Facing the Absence of Music and Movies:
A Time to Mourn

I want the radio playing in the background while I write this. I want to feel the melody of a new hit single twisting in and out around my thoughts, like my own personal soundtrack. I want the instrumental and vocal cushion that keeps itself demurely in shadows but allows me the comfort to type in the non-silence. But it is the Three Weeks, the time our people intensely mourn the loss of our Temples, both of them, and our subsequent exile, a punishment still being served. It is a time when we do not celebrate; we do not buy new clothing; we do not listen to music; we do not go to the theatre. We do not go to the movies. So, I am a movie critic who cannot see a movie and a writer deprived of music to write to. I am reminded of a nation without a land and a religion without a Temple. I am reminded of this, and that is how it should be.

In 2002, there was great fear that the Oscars would be the next target of Muslim terrorists. 9/11 was still a gaping wound on the east coast psyche and the west coast was beginning to wonder when they would be hit. After all, if Bin Laden was after the seat of western sin and vice, what more potent hotbed could there be than Hollywood? Still, the stars gathered and twinkled on request, the statues were handed out, the show went over on time, and everyone enjoyed themselves thoroughly, according to publicists and agents asked the next day. It was an Oscars like any other Oscars, and it was this way specifically because it was an opportunity to show the world that “the show must go on” is the unofficial motto of the movies for a reason and that nobody shuts down Hollywood.

For most of the year, we Jews live our lives with very much the same attitude. Throughout our history, we have kept going, kept making history. We lose our land, we move on. We lose our Temple, we move on. We lose our freedom, we move on. There are very few countries in this world that have not, at some time, closed their doors to us or expelled us entirely. We have been persecuted and tormented. And each time, we pick ourselves up, dust off our books, and travel as far as we must to rebuild ourselves from the ashes. We are a nation of phoenixes.

But, for three weeks out of the year, we keep the customs of mourning. We grieve as if we have buried a loved one; we grieve for ourselves as if we cannot rise from the ashes. We stop. Suddenly, we are overwhelmed by the tidal wave of what we have suffered; we can no longer outrun our history. I hear no music while I write this. It forces me to hear what else I do not hear. I do not hear the Levi’im in the Bait Hamikdash. I do not hear the word of God out of the mouth of one of His prophets. I do not hear my voice mingled with others, with every other Jew, as we all miraculously fit into the courtyard of our Temple.

Since its invention, the moving picture has provided the public with a wonderful gift. The movie theatre is the home of escape. Thrillers allow us to forget the head colds. Dramas allow us to forget the laundry. Romances allow us to forget the loneliness. Comedies allow us to forget the tragedy. Musicals allow us to forget the tediousness. For many of us, two hours in a darkened movie theatre is exactly what we need to step back into our lives and keep going. It rejuvenates us. The whole experience, the dimming lights, the cushioned seats, even the popcorn and soda, don’t just give us a break from it all – they give us something better than it all. A mere ten dollars buys us instant elation. Each trip to the movies is a blissful holiday.

Holidays give us time to reflect on the upper potential of life. Holidays are times of joy, times of peacefulness. They are times when life is as good as it gets. There are no holidays during the Three Weeks. And, so, I do not go to movies, either. Let the rest of the year be accentuated by moments of movie magic. These weeks are not a time to feel rejuvenated. They are not a time to escape. They are not a time to move on. Business should not be as usual and the show should not go on. These weeks commemorate the darkest time in our history, the darkest time, not because of the bloodshed or the pain but, because we lost something very precious during these weeks. We lost our foundation, our ballast. Until we gain that back, life will never get as good as it gets. I know that I am still a member of a nation of phoenixes but, for now, we do not soar. We sit in the ashes from which we were reborn and we mourn. We mourn that there are ashes. And, while we do that, I remain a movie critic without a movie and a writer without a soundtrack. It reminds me of what else I am without.

 

Dodi-Lee Hecht

2006 NISHMA