can be, um, interesting at times.

Wouldn’t you know it, that’s exactly what happened.  Our fridge was fine.  There was just no power to its outlet.  I must have blown the fuse when I plugged in the hot plate (which we never use) to the same outlet my hot water urn was plugged into.  This is the same outlet that I regularly use for both my crockpot and hot water urn, so it makes absolutely no sense to me that the combination of these other two appliances would be enough to blow the fuse, but you know, it was just supposed to happen that way.

And yes, even though it’s a pain to have to clean out the now-yucky chest freezer, and to toss all those condiments, I’m thrilled that the fridge is fine AND I got to clean it out pretty thoroughly, which basically never happens AND we had a chance to get all introspective about the situation.  So, win win win.

18 thoughts on “Things I Learned When My Fridge Stopped Working on Rosh Hashana

  1. Holy stressful, Rivki! Seriously, how do you handle everything with such grace? I would have had a crying moment, at least initially. You amaze me. And I’m glad you don’t have to replace the fridge!

    Renée A. Schuls-Jacobson Teacher * Writer * Momma *

    Wanna read my blog?


    1. I wish I handled everything with grace! Believe me, I do my fair share of crying over stress. Just usually the more “mundane” stress of daily life with little people.

      I think this situation was simply so outlandish that I was able to see that it was a test, you know? Because stuff like that just doesn’t happen normally! It’s crazy!

  2. My mouth alternated between open and closed as I read this. It sounds like you have wonderful neighbors, and thumbs up to you guys for keeping such a great perspective. When things like this happen my husband always tells me it will made a good Binah column or blog post. :)

  3. I really, really enjoy reading your blog. :-DD Sorry, this probably wasn’t fun at all, I realize that. But it’s so – absurd that a.)no, you couldn’t make it up and b.) no, it can’t be a coincidence. I really love your way of looking at everyday life with all its unnerving business.

  4. Wow, that was a real challenge! Kudos to you for handling it so gracefully. And I am also thankful about your freezer not being that full. For me the main loss would be the monetary loss- a whole freezerful of food is expensive!

  5. I have crazy wiring in my house too. If one fuse is tripped off from overusing a plug in the kitchen lights in parts of the house like the living room or basement go out too. When lights go off(not during a storm) the first thing I do is check the breaker switch. I learned this through experience.

    When we moved into the house I had a very small double oven. The whole oven was the size of one of today’s upper oven in a double oven. My mother and I made this gorgeous honey cake batter and had it ready to bake. We put it in and after the 50 minutes it took to cook we saw the outside was burnt and the inside was not done. I was not happy. It was before rosh hashannah. I got an oven thermometer and found that the oven was not the right temp.It was too hot(about 50 degrees too hot). I was able to set the oven at lower temperatures which actually worked as the correct ones. After yom tom we bought a new oven. I have also had my refrigerator totally die. The temperature was wrong and it would freeze things and not keep others cold. I had Sears(where I bought it) out three times in the course of about 4-6 months to fix it. They decided that it was not fixable and I was able to replace it. I have an extended warranty which makes that possible. They offered food replacement, but I did not lose much. Like you it was some veggies and small things. No meat or chicken. I admit that I had to raise a real fuss with Sears because they kept giving me “the run around” about when they would come out, when they would fix it etc… I finally got to a person in authority who was able to get the process of temporary repair and replacement taken care of. I did use my neighbor’s fridge and a cooler with ice to keep food cold. I was glad it was not a yom tov with a lot of cooked food or uncooked meat and chicken when the fridge died. You were lucky that it was only a tripped switch from overloading the circuit.

    At one point we wrote down which parts of the house would be affected by each circuit breaker that tripped. It got lost. I just know that when the GFI by by coffee maker shuts off, that I have to reset it, and then possibly go into the basement to reset the circuit breaker.

    Just a hint for future problems: check all the circuit breakers and fuses BEFORE calling for repairs. That is the first question they ask about.


    1. What a good idea to write down what’s connecting to what (even if the list did get lost, which I could totally see happening to us)! I guess checking the circuit breakers is kind of like restarting a computer before calling IT! Thanks for sharing, Isabel. :)

  6. Since it’s coming from you, I’ll believe it. But also because at chez Klempner, you can’t run the microwave or the toaster at the same time as our A/C wall unit. Blows the circuit every time. Glad you’re not schlepping out to find a new fridge!

    1. Appliances are funny! Maybe I should do an experiment to see if the hot plate/water urn combo blows the fuse again. I am extremely glad to not be schlepping for a new fridge!

  7. I love your optimism. You really took the situation and did the best you could. And it must have been so frustrating for you. And I love your empathy for celery. Not many share in celery’s willful abandonment by serious salad eaters.

  8. I thought my freezer was broken over the chag, until I realized that when I reorganized it, my 5 lb block of cheese was blocking it from closing correctly! I feel better now that I know I had a partner in the madness! Gmar chasima toivah.

    1. Oh man! I’ve had a similar experience with a freezer before – it was too full to work. Which seems kind of silly to me, because aren’t you supposed to fill it? But, whatever. Happy to be a partner in madness, always!

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