Torah Musings: Change the Channel


Change the Channel

Sarah Pachter

A 30-second commercial for an exclusive luxury car was being filmed at my friend Kayla’s house. Kayla told me she was shocked to learn just how much time, money, and detail the advertising company spent in order to make the commercial.

The company wanted her home picture-perfect. They spruced up her already attractive front yard by adding artificial flowers to the bushes. They even augmented them with more foliage! Neighbors were financially compensated for the minor parking inconvenience due to the large trucks and trailers needed for the shoot. The model car used for the commercial was disassembled. Its doors and roof were removed in order for the camera to get the the interior shot. The car itself was worth $200,000, and – inwardly – my friend was hoping they would give her the car when filming was finished.

“Sarah, do you know what they did with the car?” she exclaimed. “They didn’t try to sell it, they didn’t give it away – they trashed it! I literally saw the dump truck pick it up in pieces! I can’t believe the company just took $200,000 and threw it away !”

Even more shocking was the budget. They spent a grand total of $3.5 million.

Why are such companies willing to spend millions on a commercial that is only aired for 30 seconds? Research shows that sales skyrocket following a commercial’s release, even if it’s only on air for a short time.

This, my friends, is how the digital advertising industry alone is predicted to make $83 billion dollars – yes, billion – this year alone.[1]

As Americans, we have desires, and we pursue them. After all, does it not say in the Constitution that, “Every American has the inalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?” And by purchasing what we desire, we are doing just that, right? Finding happiness?

Perhaps not.

Statistics from reveal that every year, 800,000 people commit suicide. More lives are lost to suicide than any other single cause, after heart disease and cancer. This makes it the third leading cause of death amongst adults, and the second leading cause amongst teens. Lastly, here in America, where it is literally our mission to pursue happiness, someone takes his or her own life every 40 seconds. These numbers have doubled in the past ten years alone.[2]

Evidence has shown that consuming more products does not fill our inner void nor have the power to create personal happiness. Just like plants augmented with leaves cut from other plants will soon droop and wither, happiness that comes from the material cannot last.

So, where can true happiness be found?

If you’ve ever felt guilty about constantly trying to find happiness, fear not! Not only does the Constitution promote the pursuit of joy, the Torah endorses that search as well. In fact, the Torah makes the following strong statement:

All these curses will befall you, pursuing you and overtaking you to destroy you because you did not obey the Lord, your God, to observe His commandments and statutes which He commanded you… because you did not serve the Lord, your God, with happiness and with gladness of heart, when [you had an] abundance of everything.[3]

G-d will curse us because we did not serve Him with joy? If G-d were to curse us for committing murder, I could understand; but to put curses upon us simply because we are not happy? This phrase cannot be as simple as it seems, and thus requires a deeper look.

A student of mine was married for two years, and she had just given birth to their first child. One evening, during dinner, her husband looked at her tired eyes and said, “Sweetheart! Why don’t you go right to bed, and I’ll clean everything up! Don’t you worry about the mess, just get the rest you need.”

Jumping at the opportunity to catch some extra sleep, she quickly snuggled into pajamas and was snoring before he could think twice about his offer.

The next morning, she awoke anticipating her squeaky-clean counters that she did not have to scrub herself. She imagined the floors shining, and the kitchen in perfect order. Her husband had already left for work, so she made a mental note as she arose from bed to call and thank him for his effort. As she walked into the kitchen, she was confused.

Did I dream that he was going to clean the kitchen? She wondered to herself.

The kitchen looked like World War III had been kicked off in it. The chairs were strewn randomly throughout, and all the cabinets were left open. There were crumbs and leftover food on the table and floor, while water was dripping from the countertops.

Is this what my husband considers clean? What exactly did he do?

Then, she slowly noticed that every last dish had been washed. Granted, they were not dried or put away (and, by the way, they had a dishwasher!) but they were clean.

As she stood there alone, staring at her messy kitchen, she had a choice. She could focus on all of the things her husband did not do, or she could choose to look at the one thing he did do: the dishes.

Let me ask you, who loses if she focuses on the negative? She does, and no one else. Her husband was already away at work, not thinking about which dish he did or didn’t dry. He has moved on, while she continues to wallow in frustration.

Another example of this was when my friend was out with her husband one evening and was in a wretched mood. He turned to her and said, “What’s with you? Why are you in such a bad mood?”

She replied, “I know! I can’t help it! I don’t even like myself when I’m like this. At least you can walk away. I can’t walk away from myself.”

The Torah doesn’t mean that G-d is going to place curses upon us; rather, being unhappy is the curse. When we are dissatisfied and unhappy, we are the ones who have to live within that state of being. True happiness comes from our minds.

We know that when we feel down, therapy shopping doesn’t work long-term. So how do we snap out of it?

Let’s go back to the concept of a commercial. It’s designed to direct you to purchase something which will benefit the company who made the ad – not necessarily you. Don’t let the commercial use you! Just “change the channel” to redirect your thoughts and become happier.

Unless it’s during the Super Bowl, nobody enjoys watching commercials, no matter how luxurious the car. As a child, when I was watching TV, as soon as a commercial came on I would immediately change the channel. I had no patience, and only wanted the good stuff – television shows, like Saved by the Bell.

We can adopt “changing the channel” as a catchphrase in our homes to use when someone starts to rant, complain, or think in a negative way. For example, when my child starts to whine, “Mommy! She’s annoying me!” and I ask, “Why?” and he says, “She’s crunching her fries too loud,” I’ll shut it down and say, “Guys, change the channel! What was your favorite thing you did today? I liked snuggling on the couch reading the Fancy Nancy book with you.”

When their minds recall this memory, they will likely forget about the annoying eating habit.

Or, if your mind begins to dream about that new pair of shoes that you wish you could purchase but are unaffordable, switch gears! Think instead, What is something I can do right now to make myself happy? Or What chessed can I do for someone else to help fill that void?

Continuously training our minds to focus on the good when the negative erupts will have positive, long-term effects on our overall joy. Training our minds in this manner will help rid us of the inner curse of unhappiness and dissatisfaction. So, change the channel; real joy is one click away.




[2] Jamison, Kay

[3] Deuteronomy 28:45 and 47