Shaarei Shamayim

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KI TAVO 5772

KI TAVO 5772 

Is it cool to be Jewish? Well I think so and apparently others do as well. Just listen to the words from Adam Sandler’s famous “Hanukkah Song”:

               When you feel like the only kid in town without a x-mas tree, here’s a list of People who are Jewish, just like you and me:

               David Lee Roth lights the menorrah,

So do James Caan, Kirk Douglas, and the late Dinah Shore-ah

               Guess who eats together at the Karnickey deli,

Bowzer from sha-na-na, and Arthur Fonzerrelli.

               Paul Newman’s half Jewish; Goldie Hawn’s half too,

Put them together—what a fine lookin’ Jew!

               You don’t need deck the halls or jingle bell rock

Cause you can spin the dreidl with Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock!

               Put on your yalmulka, it’s time for Hanukkah,

The owner of the seattle super sonic-ahs celebrates hanukkah.

               O.j. simpson—not a Jew!

But guess who is...hall of famer Rod Carew

               We got Ann Landers and her sister Dear Abby,

Harrison Ford’s a quarter Jewish—not too shabby!

               Some people think that Ebeneezer Scrooge is,

Well, he’s not, but guess who is: all 3 stooges.

               So many Jews are in show biz—

Tom cruise isn’t, but I heard his agent is.

By the way, Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes picked the name Suri for their daughter because in biblical Hebrew it’s a variant on the name Sarah, “princess.” Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt named their daughter “Shiloh”—after the Biblical city where the Tabernacle was placed by King David. We have Madonna studying Kabbalah, not holding concerts on Shabbos, visiting Israel for Rosh Hashanah. Mattisyahu, a Lubavitcher Chassid clad in black hat and tzitzis, is now atop the rap music charts. There were 2 Orthodox contestants on “The Apprentice.” On the “National Spelling Bee” 2 of the words used for the contestants were: Yizkor and Hechsher. The Wall St. Journal reports that non-Jewish children in Long Island are asking for Bar/Bat Mitzvah parties so that they can also be lifted on a chair and celebrated. What in the world is going on? It all leads to inescapable conclusion that Jewish is cool.

There has been a recent trend for non-Jewish celebrities to wear Jewish jewelry. Sarah Palin sometimes wears a big Magen David pendant and Elijah Wood has a ring inscribed with a quote from Pirke Avot, Im lo achshav eymatai, “If not now when?” Then there are all those red-string bracelets worn by Madona, Demi More and Ashton Kutcher—not to mention Justin Beiber’s new Hebrew tattoo he got in Israel. But while so many non-Jews think it’s cool to be Jewish, alas, many Jews do not.  

One of my favorite actresses is Rachel Weisz because Rachel seemed to be proud of being Jewish. Once when asked why she didn’t change her name to a less Jewish sounding name she replied: Why? Jews run Hollywood.”

Her interviewer said “Exactly.” He had a theory that all the executives think acting’s a job for shiksas.
“Of all the self-loathing Jews in the world,” he said, “the most self-loathing are the Hollywood Jews. They don’t want to see images of themselves on the screen. That’s why Lauren Bacall had to hide her identity, and Winona Ryder changed her name from Horowitz.”

But Rachel Weisz refused to change her Jewish name for the sake of her career. And it’s been a great career with more than 10 movies and an Academy Award for her starring role in “The Constant Gardener.” But as I was looking last month in the Wall St, Journal’s glossy fashion supplement featuring Rachel Weisz can you imagine how surprised I was to find her in a photo with a big $6,400 diamond De Beers Christian cross around her neck? Recently, Weisz parted with her long-time companion of almost 10 years, Darren Aronofsky and married actor Daniel Craig—not Jewish, but he played many Jews in his films. Rachel Hannah Weisz, child of Holocaust survivors, how could you?

And then there’s Natalie Portman who won the Academy Award this past year for her role in “The Black Swan.” Her credentials as a Jew are noteworthy. Natalie Herslag Portman was born in Jerusalem, to an Israeli father, a physician, and American mother. Her grandparents were Holocaust survivors who settled in Israel. She grew up in Syosset, Long Island and attended the Solomon Schechter Day School and she speaks a fluent Hebrew. 

On the other hand, her family never affiliated with a synagogue. She never had a Bat Mitzvah. But she is vocally pro-Israel. You may recall that this past year she spoke out publicly about John Galliano, the now ex-Christian Dior designer and anti-Semite. Galliano was dining in a French restaurant and began an anti-Semitic tirade on a female diner at the next table. There is a video of him saying “I love Hitler.” Natalie was outspoken and said she would not purchase Christian Dior as long as Galliano was employed by the company, and he was fired.

So the question is, “Is Natalie Portman the next Sandy Koufax, a kind of poster child for Jewish pride and identity?” But Natalie just gave birth to her 1st child out of wedlock with  Benjamin Millepied—not Jewish. Natalie said on ABC News, “A priority for me is definitely that I would like to raise my kids Jewish, but the ultimate thing is to have someone who is a good person and a good partner.” So her conclusion is that being a good person trumps being a Jew.

And then there is Academy Award winner Gwyneth Paltrow who married Rocker Chris Martin. She named her 1st child Apple—Apple, can you imagine?—and the 2nd Moses. An article about her tells us: “Although often regarded as a WASP, the blond Paltrow is descended from a distinguished Russian-Jewish rabbinical dynasty called Paltrowitch. One ancestor was a rabbi in New York, and another established a congregation in Leeds, England.” Isn’t that nice? But what does it mean, “often regarded as a WASP?” That’s what she is now, isn’t she? And that’s what her grandchildren will be.

I could go on with many more examples, but you get the point. In today’s parsha Moses spells out to the Jewish people the blessings and the curses that will happen to them if they either follow Gd’s ways or if they don’t. The curses are frightening to read and they all happened to us in history at one time or another. But one caught my eye this year and wouldn’t let me go: Banecha uvnotecha n’tunim l’am acheyr, v’eynecha ro-ot v’chalot aleyhem kol hayom v’eyn l’eyl yadecha. “Your sons and daughters will be given to another people—and your eyes will see and pine in vain for them all day long, but your hand will be powerless.”

The commentaries point out that this refers to the Romans who selected the most attractive young Jews and shipped them to Rome to be sexual slaves. But in our day we don’t need the tyranny of Rome to take away our children to “another people.” They’re going by themselves and to a large extent, they come from homes where they saw that Judaism wasn’t practiced, wasn’t so important, that a relationship with Gd wasn’t a priority and so—as the curses predict—their sons and daughters are given to another people. And our eyes see and pine in vain for them but we are powerless.

As we approach Rosh Hashanah let’s ask ourselves, why should our children come home for a Rosh Hashana that lacks anything spiritual and turns into a just family meals and a fashion show? They’ll come home if we give them reason to come home. They’ll be Jewish if we show them how important it is for us to be Jewish. They’ll change if they see we can change. And we certainly can. 

You don’t have to become totally observant to be able to tell your children that going to synagogue is more than a 2 times a year experience—that being a Jew is an everyday experience that influences every relationship and everything you eat and everything you do. You must show them what more and more of the world is coming to know…that it’s cool to be Jewish. Let us recite with them the morning bracha found in the sidur: “Blessed are You O Lrd our Gd who has made me a Jew.” Amen!

                                                            Rabbi Mark Hillel Kunis

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