This article first appeared in the Jewish Journal.
The Jewish family is in a constant state of mourning. Most of the time, we push our mourning to the back of our collective consciousness and carry on our daily lives as if we’ve suffered no loss. Once a year, though, we allow the misery and pain of our tortuous 2,000-year Diaspora to creep into view and dominate our emotions.That would be Tisha b’Av, our day of mourning. We cry for all that we have lost, for all that could have been, and for a compromised national identity that was detached from our homeland for so long and without its glorious monument to our God. Once a year, we sit on the floor in agony and feel the dormant pain in our souls.
Mourning is a metaphor that helps us cope with Tisha b’Av, which this year begins on the evening of July 25. Metaphors can help us relate to challenging concepts and they can also shine new light to our traditions and rituals.
The Pew Research Center released their recent study, and the results paint a bleak picture of our religious future in America. It is clear: God’s poll numbers are down across the board, and especially among Millennials. Immediately, frantic media headlines prophesied the end of religion as we know it.
Is this fate? Are we destined to live in a non-religious world? I don’t think we are doomed, unless we keep doing the same things we are doing now. If we want to reverse the trend, we need to reverse course. Suggesting change in religious circles is often taboo. It reminds me of one of my father’s oft repeated (aren’t they all?) jokes. How many Ultra-Orthodox rabbis does it take to change a lightbulb? [beat] Change?!
Presenting another episode of Finkorswim Live on the Stunt Show. On this episode we got to some pretty substantial discussion of the current state and future of Orthodox Judaism.
The show aired at 1 PM ET on July 2, 2015 on NachumSegal.com and the NSN App. The show has been archived and is available as a podcast on this page.
On Friday, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that it is unconstitutional for a state to ban same sex marriage. The issue still divides America, though the latest Pew numbers say 54% of Americans are in favor of gay marriage and only 36% oppose.
In the Orthodox Jewish community, the matter is far less polarizing. I could not find any actual numbers, but I think most people are correct in assuming that the vast majority of Orthodox Jews oppose same sex marriage for themselves and for America. All the mainstream Orthodox Jewish umbrella organizations have issued statements over the past few years reiterating this opposition. Some Orthodox Jews are ambivalent on the issue, and a small minority are in favor of gay marriage.
Let’s talk about Inside Out again. But this time we are not just going to talk in the superficial, “go see it” kind of way we did last time. Now it’s time for real talk.
Storytelling and Canvas Building
Movies can be diversions or just pure entertainment, but sometimes movies can be so much more. There are movies that illustrate grand important ideas in a new way that pushes culture and society forward. To me, this is the peak of storytelling. When the story itself is not really the thing the story is saying, because the thing the story is saying is so much bigger than the story, we experience a sort of storytelling magic.
Too often, fiction undermines reality. I’ll never forget this quip from Rabbi Tendler during a private study session. “If you expect marriage to be the way marriage is portrayed in novels and films, you’re going to be waiting a long time for the violins.” In context, he was teaching me that relationships take work and popular culture is not very good at real relationships. Generally, we watch saccharine caricatures of real life with simple resolutions, over-emphasis on raw feelings, and of course, violins.
I love when fiction does not try to rewrite reality. I love when fiction tells us something about reality. Done right, a movie can be a powerful storytelling device that helps us to understand and deal with reality. Fiction can be real.