"Bar Mitzvah"

A review by Jenni:

What I love about this episode:

Several aspects of this episode made me think of what Christianity (Catholicism in particular) carried over from Judaism and what we've lost from it.  While I agree that an all Latin, all the time Mass had to go; it's kinda a shame we stopped learning Latin at all.  I admire that Judaism has retained some Hebrew in their services.  And on a less spiritual level, knowing two language is just plain good for you brain-wise.

I was really struck by Alan pausing to pray when he hears the ambulance.  Whether that's taught or just something he does, I dunno.  But if it is taught, that would be another similarity.  I was taught to pray the "Hail Mary" when one is heard.  (Random note: I'm 28 and still can't tell the difference between a police, fire, and ambulance siren... so I end up praying after them all.)

Kudos to the writers on introducing Pascal's wager!  And in a much better way than it was taught to me.  I was basically told it was "Believe in God because if He exists, yay for you!  If He doesn't, well, then you won't know any better cause you'll blink out of existence.  But if you choose not to believe in God and He does exist... big trouble for you!"  Behaving morally never entered into it as I was taught.  So while I don't think any version of Pascal's wager is enough to build a deep faith on, I definitely have greater appreciation for a take on it that pushes for moral behavior and not just a "save your skin" emphasis.

I wish I knew more about that lantern in the synagogue.  The "eternal light" Andrew and Alan discussed.  Because at church we also have a lantern that, as far as I know, is never not lit.  So I wonder if it, too, is carry over.  "God's light is eternal" is also a nice quote from Andrew in that scene.  Also "The Lord, our God, is near us."  Deut. 4:7.

"The prayers of a righteous man avail much."  So it's technically James 5:16 but I like that Tess says it to Ross.  Although, of course, I don't believe it applies only to men...

"You know, faith is a very powerful thing when you wrap yourself up in it."  There's a nice, more original Tess quote.

I thought Tess spoke very truthfully when she told Ross he kept his dad's tefillin cause a part of him must have still believed.  I spose it's possible someone would keep something for only sentimental reasons.  But I'm inclined to believe some trace belief or at least a desire to once again believe is often at the root of the decision to hold onto a religious item.

I thought the dynamics between Ross, Alan, and God were really interesting and much more complicated than I recalled.  I thought this episode was about a grandfather who lost his faith following a tragedy and couldn't imagine that his son held on.  And it's partly that.  But there's this aspect of Ross seeming to be actually jealous of God.  Alan trusts in God's power more than he does his earthly father's and that angers Ross.  That's a much more interesting route for the story to take, IMO.  Definitely more original.

Alan's "fan club" of students at the hospital was very touching.  And, I think, true to life, too.  A high school teacher of mine passed away recently and so many former students reached out to him.  If you ever hear a teacher who meant a lot to you is ill: at least send a note.  I did and I know that if I hadn't, I'd be regretting it now.

The sequence of Ross putting on the tefillin and saying the Hebrew prayer is really powerful.  Then when he starts in with his heartfelt and pained questioning of God about why his righteous son is dying while he recovered as a disbeliever... it really gets at the heart of what can make faith so difficult.

TBAA is full of quotes about coincidence and I especially like this variation from Monica to Ross: "There are no coincidences with God, only people who refuse to see the hand of God and the miracles that happen every day."

I just really like the idea of a second bar mitzvah.  It would be nice if religions had more to offer as far as marking occasions past young adulthood.

What I didn't love about this episode:

Just a minor gripe: When Alan is in the classroom and has a blurry episode, Andrew's peering at him with his head tilted down.  This is the same posture the demons often use when causing problems so it looks kinda sinister.  I would have preferred one of Andrew's famous straight-on compassionate looks... like he makes right after.

This isn't a complaint about the episode, just life in general.  Ross typifies the type of atheist who really bothers me.  Heck, he typifies what bothers me in theists, come to think of it.  It's not that I expect or even want everyone to agree with me on spiritual matters.  But I have little respect for people who belittle others' beliefs or act all haughty about their own as if it's just the greatest and the rest of us are so hopelessly mistaken. 

I can remember right about when this season originally aired, some people on one of the TBAA lists started to complain about how Monica cried all the time during revelations.  And I remember thinking "Really?  I hadn't noticed."  Well, I do now...  I'm all for tears but it really did seem to get to be too much IMO.

