Happy almost-Passover to all! Check out my latest video for the inside scoop on this complicated holiday that, at the end of the day, celebrates freedom and encourages us to help the hungry.
Or, differently phrased, what is "Goyband" and why haven't any of us heard about it?
In reading about Natasha Lyonne in Wikipedia for a client (true story), I noticed the film title "Goyband" on her list of credits - drilling down I discovered it was a 2008 film that asked a burning national question: "What if Rent star Adam Pascal had been a 90s boyband success story who had fallen on hard times and had to take a gig at a Glatt Kosher casino?"
This was the central premise for "Goyband," whose name was then changed to "Falling Star" (the poster features a sheriff's Jewish star, get it, because he was a falling star and because Jews are involved?)
(Trivia about this movie you'll probably never see is available at IMDB - see screencap above.)
So why haven't you heard of "Goyband"? Having seen the trailer (see embed below), I can imagine it's for any number of reasons:
If you're curious - and believe me, I AM - it's available on Amazon for rental ($1.99) and purchase ($7.99).
The High Holidays provide an annual chance for us to examine and correct our behavior as we enter a new year. And for writers, they provide an annual chance to write about every aspect of the holiday. Since I haven't written in this space for a while, I wanted to share some of the pieces I've written about this season: some of them have borne the test of time better than others, but I find it interesting to revisit them and maybe you will too.
But first, my entry in IKAR's annual writing/reflection challenge - this year, we were charged to think about hope:
As an adult seeking hope, I think about many things. What I can do easily. What's realistic. What's a challenge, but still attainable. What is beyond my reach. I've never been one of those "if you put your mind to it, you can do anything" people, because I cannot win a Nobel for science, compete on American Ninja Warrior, wear white without spilling on myself, fly without fear. And then there are the wild cards that muck about with what’s possible. Fate. God. Destiny. Illness. Murphy’s Law. The Universal Random. Other humans.
Some people suffer and give up, while others cling to the smallest hope. When I suffer, hope usually hides behind a piece of emotional baggage while I track down and recite my mantras: that things will get better, that help is out there. I find some comfort in the Evening Prayer’s natural imagery, of night rolling into day and day into night, darkness to light and light to darkness, that there is a cycle that we can rely on, for better or for worse. This concept is important because we all face the danger of believing that a moment is forever: being in tune with gravity grounds us in a harsh, or sometimes helpful, reality.
I try to put hopeful things out there in the world. Last year, I wrote a piece for the Jewish Journal about empty apologies, noting that, "When words are hollow, they nevertheless contain a space of potential at their center." To this year's me, that sounds impossibly optimistic, but still rings molecularly, idealistically true.
I have three nieces and two nephews. Every once in a while, their eyes fix on me with a look of awe, marvel, appreciation. And when they see it, so do I.
In cultivating hope this year, I think two things may help. The first is to always see ourselves as those who love us see us. And the second is to cultivate a spiritual, and physical practice of hope and kindness. If we can use words to create the muscle memory for behavioral change, then perhaps we can use hope to create the muscle memory for optimism, whatever form that optimism takes: prayer, a hand extended, a heart opened, or letters that become words that can - if we are are lucky - reach the people who need them most.
This year, I also did a video about Rosh Hashanah resolutions.
Other readings (two of which feature the phrase "in the age"):
May you have a meaningful fast and may this year be full of many blessings, including health, love, happiness and abundant hope.
You've probably heard about the hit musical comedy "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend," featuring the immensely talented Rachel Bloom and an insanely talented cast of actors who sing, dance and act in every episode (although some of them not often enough - but more on that later), and helmed by Hollywood veteran Aline Brosh McKenna (you can read an interview with her in last week's LA Times here). The songs are tight lyrically and in lampooning/paying homage to musical styles ranging from Broadway musical to rap, from folk to country. I've written about Bloom & CEGF in this piece for the Jewish Journal, and connected her to Mayim Bialik for this interview with Bloom on GrokNation. (To date, the proudest match I've ever made. Yes, I'm a fan.)
