Choosing to become a Jew is sort of like deciding to be a doctor, based on what I've seen in friends' experiences and on Grey's Anatomy. Getting through the arduous process and taking a serious oath is only half of it; there is also the difficult task of narrowing down what kind of Jew/doctor you'll be. Within medicine, choosing a label may make things pretty black and white, e.g. neurosurgeon=operating on brains. And that also holds true for some Jewish movements, which come with clear community norms on what to do and what not to do, even if it goes beyond basic halacha. Since I was determined to take on observance while still living a modern life, however, I had to examine my choices within the context of my new perspective without having a knee-jerk reaction from either side. Meaning, I wasn't going to give up TV and movies solely because some Rabbis were strongly opposed to them, but I also wanted to consider any valid reasons to keep them in my life rather than just continuing to do what I'd always done.
I came to the conclusion that just as with all areas of my life, I couldn't operate in extremes. I wanted my Judaism to be strong enough to withstand any challenges to it, in real life or otherwise. I've definitely become much more choosy in what I watch, but I find that my favorite shows and films have stayed the same; who knew they were resonating with me on a spiritual level? With that in mind, I'd like to present a few Jewish lessons derived from the screen.
The Gift of Time: Groundhog Day. So many of us take for granted this mechanism which allows us to measure progress, achievement, a life. Bill Murray in his brilliance reminds us that each new day is a gift, and to be careful when stepping off the curb. It's a doozy!
Jewish Hospitality: What About Bob? Another Murray gem. Every one of us will be faced with a less-than-desirable houseguest at least once, but as this movie teaches, we can't only be kind to the people we actually like being around. We always have the opportunity to make a difference in someone else's life.
Beshert: Serendipity. I for one would rather be single than have a tool of a fiance who plays some weird flute for a living. But neither I nor Kate B. have to despair, because our soulmates are out there. Timing is everything.
The Damage of Lashon Hora: "Gossip Girl." Let's all pour out a little Manischewitz for the loss of our homie, GG. Actually, let's not, because it was DAN HUMPHREY. But I digress...everyone on the UES would have had much better lives if they all would have just stopped trashing each other on a gossip site. A bubble of superficial values is conducive to such behavior, but we Jews have the responsibility to use the Internet as a tool for unity. Let's not forget it.
You know you love me (because I'm a fellow Jew).