Lingering questions:
Has anyone ever been in a class where someone raised their hand to answer a question sarcastically?  This happens on TV (as here) *all* the time.  I have never personally witnessed it.  I've seen people give funny answers when they're picked and did not raise their hand, but I seriously have no memory of this cliche ever really happening in that manner.

What the heck was that bright green juice Ross was having Tess drink!?  What in nature is that shade of green and edible!?!

Andrew wearing the yarmulke made me wonder what elements of religious observance the angels can and cannot take part in.  Wearing a yarmulke seems pretty non-controversial since, as far as I know, all men (Jewish or not) are expected to wear yarmulkes in synagogues.  But I just wonder about what they'd be able to sing and pray, what religious gestures would be permitted, etc.  Cause sometimes there's a fine line between being respectful of a religion and seeming to express it as your own.

Who knows what tefillin are?  Granted, I couldn't spell it without checking but I knew what they are.  So is it realistic that Ross would be so surprised that Tess knew?  To me that seemed kinda weird but it's possible I only know what tefillin are from Theology classes which I know not everyone takes.  Although, actually, I may have learned about them from Chaim Potok's The Chosen.

Just something I wondered about: Was that really Kirk Douglas' dad in the photograph of "Ross" and his dad?

I could have sworn that I once read in an angel book that, in Judaism, it was thought that when a person was dying the angel of death stood at the foot of their bed.  So in the scene where Alan was dying, I thought it would have been better if Andrew was in that location.  However... I can now find no such indication of this belief.  So... I'm thinking I may have dreamed it.  But has anyone heard of this?

I don't have a section for answered questions so I'll put this here.  When I watched this, I was trying to remember who Jack Duvall, to whom this episode is dedicated, was.  And I had an inkling that he was John Dye's grandpa.  After some research, I've verified this.  So if anyone saw that and wondered, now you know.  I remember praying for Mr. Dye and his family at the time.  And this was a good reminder to do that again.  I lost my grandpa a couple years before and I know even years later there are still very hard days.

Parts that made me feel swoony:
Honestly... I think I really am starting to prefer Andrew's short hair.  I don't even quite know why.  Maybe it's some reference to my own past long forgotten by me. 

I love that Andrew shoves the dumpster to save the baby.  Not only am I obviously glad the baby was unharmed but I just wrote a story scene in which Andrew behaved in such a Search and Rescue like way.  But I couldn't, at the time, recall a TBAA scene in which Andrew seemed more S and R than anything.  But here's a good example!  I love when I write something and am kinda iffy on whether it fits with what the show gave us... and then discover it does!

Is it wrong that I just really love Andrew in that yarmulke?  Thank God he didn't have a prayer shawl cause I really am drawn to those.  Some of my favorite Andrew moments are when he's prayerful or especially holy seeming.  So yarmulkes and prayer shawls play right into that particular element of my fascination with him.

Gah.  I am still such a theology nerd.  I swear Andrew got, like, five times more attractive when he was explaining what "mitzvah" is.  I'm glad the TBAA writers didn't have him running around as a theology teacher, priest, rabbi, etc.  I don't think I could tolerate being any more obsessive and that would do it!

I just love that Andrew assures Alan he's praying for him.  That's such a powerful thing to have someone say to you.

Random thoughts:

Music:  You can hear some sorta music at the gym but I couldn't even hear well enough over the clanking machines to know if it had words.

This episode is meta-sad.  We were just talking on the YG about how much more emotional the Ross and Alan scenes are now that Michael Douglas has been diagnosed with cancer.

Scenes Hallmark cut:
-THC cuts a bit right before the "who gets to say 'cut'" disagreement between Ross and Monica.  Basically, you see Ross on his stationary bike surrounded by 4 other senior citizens.  He talks about the need to exercise daily after a stroke and say that a stationary bike is perfect because you can't tip over. 