So if you're experiencing "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend" Withdrawal, or want a crash course in Rachel Bloom, or if for some reason you haven't watched this show yet and want a taste of what it's about, read on - I've done the work for you and all you have to do is click on what interests you. Of course another cure for "no new episodes" is to watch or re-watch the first season. But you knew that. :)
1. Rachel Bloom started on the internet, then got her own show. Themes she plays with in her previous work range from Disney princess culture to Jewish holiday songs, and at all points, celebrating nerd culture and holding up a reality mirror that breaks down cliches. Some examples of her early work:
2. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend was originally developed for Showtime, then was dropped and picked up by the CW. A fun fact for us, but probably not for someone at Showtime. Here's Rachel introducing the cast of the Showtime pilot:
3. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is the story of Rebecca Bunch, a high-powered lawyer in New York who's looking for something more; she runs into her ex-boyfriend, Josh Chan, and decides to follow him to West Covina, CA. Check out the first look extended trailer below.
4. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend's songs are funny and honest, speaking truths in ways they've never been spoken before. Here are a number of my favorites.
"Sexy Getting Ready Song" - Skewers what women do to get ready for dates AND contrasts it with how men prepare themselves. Bloom also did a version of this in her Spanx as she was getting ready for the Golden Globes, which ended with the honest admission "I can't breathe."
"Good at Yoga" - In an attempt to show how okay she is with her ex dating Valencia, Rebecca goes to Valencia's yoga class, where (she imagines in song) Josh's new girlfriend makes her feel inferior in every way.
"Face Your Fears" - Paula, Rebecca's older best friend, provides some inspirational courage and some truly awful advice in an impressive and powerful ballad. Broadway veteran and hilarious powerhouse Donna Lynne Champlin knocks it out of the park and captures our hearts. This series is at its best when both RB and DLC are onscreen.
"Where's the Bathroom" - Or, as it is likely known, the Jewish Mother song. Any indignation over this song's broad Jewish mother stereotypes and heavy-handed Jewish-sounding music should be mitigated by the fact that many of those stereotypes are true, and that the song is sung by the incredible Tovah Feldshuh.
"Put Yourself First (For Him)" -Another anthem in the guise of self-empowerment, but in meta-form, critiquing the efforts women go through for men.
"I Give Good Parent" - You might be one of those people who's really good with other people's parents - showing them your best side in a way that has them wishing that you were dating their children. Rebecca is one of those people, which she explains in an often-shockingly dirty manner. (I've linked to the version that's less dirty.)
"JAP Battle" - A brilliant rap with very Jewy references, and yes, stereotypes, but rendered brilliantly. Did I say brilliant enough? Let me know if you need one more.
"Flooded with Justice" - This Les Miz style ensemble number has everything: towns in the San Gabriel Valley, flooding, legal battles, empowering the crowds, and - for some reason - B.J. Novak.
"I'm the Villain in My Own Story" - In a moment of self-reflection and insight, Rebecca realizes that her pursuit of Josh is harming other people. Great makeup and a reversal of perspectives that creates some balance for the viewers as well.
"Dream Ghost" - An airplane dream in which Rebecca's trying to work things out in her mind, with the help of a singing trio: Michael Hyatt, Amber Riley and Ricki Lake.
"Heavy Boobs" - "Dense like dying stars, I got them heavy boobs." Rebecca explains what heavy boobs are made of and how cleavage traps things in it. And she dresses as a scientist to explain. :)
"After Everything I've Done for You (That I Didn't Ask For)" - In the final episode of this season, Paula (Champlin, again, incredible) powers up for a song-reprimand, during which Rebecca realizes just how invested Paula has become in the Rebecca-and-Josh storyline. Powerful song. Powerful voice. And a kickass wrap dress. (I mean look at her -->>!)
Speaking of wraps, CEGF Season 1 has concluded, but the show has been renewed for a second season. Looking forward to more antics with this insanely talented and funny bunch of people next season. And until then, I'll see if I can find some more excuses to write about and tweet at them. :)
Every Purim, my spiritual community, IKAR, takes the opportunity to laugh at everything that they're so serious about during the rest of the year. IKAR is known for having left-leaning positions on a number of issues and for being committed to social justice and equality issues. Members of the Purim shpiel (let's say that translates to "comedy show") committee pitch ideas at a brainstorm meeting and some of those make it to "broadcast," including this fake commercial I wrote riffing on the concept of "progressive lenses." Enjoy!
