What ‘Shtisel’ tells us – The Jerusalem Post


‘hasdei HashemIs the memorable slogan and chorus of Shtisel series, the saga of a Haredi family in an ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of Jerusalem that continued last spring in a third Netflix season with English subtitles, much to the delight of its diverse and international fans of Jewish fans and non-Jews. The phrase, which translates to “the bounties of God,” is regularly invoked in gratitude for good news, but also in response to unwanted and unwanted news or information. In his bipolarity, he captures the essence of faith: the profession of believing in divine wisdom and providence, even when events escape human understanding and cause suffering. We have witnessed countless manifestations of corruption and violence around the world in recent years, and more recently, overwhelmed by the fear and uncertainty of the COVID pandemic. Is it any wonder that the practices and beliefs of the faith community presented in Shtisel to offer comfort and comfort, even to infidels?

Unlike the creators and directors of the series, Elon and Indursky, the cast of Shtisel do not come from religious backgrounds, but in their clothing, speeches and ultra-Orthodox manners, in all their singularity, they convey the universality of dreams and human struggles: the loss of a parent and a spouse, the search for a soul mate, romantic rejection, the desire for creative expression, infertility and even sibling rivalry. As viewers we are drawn to the unfamiliar and possibly off-putting appearance of these Haredi Jews in their frock coats, side locks and headgear and in their hearts and minds which turn out to work very much like ours. . We get to know the characters in their best and worst aspects, but even as they struggle against their less generous and darker instincts, love, and especially family love, triumphs for the most part. Shulem, the main character, is first presented in all the flower of his selfishness and narrow-mindedness: we learn very early that a girl is estranged because
of his opposition to his marriage years earlier, when at the moment of season 1 he is refusing financial aid to another daughter and son-in-law (Giti and her husband, Lippe) who would like to open a hardware store – s ‘thus setting up a spiral of tragic repercussions for this family. Widower Shulem’s ignorance and lack of judgment also play into his attempts to find a new wife, but unexpectedly in this process he comes to mourn the loss of his wife, Devorah, whom he seems never to have fully. appreciated during his lifetime. .

The evolution of dramatis personae in Shtisel is captivating, but almost ignored because it is so perfectly integrated into the fabric of the narrative as the role of God, which is always present, although invisible. A New Yorker article praising the impact and artistry of Shtisel included the revelation of a Norwegian Christian who Shtisel made him regret the childhood in Geula (the religious district of Jerusalem where the show takes place) which he never had. Along with viewers’ nostalgic identification with intergenerational family solidarity and connectivity, is it possible that some residual, perhaps archaic, feelings about living in a world defined by the belief and security in omnipresence and the authority of God also draws on their hearts? This is probably not the conscious or lived experience of most contemporary assimilated Jews or secular people in general, for whom a God-centered worldview has been further marred by association with the destructive efforts of religious fundamentalism. .

There is a great chasm between the world of Shtisel and representation in My unorthodox life, a recent release from Netflix, of ultra-Orthodox life as an oppressive system of rules that subjugate women and deny the pleasures and satisfactions of life to both men and women. The main fear of this reality TV protagonist, Julia Haart, who triumphantly escaped what she describes as a draconian system, while luring three of her four children into her new sybaritic empire, is that her youngest child fall prey to the evils of “fundamentalism.” This fundamentalism is hardly of the Taliban type, but refers to his son’s desire to abide by an orthodox code of modesty regarding behavior with girls and his lack of enthusiasm for his mother’s version of secular life, which is focuses on flamboyant clothes, an opulent environment and forbidden (non-kosher) foods. “All that glitters is not gold” could be the referendum on the exaggerated material world inhabited by Haart, especially in relation to the materially modest but spiritually rich landscape of Shtisel.

Although sometimes notes of mutual animosity and mistrust resonate, Shtisel does not enter into real conflicts between the ultra-Orthodox community and other segments of Israeli society. His view of religious life is benign and softly lit, reflected in the translucent and airy quality of the light of Jerusalem filtering through the narrow and crowded streets of Geula. Shtisel slips slightly on what elsewhere could be more harshly conveyed as a religious restriction, on women in particular, and on individual freedom of expression. Tovie, wife of Shulem’s son Tzvi Aryeh (who gives up her own dream of a musical career when he comes into conflict with Orthodox mores), skillfully maneuvers around her husband’s vetoes and both gets lessons in driving and a car – ultimately garnering the satisfaction of her husband’s approval of their new status. And while the problems posed by Akiva’s artistic vocation, particularly the Orthodox Jewish taboo on the depiction of the human figure, initially arise in heated conflicts with his father, they diminish over time as his family came to accept his dual identity as an artist and a resolutely practicing Jew.

Bad things happen to good people in Shtisel, and much suffering ensues, but God remains an ally whose intercession is sought in times of distress and need. Lippe, who like the prophet Jonah rejects the authority of God and scriptures in the wilds of Argentina, ultimately returns to his family and his original way of life. Although we never learn how he handles his temporary defection, in the final episode of Season 3 we see him on his knees, begging forgiveness and mercy from God on behalf of his daughter Ruchami, who is fighting for his life. . And although Ruchami’s young and fervent husband, Chanina, is a follower of halachic rectitude and rigor, his rabbinical mentor, Rabbi Soloveichik, invokes human mercy to cope with human anguish. Chanina stumbles upon a passage from the Talmud that confesses the salvation of someone accused by 999 people / angels and defended by one person / angel – fortifying her belief in his wife’s unlikely deliverance and supporting her in their common endeavor. The power of one, manifested in the defense and protection of another being, human or divine, is undeniable. The quest to be a better and more whole person is linked to religious values ​​and principles, just as the bonds of family love are an extension of the devotion and love of God in Shtisel. ‘hasdei Hashem to all its viewers.

The author is a clinical psychologist and psychoanalyst in New York. She has published in Azure, Encounter, Moment, The Forward, and Tikkun.

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