The only show I consistently bother watching on broadcast TV is the weekly series of Srugim, the show about the Katamon religious singles swamp. Colleagues at work informed me that were going home early, to make sure they see it. Despite the buzz for the JBloggers convention, there is so much more buzz about Srugim.
From week to week, the show keeps getting better. It's definitely not a Jewish version of the "Friends" comedy show, but a stark depiction of real-life for this unfortunately-large community. The bittersweet beauty of the show is in its refusal to hide uncomfortable issues under the rug and approaches them head-on, though I'm sure some are disappointed by that decision (such as those who prefer to paint life in simple shades of black and white)
In last night's episode, Yif'at goes to a "mekubal" who informs her the reason she is having relationship problems is because her parents never had a kiddush in her honor when she was born. Dismayed, she goes across Jerusalem to a shul where no one knows her, so she can offer to host a shul kiddush on shabbat to resolve her shidduch and zivug crisis. Its amusing (though completely realistic) as the shul gabbi argues with her that she must bring kugel as well, and that a quiche wouldn't be acceptable without kugel. She angrily argues, "does G-d really care if I bring kugel or not?" He incredulously replies, "for something as important as a kiddush to resolve your shidduch problems, why wouldn't you bring kugel?!"
We watched the relationship evolve between Re'ut, the slightly rebellious, push-the-religious-envelope character... and Yochai, a student at Yeshivat Mekaz HaRav. Last week, Re'ut figuratively twisted Yochai's arm to teach her how to recite the Haftara, which she wants to be able to read at a women's tefilla group, in honor of her mother's yahrtzeit. Yochai, who normally teaches boys to prepare their bar miztva Torah readings, is adamant against against teaching Re'ut for reasons of tzniut (modesty) -- not wanting to hear her "sing" the haftara. She guilt-trips him into helping because she wants to honor her mother's memory, and he agrees that if he recites the haftara along with her, he'll be able to "look the other way" as she reads.
This week, Reut invites him to a Friday night "Ubiquitous Katamon Religious Singles Shabbat Dinner", complete with all the awkwardness of a new person showing up to a dinner where everyone already knows each other. To make matters worse, Yochai arrives slightly late -- just after a big fight where one of the roommates (Hodaya, daughter of a rabbi) defiantly turns off the light in the fridge (she forgot to turn it off before Shabbat). The primary roommate, Yif'at yells at her for desecrating the Shabbat and shouts that in her apartment, there will not be any chilul shabbat. Hodaya storms out.
After dinner, Re'ut asks Yochai to walk her home to her apartment...the climax being the "goodbye" scene when Re'ut invites Yochai up for coffee. He naturally and expectedly refuses, as one would expects of a student at Merkaz HaRav.
And then, with tension rising, surprising us all, he awkwardly kisses her, abruptly apologizes and flees down the block.
The look on Reut's face is priceless.
Instead of the expected happiness (attributing to her rebellious nature, wanting to go out with him, and wanting him to teach her to read the haftara, when it's becoming clear that she has ulterior motives), she has a look of querulous disappointment. As if saying, "this person I respect so much for his religious stature...has fallen..."
We're shocked and dismayed.
Did he let himself down? Will refuse to teach her or meet her again?
Did he let us down?
Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael טובה הארץ מאד מאד