I don't write here as much as I used to. I have other outlets. I have other commitments. Too many commitments, really. But it's here that I did such formative work, and it's here that some of my favorite pieces - rejected by other venues but always welcome here - still live. This place is still a home, still worth returning to, to visit these old friends, the unpublished dear ones.
One of these pieces is "The One That Saves Me," the piece I wrote about "Wonderwall," the iconic Oasis song that - whenever I hear it - also serves me as a reminder of Dave Burnett, my friend - and everyone's friend - who died at the age of 22 in a fall while vacationing in Petra. After writing it slowly over five years, I sent it to a bunch of places hoping for publication. But none of them understood. Was it a memorial piece? Musical analysis? A meditation on mortality? Could I make it more about the song? Or less about the song? Or could I rework to make it less emotional? Could I make it Jewier? Or less Jewy? It was too much. This piece meant a lot to me, and I didn't want to change it. So I gave it a home here, gave it a room in this house of Kvetch.
This year, with nearly a month of 2016 gone, Dave's yahrzeit is back again to remind me of how much we've all lost, which we all know and remember, and how much we've gained, which we often forget. We have lost him, and continue to lose him every year on this date and in this place and in other dates and places that remind us of him. And we are also embraced and somewhat comforted by the knowledge of how many people miss him, how big this community embrace really is, spanning ages and countries and languages and experiences. And we marvel at how many initiatives - scholarships and grants and other good works - have been done in his name and in his memory, carrying on his passion for connecting people and nurturing relationships. We would give them all up for more time with him. But that's not how it works.
I Google him sometimes. It seems odd to Google someone eight years after they're gone. How could there be sites I haven't seen or memorials I didn't know about? How could there be news about someone who's not here anymore? But there is news. There are sites. And there are memorials. We're creating them all the time. We verb our remembering, building memory actively. (Here's a list I found this year, of all the initiatives in his name, which notes the last update was 2014. Since then, there has likely been more.)
The world has changed since that January. He never knew ISIS or Snapchat or Justin Bieber, all of which are probably for the best. The people who knew and loved him have changed in so many ways, moving forward in their lives in ways they could never have imagined. Over the years, his friends may have drifted away from each other in ways that would have surprised him. But Dave is always as we remember him.
This annual march into memory is difficult. We are all acutely aware of what is missing. But it's a privilege to return to those memories, to live again in those moments when "Wonderwall" was part of the adhesive that bound us together so tightly in a bomb shelter in Israel, and we had paintbrushes in our hands, and every reason to believe everything was going to go on forever.
When all the roads are winding and all the lights that lead me there are blinding, I will always think of those times and of Dave, and realize anew that, as I originally wrote, Dave has become a point of light – we seek his wisdom and spirit to inspire and illuminate our way. May his memory always inspire and bless us.
I was beyond honored to have been invited to the White House on December 9 to celebrate the holiday of Hanukkah (#WHHanukkah) with Jewish movers and shakers from across the country at a party and ceremony hosted by President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama. (You can read more about the two parties - I was at the later one - here in Jewish Insider, and read my full, napkin-laden report here in the Jewish Journal. And watch this video uploaded by Jason Miller.)
In advance of my departure for DC, I asked my friends: was there anything they wanted to know about the experience? Here are some of those questions and the answers, divided into three categories: Latkes and other food-related questions, POTUS & FLOTUS, and miscellaneous.
Latkes and other food-related questions
How are the latkes? Is the president having apple sauce with his latkes? Sour cream? Sugar? But really, how are the latkes? Does the DC water make it like NY water does for pizza? How many latkes did you think you'd eat and how many did you really eat? I am really curious if there is kosher caviar and good Russian toppings for the latkes.
