From today’s Los Angeles Jewish Journal, here’s my review of Rabbi Yitzchak Etshalom’s Between The Lines of the Bible: A Study From the New School of Orthodox Torah Commentary, Published by Yashar Books, Inc. Brooklyn NY.
The original title of my review was: “The Unbearbale Pleasure of Torah Between the Lines.”
I wrote a sidebar that was meant to achieve a few simple things:
1. To disclose that I daven with Rabbi Etshalom in the Young Israel of Century City Early Minyan.
2. To reveal that Rabbi Etshalom is a sophisticated and fun man, not an ivory tower scholar.
3. To infuse a little fun into an otherwise straightforward review.
4. And, let’s face it, I can never pass up the opportunity to recommend a few great American, Japanese and Chinese films.
Anyway, the Journal cut the sidebar because they did not have the space.
But I do. And here it is.
Full disclosure: I’m a member of the Young Israel of Century City where I attend the early minyan. Guess who’s the Rabbi of the early minyan? Yup. Rabbi Yitzchak Etshalom. Okay, you’re thinking I have to give this book a good review. Well, truth is, I didn’t have to review the book at all. I did it because I admired and learned a great deal from this fine volume. Besides, Rabbi Etshalom and I have a pretty proscribed relationship. After services, the minyan gathers in back and everyone positively dives for the cholent. Here’s an example of what Rabbi Etshalom and I talk about. As you’ll see, we Orthodox are involved in, um, truly profound Torah conversations.
Rabbi Etshalom: So Robert, what’s the best Civil War movie ever made?
Me: Ride with the Devil, 1999, starring Tobey Maguire, written by James Schamus and directed by Ang Lee. A neglected masterpiece.
Rabbi Etshalom: Okaaay. Never heard of it. I’ll Netflix it. Have you seen any really good martial arts movies lately?
Me: Hero, starring Jet Li and the stunning Ziyi Zhang. Look for the battle scene at the calligraphy school. Poetry in motion.
Rabbi Etshalom: Netflix again. I happen to love Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.
Me: The sword fight in the trees, a true b’racha.
Rabbi Etshalom: Can you recommend any great Japanese movies?
Me: Akira Kurosawa’s The Seven Samurai. The greatest movie ever made.
Rabbi Etshalom: Oh, I’ve seen it, of course.
Rabbi Etshalom: Are you kidding, a classic.
Rabbi Etshalom: Noooooo, never even heard of it.
Me: Unbelievable film. It was produced in 1953, directed by the great Kenji Mizoguchi, and stars Machiko Kyo, absolutely the most talented and beautiful actress ever to appear in the movies. Mystical and terribly tragic. It’s like the most Jewish of Japanese movies.
Rabbi Etshalom: Great, this calls for more cholent.