The Good Wife is a new legal drama on CBS. The show is great. Usually the legal issues are portrayed correctly (at least from a law student’s perspective) and the character development of the main character has been superb.
This week’s episode revolved around a chasidic couple living in Chicago who were responsible to fix a fallen eruv wire, but since it fell on Shabbos they had to wait until Shabbos had ended and in the meantime a woman claims she fell over the wire and is suing for 1.2 million dollars in punitive damages. The title of the episode does not refer to the couple, rather it refers to their lawyer with an unorthodox approach to law.
Read on for my comments, critiques and a HUGE PLOT HOLE.
The defense is based on the 1st Amendment, freedom of speech, and claims that the couple has the right to practice their religion and a jury should decide if they are liable when they believe it would be wrong for them to fix the eruv wire. That defense fails when the wife (a recent baalas tshuva / one who returns to Orthodox Judaism later in life) is found to have been making phone calls to her father on Shabbos. If she calls her father on Shabbos she should also be able to fix the fallen wire. Ultimately, the defense shows that the entire slip and fall was concocted and the jury finds for the defense.
The portrayal of the chasidic community, the laws of eruv and the relationship between the chasidic couple were pretty good. BUt there were a few things that they got wrong. It is so funny to me that any orthodox Jew would notice the nuances that are incorrect but the entire staff of the show does not see the mistakes. Ironically, last week’s episode of The Good Wife revolved around a witness who could not tell the difference between 2 black men. It seems that people from other ethnicities have a hard time seeing the nuances of other ethnicities. It is no different when Hollywood tries to portrays Jews. They simply don’t have the sensitivities to the finer details of orthodox Judaism, especially chasidic Judaism.
Things They Got Mostly Correct
The chasidic garb. She was wearing typical women’s dress. Subdued colors and very modest. He was in black and white with his hat nearby at all times.
Strollers. Everyone had strollers in the chasidic neighborhood.
Kosher markets. There was a kosher market within walking distance.
The shomrim guy. He looked like every non-chasidic Hatzalah (Jewish volunteer ambulance core) guy I know.
The intimacy between the couple. Most couples on the show celebrate victory with public hugs and kisses. The chasidic couple did not embrace in public, but their connection was displayed by touching each other’s hands secretly.
The chasidic guy never smiles. That is just not nice.
The chasidic guy has a “tchup”(coiffed hair), chasidic men have hair that is cut very short.
The chasidic guy has a trimmed beard, that is not common at all.
The chasidic guy has a RING! (I mean, come on, that’s an easy one!)
They say an eruv “creates a symbolic courtyard“, that’s not quite true, an eruv joins many domains into one common domain by surround the entire community with a wall. (But that is a hard one.)
A young chasidic boy has a leather kipa perched awkwardly on the back of his head.
Something That Bothered Me
The wife was a twice rehabbed drug loving party girl who found chasidic Judaism while incarcerated. Showing her revival as a chasidic Jewish woman bothered me slightly. It was if to say, one has to be so crazy to find chasidic Judaism attractive. Maybe I am nitpicking, but it bothered me just a little.
HUGE PLOT HOLE
When the plaintiff got injured it was Shabbos. She was asked why she was walking through this neighborhood and she said she was going to the market. She was asked why this market if there are four markets closer to her home and she said because this market is the kosher market where they sell gluten free products.
Do you see the problem? (answer below)
This is an inexcusable error. CBS, next time you want to do a show with chasidic or Orthodox Jewish characters and plot elements you can hire me. I will be your rabbinical consultant and make sure you get it right.
The Good Wife is a great show. One of the reasons it is great is not the attention to detail. A twitter buddy of mine also noticed a legal problem a few weeks ago. I guess when you are law student and a Rabbi you are going to notice the mistakes of Jewish culture and law.
(Plot hole answer: The kosher market is closed on Shabbos. She could never be walking to a kosher market on Shabbos!)