I'm hearing that some of you are curious about the latkes. The President didn't really eat with us, or open the event to a Q & A , so I don't know his personal preference, but there were latkes. They were small, almost like cocktail latkes, and tasted a little sweeter than expected. I probably ate four of them. Caviar isn't on my radar, so if it was there, I didn't notice it. And because it was a meat meal, there was applesauce, not sour cream. But if it satisfies your Yiddish curiosity, POTUS pronounces "latkes" more like "laat-kissss."
How are the sufganiyot?
Absent. At least I didn't see any. I took what I thought might be a sufganiya, but it turned out to be a mini-baked apple. Very delicious by the way, but not a jelly donut.
Back by (no one's) popular demand, it's JFNAGABingo, the unofficial and unsanctioned Jewish Geography-Meets-Scavenger Hunt way to meet new people at the Jewish Federations of North America's annual General Assembly (#JFNAGA) conference. If you're playing in-person in Washington, DC, don't forget to tag your bingo achievements with #JFNAGABingo and #JFNAGA so we can follow along with your conference bingo prowess! Enjoy!
I was honored to have been asked by three spiritual communities in Los Angeles to offer some reflections on my experience saying Kaddish for my mother at a community program on the fast day known as Tish'ah B'Av (the 9th of Av). These are the remarks I delivered (slightly edited for publication).
After the death of my mother in May 2011, I said Kaddish every day (more or less) for the full year. And I said Kaddish at three different shuls in Los Angeles, with many of you – it’s my honor to reflect on this ritual with you, with these three communities present. Also, my mother was a big believer in finding laughter whenever it was possible. So in that spirit, if anything I'm about to say strikes you as funny, feel free to laugh.
When I started my year of mourning, I already knew something about Kaddish – that there’s no mention of death in it, that the prayer is an affirmation of belief in God, and that the structure of saying Kaddish is meant to help the grieving to reconnect to community after a serious loss.
Over the course of that year, and revisiting Kaddish annually for Yahrzeit and Yizkor, I’ve expanded my reflection on the ritual, the process of attending daily minyan and the contents of the liturgy.
The short story: I lost my phone on the way to the gym. And then I used Find My iPhone and Facebook to find it, in about an hour. And now, I’ve been reunited with my phone. So if that’s all you care about, you can stop reading now. It’s all good.
But there’s also a longer story, with elements that are a little murkier than that three-sentence process. If you ask me, the longer story has more of an emotional impact than the shorter story does. Because it was Mother’s Day. Because I had just spent some quality time with one of my brothers and we talked a lot about our late mother. Because the night before, I dreamed about my mother. Because this is a time when I spend weeks at a time thinking about my mother, her physical absence, her spectral presence, her echoes, her impact.
Yesterday, I left my apartment, phone in handbag, heading to the gym. Although I usually park in my driveway (and drive on a parkway), I had parked on the street overnight, saving the driveway spot for my brother’s rental car. An old, beat-up almost-station wagon of a car was blocking me. I noted the handicapped tag hanging from the rearview mirror; while the driver spoke minimal English, I managed to convey to him that if he moved his car, I could give him the spot, and he complied.
By the time I got to the gym, my phone was missing. I searched my bag, checked my car, and found nothing. I went home, figuring I must have left it in one of my mansion’s MANY rooms. After I finished checking the servants’ quarters, I concluded that my phone was not in my house.
iActivated “Find my iPhone” from iCloud. Last location was at my address. Maybe it was in my car? iChecked my whole car, but no iPhone was iFound. iChecked iCloud again and saw that my phone was on the move, slightly north of where iLived, then across Pico heading toward Whitworth. I could track it as long as I had internet – but I didn’t have internet outside of my apartment…how was I supposed to chase my phone without my phone?
As I often do when faced with a problem I can’t solve, I took to Facebook, notifying the masses (a.k.a., anyone who wasn’t at a Mother’s Day dinner) that my phone was out there in the ether and that people should keep an eye open for it. A ridiculous instruction, I thought, but why not put it out there in the universe….
