Modern and Ancient PR Disasters

10 Oct

Up and coming 22 year old Israeli model Bar Rafaeli has made the headlines a few too many times these past two weeks, first here in Israel, and now abroad as well.  Instead of sticking to the normal lingua-de-model –  you know, things like, “I just love everyone I meet” or “My one wish is that there be world peace”- Bar chooses to bring attention not only to her sexy looks, but to her sassy mouth as well. 

Answering a question posed to her by a Yediot Aharonot reporter, this blonde and icy blue eyed Israeli icon unabashedly replied, “I don’t regret not having been drafted into the army, because I made out big….What does it matter, Uganda or Israel…Why is it good to die for one’s country, isn’t it better to live in New York?”

I suppose putting a muzzle over her mouth would put a damper on her modeling career, but it may be called for as an act of defensive warfare against a painfully offensive self-centered hedonistic teeny bopper who is endangering the future of the State of Israel. 

This repulsive episode demands that we Israelis ask the question: “How did we come to this?” 

Take a look at Noach.   The Torah tells us (Gen. 6:9) that Noach was righteous…maybe not the most righteous person to have ever walked the face of the earth, but righteous on some level nonetheless. God had had it with the world and instructed Noach to build a massive life raft to save his family and representatives of the animal kingdom.   Rashi asked the question (6:14) as to why God chose this particular method to provide salvation for these living beings. After all, God has infinite options before Him, so why this?  Suggested Rashi, that the project was destined to take 120 years to complete, so that throughout those years, people would see Noach building the ark, and they would ask, “What do you need this for?” And Noach would answer them, “The Holy One, blessed be He, is about to bring a flood upon the world” – perhaps they would repent. 

Nice idea, but we know for the end of the story, that Noach’s PR effort on behalf of God was a disastrous failure – not a single human being outside of Noach’s immediate family joined him on the ark. In 120 years, he could not convince a single human being that God meant business!  How could that be?  I would suggest that his failure lay in the fact that he himself wasn’t convinced of the mission, or of the justice of God’s actions.  His lackluster commitment showed through to every person he met, and so, no one bought into his cause, no one could understand why he was wasting his time year after year building the world’s largest ever cruise ship! (And remember, the Guinness Book of World Records had not yet been written!) 

I can hear them shouting out to him, “Noach, forget about this.  Come with us and get a real job, where you can make a fortune and live well for the rest of your life.  Why is it better to throw away the next 120 years of your life, isn’t is better to live it up, to pursue all of the opportunities that await you in the modern city of Enoch? (Gen 4:17)” 

And Noach, albeit righteous, didn’t have an answer. He didn’t really completely understand his mission and calling. And so, there was nothing he could say to make sense of the situation. 

Bar Rafaeli’s comments are symptomatic of a generation that has lost sight of their mission, can no longer answer the tough questions, has forgotten their calling as Jews.  And so, the only thing that makes Bar different from so many others is that she is in the spotlight….unfortunately, thousands of others feel the same way. 

The good news is that people are waking up and realizing that this is the case, and efforts are being made to turn things around. 

Many of my readers are committed Jewish learners who dedicate time every week to the study of Jewish texts.  You will no doubt appreciate and the significance of the following news items. 

Sept 30, 2007 – The front page of the Jerusalem Post brought attention to an initiative that has been developed by ORT schools here in Israel.  The opening paragraph reads: 

In the face of increasing draft dodging, one of the nation’s largest secular high school systems is teaching traditional Jewish texts and Judaism to foster patriotism and a willingness to serve and, if need be, die for one’s country.  In the words of one of the ORT teachers, “It is essential for a future soldier to figure out what it means that he or she belongs to the Jewish people and how that is different from being an Israeli citizen.” 

October 9, 2007The Jerusalem Post featured an article titled “God’s army?” It spoke of the initiative of pre-army academies for the religious Zionist crowd, where “these young men…join the IDF after spending one, and often two years studying Jewish texts to build a modern army.”  

In the words of Rabbi Eli Sadan, head of the Bnei David pre-military academy, “The soldier, like the priests of the Temple in ancient times, should undergo a metamorphosis when adorned with an IDF uniform.  The military man ceases to be solely an individual with a family, with personal interests, with desires.  He becomes a messenger of the entire nation out to perform God’s commandment, to serve Him.”  

Essentially, both of these initiatives are seeking to use ancient Jewish texts to inform and build modern context for these young Israelis.  I personally applaud the work of these institutions and others that have assumed this task.

Too bad Noach didn’t have teachers like these…..the world could have turned out very differently. 

Maybe the best we can hope for is that someone arrange for Bar to meet up with another blonde (?) sensation, reformed  material-girl Madonna, who visited Israel for the High Holidays and beckoned President Shimon Peres, “Tell me what I should do, Mr. Peres, because I am in love with Israel.”   

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2 Responses to “Modern and Ancient PR Disasters”

  1. ron dimbert Wednesday, October 10, 2007 at 5:07 pm #

    OK Morey!! Even though I have never heard of the model you quoted, her comments cetainly seem representative of what appeats to be a growing segment of both Israeli and world Jewry. Your insights are right on the money and we can only hope and pray that Madonna will become the role model for many more disenfranchised Jews. Looking forward to next Tuesday (or Wednesday).

  2. Barry Wednesday, October 10, 2007 at 9:39 pm #

    The Midrash describes the symbolism of the Four Species in terms of taste and fragrance, corresponding to Torah study and good deeds:

    The etrog has both a good taste and a good fragrance, symbolizing those who have both Torah and good deeds.

    The lulav has taste but no fragrance, symbolizing those who study Torah but do not possess good deeds.

    The myrtle has a good fragrance but no taste, symbolizing those who possess good deeds but do not study Torah.

    The willow has neither taste nor fragrance, symbolizing those who lack both Torah and good deeds.

    If all four groups represent an essential component of Yisrael, one may ask what possible role the willow could serve. Ms. Rafael gives us an answer—these individuals sound the alarm when the organism as a whole is in danger. Unwittingly, Ms. Rafael’s comments were a shofar blast to awaken us to one of our most painful failures—our negligence in teaching our children what it means to be part of a Covenantal nation.

    Ms. Rafael will discover that her beauty—today as fresh and supple as a newly plucked willow branch—will soon become become dry and cracked. At that point, the other nations she so adores will crumple her up. Let us hope that our next generation of young women will learn from our tradition those values that provide enduring beauty—so that like Sarah Imeinu, well into their old age, they will possess a gorgeousness that will be admired by Kings.

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