Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Silently, For Me

Somewhere I have notes, I mean on the 2 movies and one play I saw this summer with magical realism at their core.  They were all related - one even referenced another.  I am working from memories inmy  head and heart; memories fueled by feelings.

Home.  What does it mean? I've been slowly working through Aharon Appelfeld's For Every Sin a book about a man who desperately wants to go home.  Through the whole book all he does is journey to a place that is no longer and to people who are neither in that place nor alive.

Billy Joel wrote, "I never had a place that I could call my very own, but that's alright my love, for you're my home (or something like that)."  A rabbi in the Gemorah said similarly that his wife was his home ("Ishti zu beiti" - or something like that.)

A place can be ours though we don't live there. Two people can find home in each other, even if  there is geographical distance between them. Where ever we grew up, like Dorothy, there will never be a place like it.  We're always looking for home. Someone wise once said, "You cant go home.  Now go home."

George Carlin rarely, if ever, made me laugh.  But from the first time I heard him - about 35 years ago - he  made me think.  He has a routine in which he compares baseball to football and he basically ranks on baseball as wimpy and lauds football as manly.  He uses the lexicon of each sport to prove his point.  One  of his observations is that in baseball the point is to go home.  He mocks that idea.  I wonder if that observation explains the deep connection American men have to baseball; the longing to go home.

Rabbi Yehudah HaLevi famously said that while he was where his body was physically, his heart was elsewhere - home, in the holy land of Israel.  Rabbi Nachman MiBreslov composed a prayer in which he didn't claim to long to be in Israel.  He prayed for that longing:

"Oh merciful and generous G-d... cause me and all of Israel to merit having longing, yearning, anticipation, and true desire to come to Israel...because You know how great the need is, how much I have to be there in the Holy Land in proportion to my great distance from You because in Israel is the essential foundation and source of holy faith.  There, in Israel, rest the roots of the broad holiness of the Jewish People.  It is the land that G-d is constantly inquiring after, the land of true life, eternal life, the beautiful view that brings joy to the world."

The Holy Land is a place of connection, of unification.  Legend has it that the Temple is built on a place where two brothers each wanted to give to the other more than they wanted to take anything for themselves. Jerusalem is called by King David the city that is bound together as one, and it is no coincidence that when you're there you tend to see everyone you know

I've been thinking about connection, and it comes in handy that I take my entertainment heavy. There were two films and one play I wanted to see this summer and it's July 31 and I've seen them all:

People think that Harvey is a play about a man who sees an imaginary rabbit.  I think that's a side point.  The essence of the main character, Elwood P.Dowd, is that he wants to connect to everyone he meets.  He was perhaps the first media man to sincerely convey the sentiment of hope that we can all get along.  And when people are around him they take his message in.  When Elwood meets anyone he offers his friendship.  In the course of the play he says to a cab driver, two doctors, a nurse, and a phone solicitor something to the effect of, "We should get together." They say yes.  And he follows up with, "When?"

Ruby Sparks, a wonderful new film, references Harvey, and of course the reference is to the rabbit.  What the works have in common is a study of the human need for true acceptance of and connection to other human beings.  Perhaps my least favorite line of the play Harvey is when he says that he used to like reality but gave up on it long ago.  He actually seeks a reality in which everyone extends and accepts friendship to one another, a reality in which connections between people are real (and there would perhaps then be no need for the camaraderie of mythical pookas). Harvey hasn't given up, he constantly seeks to create a better life for people.

Ruby Sparks is, similarly, a story about connection between people. It's about how we often form relationships with our ideal version of another, which amounts to little more than a relationship with our own selves and our ability to create and control.  If we're always telling someone how we want them to be then we end up needing to spend abundant time keeping up with the sculpture of them we're sculpting,  rather than allowing them to be there for us in a relationship and vice versa.  This is what Ruby Sparks is about, though if you blink you may think it's only the story of how a writer writes about himself having a relationship with his ideal woman and then she suddenly appears in his house.

