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How Many Rabbis Does It Take To Change a Light Bulb

How Many Rabbis Does It Take To Change a Light Bulb

My battle with a halogen light fixture.


I must admit that I am not perfect. I cannot sing. Worse than that, I also cannot do anything handy around the house. I am all thumbs when it comes to hammers, saws, pliers, screwdrivers, glue, paint, etc. Hanging the succah decorations in their proper places in my beautiful Jerusalem succah is a major engineering project for me. Repairing any small item in the house is a traumatic and usually unsuccessful experience for me.

Halogen light bulbs were invented by the devil himself, at least as far as the ability to remove or install them in their electrical fixture base.

But in all of the decades of my residence in the United States I was always able to successfully change a light bulb. Of course the old-time light bulbs lent themselves to easy changing. They simply screwed themselves in and screwed themselves out. Therefore, I steadfastly approached the task of changing light bulbs in my previous homes in America with great confidence and minimum trepidation. However, upon moving to our Jerusalem home, my wife and I went high-tech modern. Almost all of the electrical fixtures and lamps that we purchased for our new home use halogen bulbs. These bulbs give off great light and are long lasting. But they were invented by the devil himself, at least as far as the ability to remove or install them in their electrical fixture base. And therefore, I wish to share the following tale of woe regarding my valiant attempt one pre-Pesach night to change the halogen bulb in the beautiful, modern chandelier/fixture hanging in our dining room.

The halogen bulb was composed of the light bulb itself encased in a curved metal shield that when the bulb was lit gave off a very attractive iridescent glow. However, the great Rabbi Wein was unaware that the bulb and its metal casing were in reality one piece and, having been soldered together, were emotionally and physically inseparable. I labored long and hard to remove the bulb from the metal casing to which it was attached. I successfully broke the glass of the bulb itself thus rendering the task of extricating the entire halogen piece infinitely more exciting and dangerous.

After about ten minutes of acutely frustrating exertion, I finally figured out (being the talmudic scholar that I am) that the whole halogen piece, metal casing and bulb together, had to come out of the fixture. In order to see better what I was doing, I turned on the switch for an adjoining lamp, not realizing that the lamp and the dining room fixture were on the same circuit breaker line. Since the glass in the burned-out halogen bulb was now broken and the wires inside of it were in wild disarray touching each other in a wrong way, my turning on the electricity caused the mother of all short circuits to occur. The entire house was plunged into instant blackness, a relevant reminder to me of the ninth plague that befell the Egyptians a short time before the first Pesach in history.

Now, I have a flashlight strategically hidden in my apartment for such an emergency. But, as usual, when the emergency finally arrived, I could not immediately recall where that strategic location of the flashlight was. After many bumps and bruises from walking into walls and furniture that I never noticed as existing in the daylight, I finally discovered the hiding place of my flashlight and by its beam attacked the electrical box in my apartment. I turned off all of the light switches in the apartment, turned up the fallen circuit- breaker, turned on a "safe" light switch in the kitchen and nothing happened. I then realized that the main circuit-breaker switch that controls all of the electricity to my apartment, which is located in the lobby of our building, four floors below my apartment, must also be in a fallen position. I descended to the lobby, found the offending circuit breaker, turned it up, and returned to my apartment, where there now was light again. I now once again attacked the burned-out halogen lamp.

Halogen bulbs are fiendishly designed never to fit the socket for which they are allegedly intended to enter.

With the help of pliers and the Lord I finally was able to pull out the prongs of the lamp from the socket of the fixture. That was enough work for me that night, but bright and early the next morning I walked to my friendly neighborhood electrical/hardware with the burned-out lamp to buy a replacement. The owner of the store, reacting to the destroyed lamp that I showed him, said: "What earthquake caused this lamp to be bent into this shape?" I assured him that it was too long and painful a story to relate, and I hurriedly purchased another halogen lamp and fled the premises.