Finally, iCloud informed me that my phone had been “found” at 1217 Wooster Street. I jumped in the car and tried to find 1217 Wooster – it turned out to be just north of Pico, except nonexistent – where 1217 should have been was the Fu’s Palace parking lot. Was it inside? I asked the waitstaff and they said no. I wandered back out to the parking lot and looked around. No giant neon sign reading “YOUR PHONE IS HERE!” or person waving my phone around hoping I’d see them. Just a parking lot.
“Well, what do I do now?” I asked out loud.
Just then, a car rolled into the parking lot, an old, beat-up almost-station wagon of a car, with a handicapped tag hanging from the rearview mirror.I generally don’t remember cars. But thanks to a mother who spent a lot of time in a wheelchair, I remember handicap tags.
I poked my head into the car's open window and asked the man if he’d found a phone. “No,” he said. My heart dropped. Then he paused, and said, “phone, YES!” He communicated that it was inside with his wife and that he’d call her. She came out of the building – the family was going to Ohel Moshe for an event or a Mother’s Day dinner or something – my phone in her hands. I gushed gratitude, not believing that from "lost" to "found" had taken less than an hour.
As I left the parking lot, friend and Pilates teacher Andrea Hodos appeared. “Did you get the phone?” she asked. She explained that in response to my Facebook message, she called my phone and had spoken to the people who had picked it up. She knew where they were and was going to get the phone from them. So, even if my plea to the heavens hadn’t worked, my plea on Facebook would have.
Obviously, I burst into tears, once as Andrea hugged me and then again in my car before driving home. When I arrived at my apartment, I saw that all the electronic devices were blinking…there’d been some sort of power outage during the hour that my phone was lost.
None of it means anything, of course. Unless I start drawing lines of connection. The dream. The parking. The fact that this whole lost phone thing meant that I cleaned out my car and straightened up some things at home, something my mother would have considered a Mother’s Day present, for sure. The fact that it took both technology and people to bring this episode to a close. That my post resulted in Facebook comments from friends trying to help my situation and lift my spirits, reinforcing that what happens online can have real-life positive impact. That a loss of something of technological and social value coincided with a loss of power and control.
Like I said, it doesn’t mean anything. Except to me.
Monday night, Israeli-born, massively successful writer/producer Gideon Raff spoke to the Entertainment Division of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles in a Q & A moderated by CAA's co-head of Television Adam Berkowitz (who also chairs the Entertainment Division).
As a huge fan of Hatufim (and Homeland, and Tyrant, and Dig, although not necessarily in that order or in the same degree), I was thrilled to be there.
Raff covered some great material - here are some highlights:
Israel's PR Problem
In a brief comment about the BDS movement, he noted that it "should just be called BS," and that "some of it is just good, old-fashioned anti-Semitism." "Israel is a far-from-perfect place," he said, "but in our neighborhood, it's heaven." He also noted that actors, whether they're Jewish or not, when they're brought to Israel, they become "great ambassadors - they all came back in love with Israel."
Hatufim (Prisoners of War, the Israeli drama that was reinvented for American TV as Homeland) happened because Raff had written a very funny book about the Israeli dot com bubble and Avi Nir from Keshet asked him for a comedy. Raff gave Nir Hatufim.
Hatufim was inspired by the story of Ron Arad, a pilot who was lost on a mission in Lebanon in 1986, was held captive and is presumed dead. "We grew up thinking about what his life would be like if he came back," Raff recalled.
While Homeland's action centers on a CIA agent and features the story of one POW, Hatufim centers on three prisoners of war and their families. "We found a world of drama no one had tapped into," he recalled. "We pay a high price for bringing back our boys - we want it to be a happy ending. But captivity is hard to come back from," he said, calling it "trauma across the board," extending the POW experience to include wives and children, citizens and community. "We are all POWs," he noted. "Unfortunately, we don't have a shortage of POWs - we all have this in our own families."
The show also provided families with the tools for conversation, Raff reported, noting that POWs finally had the nerve to open up, and their families could finally ask questions about their experience instead of being "driven into anonymity and shame."
