I'm about a week late on the blog bandwagon to note that the most recent episode of my second-favorite show*, HOUSE, M.D. was about, you guessed it, Orthodox Jews. They did a pretty good job of portraying religious people as normal humans not from Mars (aside from the otherworldly medical conditions with which all of Dr. House's unfortunate patients suffer). A ba'alat teshuvah collapses at her wedding and is diagnosed in the last scene with a weird ailment. In the interim, we hear exquisite music by Richard Kaplan, his version of a haunting niggun that I wrote about a few weeks ago after stumbling upon it on You Tube, and learn that it's OK to lie to your wife about when Shabbat begins.
They could have presented that part a little better. As Rabbi Phyllis Sommer noted in her blog, the mitzvah of Shabbat, which the wife wishes to observe at all costs, seems to have trumped that of pikuah nefesh, saving a life. It usually works the other way around. The husband really did try to honor both, understanding his wife's need to celebrate at least one Friday evening with him before succumbing to the mysterious disease as well as wanting to do everything possible to keep her alive in the process. But the way they fooled her was clumsy and unbelievable. It almost looked like they drugged her to pull off the ruse--and then suddenly she was lighting candles, eating challah, and conveniently not looking out the window. Why trick the wife at all? Why couldn't the husband explain (dramatically, perhaps while arguing with his kids from a previous marriage) that it was OK in this dire situation to usher in Shabbat a little early?
Still, the writing was intelligent and respectful, and Dr. House's disdain for all things spiritual not so mean as to become cartoonish. I appreciate his ongoing struggle with the question of who is more invincible, House or God. And I wonder if he knew the words to "Eshet Chayil" because, as a kid on an army base in China where his father was stationed, he befriended a nice couple from Chabad who paid much more attention to him than his parents ever did...
* Current number one favorite: Vincent D'Onofrio episodes of LAW & ORDER, CI. (Which is really the same show as HOUSE, except with cops instead of doctors and a vulnerable, damaged Sherlock Holmes stand-in instead of a mean, damaged one.)