Thoughts on the Week 1 September 2016


Introduction: This brief comment is in memory of the Rabbi’s late mother (Brainah Leah bat Moshe Aharon) and for all those who read Tehillim for the sake of others.

Chapter 6: The 6th Chapter of Psalms is attributed to King David’s authorship. The 1st verse appears to provide instruction how it was sung, what instruments were used and when it was performed, presumably in the Mishkan and then in the Temple.

This chapter would be for anyone suffering from sickness or distress or even for the people of Israel while suffering through oppression. It addresses 3 listeners; the supplicant, G-d, and the enemies.

חָנֵּנִי ְה, כִּי אֻמְלַל-אָנִי: רְפָאֵנִי ה–כִּי נִבְהֲלוּ עֲצָמָי.  Be gracious unto me, O LORD, for I languish away; heal me, O LORD, for my bones are affrighted. (Psalms 6:3)

With pathos and a hint of self-pity, the supplicant beseeches G-d’s forgiveness ‘because in the nether world, who can offer You praise?’

יָגַעְתִּי, בְּאַנְחָתִי–אַשְׂחֶה בְכָל-לַיְלָה, מִטָּתִי; בְּדִמְעָתִי, עַרְשִׂי אַמְסֶה.  I weary with groaning; every night my bed swims; I melt away my couch with tears. (Psalms 6:7)

Similar to other Psalms, it comes to a redemptive end; feeling renewed, the penitent turns to condemn his enemies and ask G-d to ‘receive my prayers’.

שָׁמַע ה, תְּחִנָּתִי; ה, תְּפִלָּתִי יִקָּח.  LORD, hear my supplication; Oh, G-D receive my prayers. (Psalms 6:10)

The Late Gene Wilder (Jerome Silberman)

This past week the Jewish comedian, actor writer and director Gene Wilder (Jerome Silberman) passed away aged 83. He too was part of a remarkably successful, American-driven Hollywood entertainment scene during the early 1970s.

There are several lengthy interviews available for anyone interested. In print, there’s this excerpt from The Scroll. Taped interviews are available on YouTube, this biography was done when he returned to theatre after 35 years hiatus.

Wilder brought an uninhibited silliness and hysterical madness to his performances. He was described by Leonard Nimoy as having a soulful sensitivity with an energetic mania. Though not Hebrew-educated, his Jewishness was highly evident on screen especially in the films he collaborated on with Mel Brookes.

For those who grew up in the 1970s, he endeared to audiences what it meant to be Jewish. One favourite scene is from Frisco Kid, an 1850-s Western where Wilder plays a Polish rabbi on-route to head a community in San Francisco – co-starring young bank robber Harrison Ford. Captured by a native Indian tribe, Wilder guides them in a hora-style rain dance while singing in a Polish shtetel-accent Or Zaruah LaTsadik (a light is planted for the righteous).

We pay tribute to a man who helped many find humour by challenging our notions of normalcy, overriding them with concocted absurdity. Later in life, Wilder summed up his own contributions by saying that he ‘wanted to bring beauty to the world’.

He was a man who knew suffering and by experience taught others how to laugh at pain. A talented watercolour painter, he was also an active public advocate for cancer prevention raising millions of dollars for both ovarian cancer and Hodgkin’s Lymphoma research.

In all his many personas, may he rest in Peace!