The day that Gilad Shalit was released was the last day of filming on Hatufim Season 2 - a few months later, Raff got a call from Shalit that he had loved both Hatufim and Homeland. Raff invited him to the set of Homeland, where he got to take a picture of himself choking Abu Nazir (a terrorist character on the show). (I couldn't find that photo online, so here's one of Shalit with Claire Danes.)
They are now planning versions of Hatufim in Russia, India, Turkey, Korea, Colombia and Argentina.
Raff has the whole storyline of Hatufim Season 3 in his head, but "I'm really busy right now" (an understatement, since he's got three shows currently on three American TV networks) "and it's such a personal show that I'm not letting anyone else write it."
"As a creator, it's bad to think about how you sell it, or how you get the audience to react," Raff said, calling it "noise." As a creator, he advised that you "drown in the world of the characters, in the world you would want to explore," then the message would reach whoever it needed to reach. "There's more creative freedom in a chaotic system," he said.
Of course, there will be producers' notes, but "you have to learn to take the notes not as something critical, but as something that makes it better."
The industry in Israel is very different in terms of budgetary scale than Hollywood. To give you an idea, Raff reported that he shot two seasons of Hatufim for the same budget he had for the pilot episode of Homeland. Also, having a small budget means "you have to be creative - Israel's an open market; you have to tell the story in a unique way."
He further explained that because Israeli TV is on a tight budget, they don't shoot by linear episode order, but by location. This means that they have to know more than the whole narrative arc, they have to have the entire season ready before they start shooting. (Actors in the crowd could not wrap their brains around this.)
When asked about shooting in the Old City of Jerusalem, Raff burst out with "God, those people are crazy there. The city dictates how you shoot the show," he said, noting that you can't set up a big American style actors' area there because of the Old City residents - "when people need to go, they go." He noted that most shots had to be with a camera on someone's shoulder, either in front of or behind the actors at all times as they twisted through the narrow streets of the Old City.
This is the story of a song that everyone seems to know, whether or not they want to. To describe it to you in a sentence would have been enough. But this song isn't known for its subtlety or its brevity. It's known for its repetition, its words that don't quite fit into the tune, it's barely-there-musical-tune reminiscent of the Pac-Man theme, and, of course, its repetition. So here's the previously untold story behind the music.
One Passover, before all of you were alive, a group of rabbis gathered in Bnei Brak. Rabbis were always gathering in Bnei Brak. In fact, you couldn't stop rabbis from gathering in Bnei Brak It was like their version of Vegas, except whatever happened in Bnei Brak - instead of staying in Bnei Brak - ended up well-documented in the Haggadah.
But this is not the story of things that ended up well-documented in the Haggadah. And it's also not the story of how contemporary Bnei Brak became the home not just to one of Israel's most ultra-Orthodox communities but also the Coca Cola factory. (That's got to be its own story, because, seriously?) It's the story of a plucky rabbi with a song in his heart who - like so many rabbis and non-rabbis before and after him - ignored his wife's plea to stay and help with Passover and instead went road tripping on a path of personal destiny.
Rabbi Dai Kvar was not the most popular rabbi in the village, but he had a way with those around him, always pointing out the obvious in a way that, though sometimes irksome, sometimes actually put things in perspective. It was this slavish adherence to the chain of events that led up to other events that would turn out to be his most annoying - and most enduring - quality.
One morning, Rabbi Dai Kvar awakened with a start. "If God had taken us out of Egypt, that would have been enough!"
"What ARE you talking about, Dai Kvar?" his wife asked, annoyed for what was decidedly not the first time during their marriage.
"I've got an idea, no, it's THE idea. This is the one, Bina, I'm telling you! I've got to take this to the Bnei Brak boys immediately!" And with that, Dai Kvar jumped out of bed, threw a few of his portable Talmud volumes into a bag with some toothpaste, dental floss and two rocks, one to use for deodorant and the other one to use to light a fire.
"Be careful not to mix those two up," Bina shouted at her husband as he ran out the door. "He always leaves right before Passover," she said, shaking her head.
Later, Dai Kvar found himself in the synagogue in Bnei Brak, its major feature was an ark to end all arks - attached to a one-hundred-percent-electricity-free system of pulleys, the ark most resembled a giant slot machine. If you were to pull the lever on the left, it would spit out a Torah rolled up to that week's Torah portion.