-They also cut a scene of Ross entering the hospital.  He makes his way through a sea of Alan's students and comes to Andrew and Alan's wife, Connie.  He asks them who all the people are and they explain that they're Alan's students and came as soon as they heard he was there.  Alan's wife tells Ross that they love and respect Alan.  Ross says he's proud of his son.  Connie voices doubt about that and asks Ross when the last time was that he told Alan that.  Andrew shares that one of the students told him that Alan was voted the most inspirational teacher almost every year over 10 years.  Andrew comments that this is quite an accomplishment.  Ross says that he wished someone had told him.  Connie counters that Alan did tell him the first time but in
response Ross just asked if he'd finally get a decent salary.  Ross looks bothered by this revelation.  Connie then excuses herself to pick up Aaron.  Ross turns to Andrew and asks if he said something wrong.  Andrew explains that Connie and Alan find more worth in the human accomplishment than cash value.  Ross responds that he appreciates both and then leaves.  Andrew looks on after him.

-A segment towards the end originally began with the three angels at the shiva.  Andrew comments that Alan touched a lot of lives.  Monica asks Tess if that's what makes a man: touching a lot of lives.  Tess responds that it's part of it but that all of our traditions like sitting shiva, bar mitzvah, confirmation, weddings, etc. are designed to bring people together in times of joy and need.  She goes onto say that "God asks His children to do just two things: turn to Him and turn to others in love."  And, according to Tess, we do that best when we have the faith and humility to use God's resources in those times.  She says that's what makes a man... or woman.  Then Ross enters which is where THC starts the act.

Further on down the road...
So I've been doing a sort of independent study/self-imposed research assignment on the Holocaust and Judaism.  That's why I've been so sporadic with site updates.  But I'm now done with that and, coincidentally, this is the episode I get to watch now. 

But first to get this out of my system...  I know lots of people loved The Bible miniseries.  I would agree there were some great parts.  However, I didn't really care for it and I was totally put off by Mother Mary leaving Jerusalem on Sunday before Jesus rose.  Why?  Watch this episode.  Sitting shiva has been around for a good long time (I read it originated with Joseph mourning Jacob) and I really find it pretty unbelievable that a Jewish mother in Jesus' time would skip town a mere 3 days after her child's death when one's supposed to sit shiva for seven days.  It would have been one thing had they demonstrated that Mary had family back in Jerusalem to sit shiva with but they did not.  So, as it was, I thought it looked like really bad.  It's not that I'm a slavish follower of either religious law or tradition.  But it's just plain about respect...  So I'm glad TBAA at least included sitting shiva as is appropriate.  It's just unfortunate that I already know that once it comes up, I'm gonna jump right to being annoyed about that bit in The Bible.  Seriously need to let that go...

Complication... cue Andrew.  ;-)  Poor guy.

I'd like to know what it was Alan prayed when they heard the siren.

Andrew shows back up at around 11:00.  I totally forgot about this scenes between him and Alan.

I still love Andrew shoving that dumpster.  Studly.  And, of course, very glad that it saved Alan from both being harmed and harming others unintentionally.

I really do love the scene between Alan and Andrew in the synagogue, especially when Andrew assures Alan that he's already praying for him.

I like that TBAA did depict characters without faith who were still good people.  Too often I think atheists and agnostics can be vilified in religious/spiritual shows/books/etc.  But Ross really loves his family, he's trying to make a difference in people's lives, and he does honor Alan's request to look for the tefillin even though it's not meaningful to him personally.  Sure he's got a massive ego but so do some Christians.  I guess I'm glad he's a real character and not a caricature.  

Andrew's got a heckuva lot of patience.  I'm afraid that if I had to explain personal accomplishment v. cash value to someone, I'd probably be kinda jerky about it.  Like "Cause maybe they think what he's been able to do for others is just a lil bit more important than the old paycheck, jerkface."  Then he goes onto tell Aaron that his grandpa is a " very... determined man."  I'd a gone "prideful."  Much nicer than me!

I like how they shot part of Ross' prayer from above.  Very moving.

So I'm glad I did that research.  I now understand Alan's death scene more and why he asked Andrew if he had time.  The Shema is supposed to be the last thing a Jewish person says before death.

I wish Monica woulda passed Tess' words about sitting shiva off to Mother Mary...  (Note: "Mother Mary" is to me a TV character.  A TV character based on a real person but still a TV character.  I have never used that name to denote actual Jesus' actual mother.  So I'm not saying anything against the real Mary of Nazareth.  But, yeah, I have some issues with Mother Mary.)

I wish we'd kept prayer shawls in Christianity.  I'm not sure if the "prayer blankets" I'm increasingly seeing are an attempt to bring an iteration of the shawls back or if that's something entirely different.

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