Tuesday, October 21, 2014
About the 23rd
1. About the 23rd
I have long had a bit if a pet peeve when it comes to the 23rd Psalm ("The Lord is my Shepherd…"). My beef is not with the words in the Psalm and certainly not with King David himself. Rather, I find it irritating how the 23rd Psalm has been converted into the "essence of the Bible" by popular culture. Nearly every single Hollywood film in which anyone reads any passage at all from the Bible, whether a soldier character or preachers or cowboys, will be reading the 23rd Psalm. In other media venues the Psalm is just as dominant. Many decades back in yesteryear, when I was a whippersnapper back in Philadelphia, and when it was still permitted (even mandatory) to read from the Bible each morning in public schools, it was almost always the 23rd Psalm. When American politicians want to show how interested they are in the Bible, they cite the 23rd. I find it repugnant.
It goes without saying that one cannot reduce the essence of the Bible to the 23rd. The Book of Psalms in its entirety is unrepresentative of the Bible in general. And within the set of Psalms, I do not see how anyone can even claim that the 23rd somehow "captures" the entire Book of Psalms, which is in fact highly heterogeneous.
The over-marketing of the 23rd is, in my mind, very poor taste. It has gotten to the point where I cringe a bit when hearing public readings of the 23rd in English, especially in films. The Hebrew version is sufficiently different so that I do not have the same gut response, for example when it is read in evening services on Shabbat and holidays. In Hebrew culture, it never became as over-marketed, saturated, and "commercialized" as in English.
Having aired my beef, let me also tell you about one of the loveliest renditions of the 23rd, one you really will want to hear. It is by the singer Uzi Hitman (pronounced Cheightman), who died in 2004. Hitman was a popular singer in Israel, known best for his children's songs and appearances on children's TV shows. He was a Tel Aviv secularist who hung with the local bohemians. He died at the age of 52 from a heart attack.
Despite being a secularist, Hitman had a long track record of writing music for, recording, and popularizing some religious songs. The popular tune for Adon Olam, which is today often sung in synagogues and on the pop radio, was written and performed by him. An album of his religious recordings was released after his death and has become quite popular (called Esa Einei). Some of its tracks are on youtube.
One in particular is worth emphasizing. It is this track: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Nm_O0RNrb8 . It begins with an old recording of a cantor singing for about 40 seconds and then it morphs into Hitman singing. The cantor is the Holocaust-survivor father of Hitman himself, and Uzi chose to record it in this interesting way. Based on an old Chassidic melody. After the first 40 seconds you will hear Hitman singing the 23rd. Take a minute and open the link. It will make your day!
2. "The Birth of a Nation" is an old film that glorified the Ku Klux Klan and was boycotted by all right-thinking folk, including in the entertainment world.
'Based on two historical novels, The Clansman, An Historical Romance of the Ku Klux Klan (1905) and The Leopard's Spots: A Romance of the White Man's Burden, 18651900 (1902), and a play, The Clansman (1906), written by a North Carolina lawyer turned preacher, Thomas Dixon Jr., The Birth of a Nation recounts the history of the Civil War and Reconstruction through the eyes and experiences of Southern whites who vehemently opposed the political and social progress made by newly freed African Americans after the Civil War. Much of the novel's tone, which Cripps describes as "a nightmare of interracial brutality, rape and castigation," found its way into The Birth of a Nation.' (from http://chnm.gmu.edu/episodes/the-birth-of-a-nation-and-black-protest/)
So isn't it time that the Birth of a Nation be set to music and staged at the NY Met? Surely the Mayor of NY will want to attend!
3. The world media are having conniptions over a few Jewish families moving into SIlwan, the area of the ancient City of David near the Western Wall. Funny how it is never news or controversial when Arabs move into Jerusalem's Jewish neighborhoods. The anti-Israel Ku Klux Klansmen think Jews should be prevented from moving into neighborhoods "where they do not belong." Can cross burning by BBC and CNN and Peace Now be far behind?
4. The "Occupy" Terrorists: http://www.frontpagemag.com/2014/dgreenfield/occupy-wall-streetferguson-thug-who-assaulted-jewish-man-at-anti-israel-protest-wont-be-charged-whate-crime/#.VEWo_L7uJJk.facebook
5. (from 2011) An Open Letter to an Israeli "Social Justice" Tent Protester