All kinds of magic
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All kinds of magic

I’ve been watching a lot of action/adventure movies lately ("Lord of the Rings," "Harry Potter," etc.) and have become as much of an adrenaline addict as a middle-aged woman can be. So fired up, in fact, that I finally went out and bought a DVD player so that I can better savor the nifty special effects.

The decision was overdue, but difficult nonetheless.


My family was the last one in Fair Lawn to buy a VCR. In 1986, the photographer at my daughter’s bat mitzvah in Jerusalem produced a video of the reception, refusing to believe we didn’t want one. We didn’t even have a VCR, we told him. He was shocked.

Everyone in Israel has a VCR, he said. He wouldn’t even charge for the video, he offered, clearly feeling sorry for us. Convinced (browbeaten, actually), we agreed to take the video. As a result, we had to go home and buy something to play it on (although, truth be told, we only watched the video once, and that was right after the event).

Now, sadly, a VCR is longer good enough.

I decided to buy the cheapest DVD player possible — certainly one without HDTV capacity, since I don’t even know what that means and (therefore) probably don’t need it. Friends came over and installed my new machine in less than 15 minutes. I was amazed.

Could I have done it myself? (You know that old scenario — you ask yourself whether, if someone was holding a gun to your head, you could do a particular task.) Probably. But having made the difficult decision to buy the machine in the first place, I was not in a position to take additional risks.

I can write a good sentence, even a good essay, in record time, when pressed. Each time I hear someone say, "Wow, I couldn’t do that," I am surprised to learn that yet another intelligent person becomes weak-kneed when asked to put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard.

I, on the other hand, experience a pre-emptive wave of helplessness when confronted by mechanical/electrical challenges, like installing a DVD player.

Over the past year (besides discovering the magic of wizards like Gandalf and Dumbledorf), I have discovered the magical abilities of friends to do any number of wonderful things.

Some can install DVD players, some can make computer snafus disappear, some can create wonderful, lowfat chocolate meringue cookies, some can cheer you up by telling a joke (either extremely well or really badly), and some know just when you could use an encouraging word.

Even a cursory look at Jewish teachings confirms that friends have magical powers.

They can make you search your souls. (As King Solomon wrote: "Faithful are the chastisements of a friend, while burdensome are the kisses of an enemy.")

They can give you strength. (Pirkei Avot teaches: "Two are better than one, for they get a greater return for their labor. For should they fall, one can lift the other; but woe to him who is alone when he falls and there is no one to lift him.")

And they can help you survive. (The Sages say: "A person should do everything in his power to earn the friendship of a good person, for it is impossible to survive without a friend to serve as a guide and counsel in all [one’s] endeavors.")

In fact — since most of us lack the equivalent of Harry Potter’s wand — it would seem that friends are the best defense against the dark arts and other horrors, such as computer glitches. Come to think of it, Harry wouldn’t have gotten very far without Ron and Hermione.

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