At this point in the post it's time to write about the other movie I saw this summer.  However (though I will get to the film, I guess) I sit writing right now in the lobby of the Kings hotel in Jerusalem.  I stayed here for the first time (first time I ever stayed for pleasure in any hotel) and here I am  again.  I thought the issues with the Internet not working 3 years ago had to do with the fact that I was using their computers.  No.  So I spent a while on the phone with their IT guy and it seems to be working now, give or take.  I think the people who come here are generally not an Internet crowd - I guess it's hard to keep up up to snuff just for my tri-annual visit.

The plane got in around 4 AM. I got to the hotel at about 6. The room will be ready by 2.  Breakfast is included - for tomorrow. So I'm hanging in the lobby.  I figured I'd get breakfast at a cafe down the street.  I walked there and asked if they had a te'udah.  Te'udat kashrut? they asked (not a good sign).  No -they answered.  None at all? No.  So much for their food and free Internet.  (And so much for my trust in a relative who told me some years ago that the place he took me too had a te'udah - betach - even though there wasn't one on the wall and no-one in the placed looked remotely frum besides us).`

I left my stuff in the storage closet and went to the kotel for Shacharit, and words.  Someone on the verge of conversion recently gave me a note to put in the Kotel. It   is very important to them and I was worried to make sure to do it.  Done.  I came back to the hotel with only about 6 hours till my room will be ready.  I asked if I could trade tomorrow's breakfast for today.  No.  So I splurged on the dairy shmorgesboad of a breakfast and was able to get a bit of everything I wanted other than the omelets to order which had a Disneyland kind of line for them.

I'm right nearby the office of someone I usually visit when I'm here, someone who means a lot to me.  The last time I was here he gave me what felt like snappish, unsolicited mussar and it hurt.  So I'm wary about going again. I suppose avoidance is not the only way to deal with this.

So here I am in the holiest place on earth and I don't much feel like writing about a film.  But I gave you (you, who?) my word.  Safety Not Guaranteed is about connection and relationships.  Any review will tell you it's about a guy who takes out a personal ad seeking someone to go back in time with him.  A lot happen after he takes out that ad and it's answered by three cynical reporters, one of whom turns around and comes to believe - in so many things.  See it.

May we all be blessed to live in true reality filled with holiness, connection, dreams come true and maybe even some magical realism (don't you want Tinkerbell to stay alive?).


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wish your blog posts were collected into a book I could carry around with me. They're beautiful.

August 7, 2012 at 4:57 PM  
Blogger rabbi neil fleischmann said...

Wow. Thank you Anonymous.

I have a list of books in me. I birthed one about a year and a half ago and have a bunch more waiting to be born...

This post was big for me, and so - I really appreciate the comment.

August 11, 2012 at 4:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This post reminds me if this poem for some reason:
I like the Simon and Garfunkel reference in the title. It's cool because I was just recently listening to that song and trying to see if I could play it (definitely can't!). Really nice post. See you in school. Hope you're having a great summer!


PS I saw a guy playing his music. His name is Kris Orlowski. I thought he was really good. You might like him.

August 19, 2012 at 3:55 AM  
Blogger rabbi neil fleischmann said...

Thank you for the comment, poem, singer - Anonymous Tamar.

I really appreciated your letting me know about that poem, really like it (it's new to me). I wondered if that's the source of "every dog has his day." I googled and it seems it goes back way further than that poem, which was a bit disappointing. The poem feels so original.

I wonder if at that point he hadn't heard that expression. it doesn't feel right that he'd be using the phrase is it was a cliche or even known at all. Anyway, it's a great poem, I don't know that my post is on par or even related...

Thanks for getting the title - often there's some reference and yet all I hear is crickets.

I just listened to this-

He's good. He is a sound that I like. On the other hand he doesn't grab me as outstandingly original/different/fresh. Still, I'd rather listen to him than most pop music of today, it's pleasant to my ear.

Hope your summer's been good to great and that you're ready for a year of growth.

August 19, 2012 at 11:40 AM  

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