Friday, February 23, 2018

Haftarat Tetzaveh: What Dorothy Learned in the End... and Why it's All Wrong

Well, folks; this is my last Wizard-related blog post. I hope it hasn't been too arduous or redundant to listen to me pick apart the movie and search for Jewish messages under fallen houses and behind emerald curtains. Our last two performances are Saturday night, 2/24 @ 7:30 p.m., and Sunday, 2/25, @ 2:00 p.m. All are welcome! And then, I promise, I'll stop talking about Oz once and for all. Probably...

They were so close. They almost, almost got the message right. But then failed completely. The lingering sound byte is good, right? What is (perhaps) Dorothy's most famous line? "There's no place like home."
Lovely. And it still rings true to this day. But in both the movie and the show, Dorothy's explanation of what she TRULY learned after this long journey - the conclusion that leads her to declare "There's no place like home!" - seems totally off to me. Before I remind you what Dorothy says, take a minute and think about it for yourself. Go on; I'll wait. What does this epic quote mean to YOU, and what is the lesson that you believe it should be imparting? How and when do you feel it's been an important principle in your life, if ever, and how do you then pass that on to others in your family and community? And then the real question is: How did Dorothy get it SO wrong???

Ok, ok, so let's look at what she actually says. At the end of the play/movie, after the Wizard has flown off in his balloon and all seems lost. Glinda, the "Good" Witch, appears and reveals to Dorothy that she had the power to return home all along, but she had to learn "The Lesson" for herself first. And the lesson, according to
Dorothy, is: "Well, it's that... if I ever go looking for my heart's desire again, I won't look any further than my own back yard, because if it isn't there, I never really lost it to begin with. Is that right?" To which Glinda smiles and nods, "That's all it is!" And to which I shake my head and scream, "NO! That's not it at all!!" Think about it: Should home be a place you're afraid to leave? Should the message be that we should all remain where we started and not seek adventure or difference, that it's important to be content with our lot in life and the circumstances we find ourselves in? OR, should that same sentiment - There's no place like home - be about grounding ourselves and learning important values. Feeling loved, encouraged, self-confident, and compassionate in our home environment... SO THAT we can go out and make the world a better place???

The way Dorothy describes it, she never should have left in the first place! Her journey through Oz was a mistake all along, and she's lucky to have finally realized it's better to never, ever leave your home and your backyard.
We, as Jews, are no strangers to epic journeys. We have also been ripped away from our homes in a "tornado" of destruction, and been forced to navigate strange lands, with people in weird clothing, eating odd foods, and with enemies who seem to hate us for no good reason. The Haftarah for this week's Torah portion, from the Prophet Ezekiel, comes from the period right after the Babylonian Empire destroyed our "home," our Temple in Jerusalem, and dragged the majority of Israelites back to Babylon in chains. And there, in exile in 587 BCE, Ezekiel preaches to the people about "home," about a rebuilt Temple someday in the future, somewhere, far, far away. And THAT is why this bothers me so much. That is why I get animated about Dorothy's supposed lesson; we KNOW her story!

But the lesson we learn is NOT to sit on our hands and accept our circumstances. If someone tries to do us harm - whether it's anti-Semitic, xenophobic laws... or a mean old "witch" trying to kill an innocent dog - we stand up to tyranny! EVEN when the journey is long, and even if we have to shake up the status quo and risk things
that are "easy" or "convenient." And one of THE central reasons we've survived for millennia, is because we've redefined - again and again - the word "home." It isn't a physical place that cannot be rebuilt or moved if destroyed. No, it's community, it's our Torah, it's our portable synagogues and our religious traditions that can NEVER be taken from us. One Temple was destroyed (the only one we'd ever known, in fact), and right away, Ezekiel begins to preach about building a new one on that same spot. So yeah, I reject Dorothy's conclusion. One's back yard is NOT the only place to look for your heart's desire. There's a whole, wide world out there to discover, but we're better equipped to explore and enjoy it, if we are first grounded in values and stability that give us the tools we need. It IS possible to get those tools from many different sources. But you know what the best place is? You know where you should start that search? Well, "There's no place like home!"

Photos in this blog post, once again, from our Ohev production of The Wizard of Oz (most courtesy of Allan or Shari Baron). 
1) A terrifying visit to see Oz, the Great and Powerful!
2) "I think her name is... Emily!"
3) "Can't you read???"
4) Preparing for a balloon ride into THE OUTER STRATOSPHERE!!

5) Curtain call

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