As part of our continuing effort to find deeper meaning and lessons in pop culture, we asked Rabbi Simon Jacobson to help reveal the Jewish wisdom and relevancy in the most recent front-page tabloid news.
Mel Gibson’s Mad Max Behavior
Very quickly, Mel Gibson moved from a recovering anti-Semite to one of the most hated celebrities in America. The daily releases of incriminating tapes are not a pretty sight/sound as we hear Mad Mel threaten his girlfriend and use incredibly racist language and references.
No surprise here. History is fraught with frightening reminders of anti-Semites first turning their hatred toward Jews, and then toward everyone else. Like the miners’ canary, the Jew in some way has become the lightning rod – the conscience – of history, and for one reason or another, is always the first to be victimized. But rest assured: An attack on the Jew will lead to an attack on others humans. Maybe it’s because the Jews are a “witness” to history, a witness to God, and every criminal wants to kill the witness. But beware: The murder of one man is the murder of all men. If you hurt one person, you can – and will – hurt others. An attack against the Jew is an attack against humanity. Even Mel Gibson has something to teach us….
Russian Spy’s Facebook Post
After returning to Russia in the spy swap, sexy spy Anna Chapman reflected on her high profile ordeal and posted on Facebook an Eleanor Roosevelt quote on setbacks: "You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ "
One wonders if she would have posted the same thing had she remained locked in prison and not returned to the comforts of mother Russia. But let’s not be cynical: Spies teach us many lessons. And I guess Chapman is no exception with her lesson about strength in face of fear. The spies sent by Moses to Israel, however, did not have the luxury to be swapped and returned to their homes. They ended up stuck in the wilderness, due to their fears. Their Facebook entry may have read: “Material life is too difficult,” it is a “land that consumes its inhabitants?” Our mystics teach us: We are all “spies” sent to a foreign and hostile world, to check out and discover the best way to conquer and sublimate the material universe and transform it into a refined and spiritual environment. But many setbacks and fears block our way to the “Promised Land.” The sin of the spies was that they questioned the very premise whether we can fulfill our mission. Our question must always be not “whether” we can do it, but “how” we can…
Gov Patterson’s Red String
Last resort or not, Governor David Patterson has turned to wearing a Kabblah red string to help control his misfortune. The Kabbalistic Governor is the most recent celeb-goy to sport theses trendy bracelets.
Not sure whether the Governor knows that the red string was especially potent to protect pregnant women or newborn children. I am always amused by red-stringers and other amulet wielding celebrities trying to ward off the “evil eye,” while engaging in dubious behavior. Not to suggest any impropriety by the Governor, but perhaps the best way to protect yourself from “evil spirits” is by exemplary behavior, refinement and just simply being a mentsch – so that everyone you meet recognizes your moral standing. Talmudic question: Will a “red string” protect an obnoxious criminal? True Kabbalists were always of the idiom: “Those that know don’t say; those that say don’t know.” Before dabbling in exotica – satisfying our voyeuristic tendencies –let’s just be kind to each other. Those donning the “red string” (especially the gourmet version bought at a boutique) should perhaps be concerned that their blatant need for protection may end up being a “red herring”…