The head of the Talmudic Council, Rabbi Dave, spoke first. "I now officially call all the Daves of the Talmudic council to order."
"I thought that was my job," said Second Rabbi Dave.
"Nope, that's me," Rabbi Dave the Third chimed in.
"Dave 3 is right, it's his job," said Just Another Rabbi Dave, which was also his JDate handle. "Here. Take this gavel. I got it from my JD program at Pumpeditha University."
"You went to PumpU?" Rabbi Dave could barely believe his ears. "I went to U of Sura! They're both in the Big Two of State Schools...."
"Small world," said all of the Daves in unison.
"First order of business," said Rabbi Dave (the one who was the head of the Talmudic Council, that is). "Rabbi Dai Kvar brings us a proposal for a new song."
Once he was in front of his boys from Brak, Dai Kvar was more excited than he'd ever been. "Gentlemen, I have a new song that traces our steps from the desert and toward a land that forged our peoplehood. My new song idea is so money that it doesn't even know how money it is."
"That's great, Dai Kvar, but how money is it, exactly? Is it more than two zuzim? Because I've got that number in my brain for some reason," said Reb Dave Gadya.
"Do you have a tune?" asked Just Another Rabbi Dave. "Who knows one?"
"It's got to be epic," said Rabbi Dave 3. "It should be grandiose, melodic and hauntingly beautiful as it helps us recall our years of oppression and subsequent redemption!"
"No," said Second Rabbi Dave. "It should be a still small voice, like God's in the wilderness."
"It should be intricate and unwieldy, but irresistible, maybe featuring lots of animals," said Reb Dave Gadya.
"Always the animals with you, Reb Gadya," Dai Kvar noted.
Reb Gadya shrugged and smiled. "I never had pets," he said. "But I always wanted one. Even just a worm to play with."
"A worm! That's it!" Dai Kvar exclaimed. The Daves stared at him, puzzled. "My friends," Dai Kvar explained, "we all know the story of the shamir, the giant worm that had the power to cut through stone, iron and diamond and which King Solomon is said to have used in the building of the First Temple in Jerusalem? Is there such a thing as a shamir that can live inside the skull, cutting through the noise and annoying someone but not actually harming them in any way?"
"Wait just a minute...are you talking about an ear worm?" one of the Daves asked. Dai Kvar thought about it. That was exactly what he was talking about, and he nodded vigorously.
"With the agreement of the Council, I'd like to create an ear shamir. I have just the chord progression," said one of the Rabbi Daves, but by this point, even Dai Kvar wasn't sure which one.
"Thank you for stepping forward, Rabbi Dave. So how many verses will be enough for this ear worm?" Rabbi Dave (the head of the Council one) asked.
"Well, musically, only one verse is necessary," said Rabbi Dai Kvar. "But one verse is super-boring and only children will get a kick out of learning and performing a long song, so let's compromise and say...14 different lines. And that we'll sing 'da-dai-yenu' after every line to make sure the song lasts as long as possible."
And the Daves took a vote, and it was a unanimous decision, except for Reb Gadya, who suffered from a hanging Chad and subsequently had to move to Florida to vote in the 2000 US Presidential Election.
And so it came to pass.
And that's why when you sing Dayenu, it's not just a song acknowledging the significant milestones that the Jewish people reached on their journey out of Egypt and to the Holy Land, but a summary of how that song makes you feel.
That is why it always feels like one verse would have been enough.
"Come along and sing / the story of a king...Haman's gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, hate..."
Last night at IKAR's Purim Justice Carnival, as part of #SHPIEL2015, we gave Taylor Swift's "Shake It Off" earworm the Purim treatment - a few people have asked me for the lyrics so here they are...!
Download Shake a Grog-final lyrics.pdf (59.6K) - lyrics by Esther Kustanowitz and Michael Silverstein, 2015
(Plus, your scrolling bonus, a 2014 flashback - the famous "IKAR Drug Commercial." Happy Purim!