Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Srugim סרוגים- Ana Efneh - Where do I turn?

As some of you may or may not know, I often struggle to define myself religiously, and sometimes find myself searching for my place as a young, modern Jew who believes in the centrality of halacha as a divinely-guided plan in a confusing world, one in which I wish to be a full participant. One one hand, I look for a community which has a similar outlook to both Jewish law and modernity - will it be found among the Conservative movement, in which I was raised, or in liberal Orthodoxy, which attempts to find avenues for openness and womens' participation within a traditional halakhic framework. For now, I sit on the fence, torn between these two communities and visions which each offer different opportunities and ways to confront challenges.
As a student at Columbia and JTS, I am part of a community of others my age who are confronting the same challenges, and a diverse one in which a variety of views are represented. After watching the first season of the Israeli Drama Srugim, (referring to a kippah srugah, the knit head covering worn by religious zionist Israelis) I now have immersed myself in an Israeli community caught trying to maintain a similar middle ground between age-old values and modern pulls.
The series takes place in an area of south Jerusalem known as הביצה של קטמון, the swamp of Katamon, a neighborhood filled with religious Zionist Israelis in their mid to late twenties, many of whom are single and caught in the overwhelming dating scene. Along with the romantic adventures of the show's 5 main characters, Yif'at, Reut, Hodayah, Amir and Nati, they confront other philosophical and religious challenges as well.
Reut on a number of occasions attempts to challenge the preexisting boundaries of womens' ritual participation. In the first episode, she makes kiddush for the group of her friends at Shabbat dinner, a practice becoming more accepted and mainstream in the Modern orthodox community. In the show it is questioned, but nobody prevents Reut from fulfilling this mitzvah, showing an understanding of a woman's inherent equal obligation for Kiddush. Later on in the season, continuing to challenge these boundaries, Reut approaches a student at Yeshivat Mercaz Harav who gives Bar Mitzvah lessons (Yochai, whom she dates for a while) asking to learn how to read haftarah, which she wishes to do for her father's yahrzeit. Yochai at first refuses, agreeing to make a tape for her, but gradually agrees to teach her. One of the pinnacles of the show comes at the conclusion of episode 9, as Reut reads the Haftarah for Shabbat Rosh Hodesh in front of a womens' prayer group, including her closest friends.
Hodaya attempts to figure out the essence of who she is as she equivocates with her identity as a religious woman. When we first meet her, the struggle is already evident as she has been studying bible academically at Hebrew University, an act of rebellion against her Rosh Yeshiva father. It is there where she meets Avri, a professor of archeology, and they begin a relationship, in which she fails to tell him that she is religious. Eventually, issues arise as Avri attempts to serve Hodaya pasta with meat and cheese, and she decides to violate Shabbat on another occasion rather than reveal her background. Without ruining the rest of the plot, it is enough to say that Hodaya's struggle with her own religious identity and her relationship with secularism and the secular world is extremely honest, and provides an important window into how real Israelis deal with the confluence of this two different worlds, and where they fit in.

Although there is so much more that can be said about the deeper meaning of Srugim, the overall message is best illustrated by the show's stirring theme song, - אנה אפנה Where shall I turn. Written with so many double meanings and hidden messages, it is more than just a song, but a spiritual modern piyyut (Jewish liturgical poem). The words of the song truly reflect not only the struggles of those in the Bitza of Katamon, but my own as well.Below you will find the music video, and Hebrew/translated lyrics (thanks to the blog 'The Muqata'):

I pursue Your laws, on the one hand
On the other, my passion pursues me.
Ashamed and embarrassed, I will enter Your gates.
And the long nights and the loneliness and the years,
And this heart that has not known peace.
Until the sea becomes quiet, until the shadows disappear.

אני רודף אחר חוקיך, מחד
מאידך תשוקתי אותי רודפת
בוש ונכלם אבוא בשעריך
והלילות הארוכים והבדידות ושנים
והלב הזה שלא ידע מרגוע
עד שישקוט הים, עד שינוסו הצללים
Where shall I go, to where will I turn, when Your eyes gaze upon me?
Where shall I flee, how will I not turn away?
Between truth and truth,
Between law and practice.
Between the days of yore and modern times.
Between the hidden and the revealed,
Between the world to come and this world.

לאן אלך, אנה אפנה, כשעיניך מביטות בי
איכה אברח, איך לא אפנה
בין אמת לאמת
בין הלכה למעשה
בין הימים ההם לזמן הזה
בין הנסתר לנגלה
בין העולם הבא לעולם הזה
I pursue Your laws, on the other hand my passion burns me
Fierce as death, terrible as troops with banners
The long nights and the loneliness and the years,
And this heart that has not known peace.
Until the sea becomes quiet, until the shadows disappear
Bring me back!

רודף אחר חוקיך, מאידך תשוקתי אותי שורפת
עזה כמוות, איומה כנדגלות
הלילות הארוכים והבדידות והשנים
והלב הזה שלא ידע מרגוע
עד שישקוט הים, עד שינוסו הצללים
Where shall I go, to where will I turn

לאן אלך, אנה אפנה
Wishes for a happy and peaceful 2009 - ברכות ל2009 של ששון ושלום!


Hellena said...

Thanx so much for your post i play that song over & over .my father just passed away a few months ago 'he was religious,i'm not but i
loved him more than words could ever say & he felt the same about me .i moved in with him & took care of him the best i could, he died in my arms. i wanted so much for him to see israel again with me but it was'nt meant to be. thanx again for the lyrics &such.
p.s. that song makes me cry everytime!

Jeremy Graves said...

Any idea where we could find a transliteration of the lyrics? My wife and I love the show, and we'd like to be able to sing along to the theme song, but we don't speak or read Hebrew, yet.

dorot said...