Upon returning home, I now began the arduous task of attempting to insert the prongs of the new replacement halogen lamp into the socket of the fixture. There is no way, short of a miracle, that both prongs of any halogen lamp can enter a fixture socket in a simultaneous fashion. They are fiendishly designed never to fit the socket for which they are allegedly intended to enter. After ten minutes of failure, I was convinced that I was going to have to call an electrician to successfully change the light bulb in my dining room fixture. That crushingly depressing and humiliating realization humbled me as little else in my life has.

But before succumbing to my fate of being forced to call an electrician to change a light bulb, I attempted once more to insert the halogen lamp in the socket of the fixture. And, lo and behold, the God of my fathers was with me, and both prongs of the lamp entered the fixture smoothly, correctly and simultaneously. I nervously switched on the electric current to the fixture and instead of the feared darkness, there now emerged the bright light from the halogen bulb.

In triumph, I informed my wife that I had successfully changed the light bulb.

In triumph, I informed my wife that I had successfully changed the light bulb in our dining room fixture. She fixed me with the incredulous look that wives reserve for those special, fleeting moments of married life when complete incomprehensibility dominates the relationship. "That's wonderful," she said. I could sense that she was really not interested in hearing the entire epic story of how the impossible had been achieved and the light bulb changed, so I let the matter rest until the inspiration for this article overcame me.

I am happy to report that the halogen bulb in my dining room fixture is still functioning and giving off its blessed light. However, I will admit that every time I switch on the electricity in my dining room, my heart skips a beat until I see the lamp go on. I know that someday I will have to change that halogen lamp again. I think I will have a much easier time doing so than I had the first time that I attempted to change that bulb. But there is a nagging voice within me that mocks my pretensions and optimism and keeps whispering to me "don't misplace the phone number of the electrician." When that day of doom arrives, I will let you know how the halogen lamp, the apartment's electric box, the house's circuit breakers and yours truly fared. But please pray that this will not be necessary for a long time to come.

This article originally appeared on Rabbi Wein's website,

December 29, 2001

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Visitor Comments: 18

(18) Anne, January 31, 2013 4:43 AM

Permanent Fix

I read this a few years ago when I attempted to change my first halogen bulb and the humor restored my temper. Today I found halogen adapters on Ebay and once they are in I will never ever have to replace a halogen bulb again!

(17) Anonymous, October 27, 2011 12:03 AM

I'm Not the Only One

I'm so glad to find this article. After two hours and a permanent crick in my neck from playing Twister on a step stool with a halogen bulb, I needed a good laugh. Tomorrow, I'll try it again. The old one is out.. just can't get the new one in. Bad new is: they're only one of three in the fixture.

(16) Anne, February 1, 2009 1:48 PM

My solution to removing bulbs

I have a five bulb kitchen fixture, and two halogen bulbs had burned out. After a few tries I decided to get a neat solution from the internet. After reading the rabbi's hilarious story, I decided to get tough and brought expandable pliers and needle nose pliers to bear. In just a few minutes I had broken off one bulb with the bigger pliers, and using the needle nose pliers, wrested the base out, using the same tactics on the second bulb. Now I am off to the hardware store to return the two halogen bulbs I had previously bought that have the wrong pins. If I have as much fun putting them in, as I did taking them out, I'll submit another comment.

(15) Gerald, January 7, 2009 7:11 PM

wow, how easy it really was!!

thanks for the info provided, i read several of the comments and was relieved to find it was not only me having issues with the removal of the bulbs. Broc your info regarding the Zip tie idea really works well. Thanks again!! 10 mins i was done.

(14) PAT fULLAGAR, January 27, 2008 9:23 PM


This sounds so much like my husband. But laughter must be the best medicine for as soon as we finished reading this... Hubby got some real inspiration. Ran for the ladder and Bingo! was able to change the bulb in our ceiling lamp. Lucky day as we were down to having only 2 of 8 lights functioning. The Lord works in mysterious ways! Hubby used one of those rubber grippers used for opening jars. AND it WORKED! Our bulb had a twist lock base. Thanks for this good belly laugh. and Thanks for putting this on the web! Pat

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