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It’s Unlocked

By Mordechai Schmutter

I’m glad to announce that we finally got our Shabbos lock fixed.

Okay, so it wasn’t broken for that long. Just a couple of weeks. But when the lock on your front door is broken, you’re sure that everyone passing your house notices, like someone took out a billboard on the roof that says, “Lock is broken.”

We actually have a sign, but it says, “Doorbell is broken. Please knock.” So if anyone tries to break in, at least they’ll knock first.

It doesn’t help that one of the buttons on the lock was actually missing, which, in our minds, was noticeable from across the street. Sure, there’s another lock on the door. But it’s not a question of whether people can break in, it’s whether they’re willing to try.

We have one of those 14-button Shabbos locks. A “Shabbos lock” is a lock that is specifically made for Shabbos, in that you don’t have to carry a key. Instead, you have to carry a little piece of paper that says the combination, unless it’s a combination you can easily remember, like taryag. Or you carve it into the bottom of your shoe.

We got the lock when we first moved in, because I didn’t want to have to get a tie clip with a key on the back. Who wears a tie clip? Where are you going that your tie is constantly blowing up and in your face? “Let’s clip it down, so it doesn’t put someone’s eye out!” And what do I do if I go out without my tie? Should I just wear the clip? Or should I wear a belt with a key on it, where you take off your belt, and your pants slowly fall down while you’re fiddling with the door?

Anyway, the Shabbos lock gets a lot of use, and occasionally, we have to fix it. The way to fix it is you have to take the whole thing apart. There are 14 springs in it. You open that up, the springs go in 14 different directions. And they specifically make the springs the same color as most floors. And smaller than the buttons.

We’ve taken it apart a couple of times before, and we’ve always managed to fix whatever was wrong. But a couple of weeks ago, it stopped working, so my wife took it apart when I wasn’t home, just as all the kids were getting home from school and doing homework and asking for food, and one of the springs disappeared.

We hope no one ate it.

So my wife’s main priority was to fix the situation before her parents come to visit. My in-laws have spent the last 35 years living out in the sticks, where a lot of their safety comes from the fact that there isn’t another human being out there besides them, and no one’s going to drive four hours to rob their house, no offense. So when they come over, they don’t even leave anything in the car. They leave it all in our front entranceway, which is now the part of the house that’s unlocked. (Though technically, I guess, the whole house is unlocked. But the robbers won’t get in any further than that, because of all their stuff.)

The point is that my wife was afraid that they wouldn’t come if our door doesn’t lock. I wanted to say, “Fine,” but on the other hand, we have an unlocked front door. Would I rather have robbers or in-laws? So I thought about it long and hard, and I came to the conclusion that I should probably say “my in-laws.” I don’t know that the robbers read this column.

We looked into getting a new lock, and it turns out that you have to be very careful, because most “Shabbos locks” these days are digital. Maybe we should get a digital Shabbos lock. That sounds like a great idea. We won’t be able to get into the house all Shabbos. Why don’t we put a motion-sensitive light over the back door while we’re at it?

So my wife called the locksmith who put the lock in (8 years ago), and he said that for way less money than a new lock, we could bring our old lock to his house, and he’d fix it with spare parts. He wasn’t home, but he said we could leave it near his front door.

So we took the lock out of our door, and at that point we were really worried, because now there was a big hole that you could definitely see from across the street and, we were pretty sure, from way down the block. Also, there was a draft coming in. So we put some tape over the hole that was the same basic color as the door, and I stuffed one of my kids’ mittens into the hole. (Don’t worry about what the kid wore. He’d already lost the other one.)

We were really hoping that the locksmith would get to finish our project that day, because of our gaping hole, and because if he didn’t give the lock back, and we had to leave it that way overnight, I’m pretty sure my wife was going to make me sleep on the couch with a baseball bat.

I don’t know how this would help. Trust me, even if I have a baseball bat and the robber has a flashlight, he’ll still win. All he has to do is shine the light in my eyes. And anyway, I’m not going to wake up if anyone breaks in, because I’m a pretty heavy sleeper. And even if I did, I have problems getting out of bed to face a regular day. I’m never going to convince myself to get up just so some robber can defeat me with a flashlight.

Like if the guy breaks into my house, I’ll be the most imposing person he could come across. Isn’t the most imposing person in the house the one who made me sleep on the couch?

Maybe if I arrange some extra pillows under my blankets, he’ll think I’m more muscular than I actually am. On the other hand, if I do have to spring up, and he sees that the pillows don’t come with me, he’ll fall over laughing, and I’ll be able to subdue him. With my son’s Wiffle-ball bat, because I’m pretty sure that’s the only bat we have in the house.

But, baruch Hashem, the locksmith called that evening to say he was done. I went to his house to pick up the lock, and he told me that he was kind of worried, because he’d accidentally left his house unlocked that morning, and it’s a good thing my wife was the only one who came by, because anyone could have come right in and cleaned him out.

I guess no one wanted 500 door locks.

It also turns out that the locksmith had decided to make up a new combination for our door, and we’re afraid to take the lock apart and change it, because we’re going to lose all the springs again. He picked random numbers that we think were probably important to him somehow. That doesn’t mean we can’t remember them, but I still type in my old combination and wonder why it’s not working.

On the one hand, I should be nervous that my locksmith now knows our combination better than we do. Sure, you’re saying that he fixes a hundred locks a week. But on the other hand, for all we know, he gives everyone the same combination, so he can remember all of them. But on the other hand, he’s a locksmith. If he wanted to break into a house, he would just do it. He doesn’t have to know the code. That would be like getting a key lock and wondering if he made himself a copy of the key.

And anyway, a locksmith who doesn’t lock his own doors is not going to come in and clean us out. He probably locks his key in his van once a week, too. I’ve done that once or twice.

Hey, you know what would be a great idea for my van? A Shabbos lock! But not digital, of course. That’s muktzah. v

Mordechai Schmutter is a weekly humor columnist for Hamodia and is the author of four books, published by Israel Book Shop. He also does freelance writing for hire. You can send any questions, comments, or ideas to

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Posted by on January 2, 2014. Filed under In This Week's Edition. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.