Finding Solace in Torah, Film, and Modern Teachings Amidst a Pandemic

In the midst of a global pandemic, amidst the chaos and uncertainty, I find myself seeking solace and meaning in various forms of media and ancient teachings. As I  delve into the realms of Torah, film, and modern discourse, I discover a tapestry of narratives that offer insights into the human condition and pathways towards understanding.

Cinematic Escapism and Symbolism

In cinema, it’s hard to ignore the prevalence of fantastical narratives depicting disaster and otherworldly conquests. From the whimsical landscapes of Middle Earth to the distant galaxies inhabited by extraterrestrial beings, these films captivate audiences with their mesmerizing imagery and enigmatic themes. Take, for instance, “The Green Knight,” a film lauded for its surreal elements and thought-provoking symbolism, prompting viewers to embark on multiple viewings in search of deeper meaning.

There’s no denying that “The Green Knight” is strange. This is a movie full of naked giantesses and talking foxes, beautiful women who insist their heads have gone missing from their bodies, and, oh yes, a massive, axe-wielding combatant made of animated wood and vines. Those arresting images and enigmatic sequences are part of why “The Green Knight” is wonderful. It’s a film that will invite multiple, careful viewings. *1

Ancient Wisdom: Aggadata in the Talmud

Yet, this inclination towards fantastical storytelling is not unique to the silver screen. In Jewish tradition, we encounter Aggadata, a genre of allegorical narratives found within the Talmud. Though often perplexing, these tales serve as vessels of wisdom, inviting contemplation and interpretation from scholars throughout the ages.

I recall my course with my Shiviti Yeshiva teacher, Yehudis Golshevsky *2, on “Aggadata” in the Talmud. Aggadata presents as a fantastical narrative; the closest word in English is “allegory.”

One Aggadata story in the Talmud tells the story of Rabbi Akiva’s students, who all died in a plague, reminding us of the fragility of life and the importance of unity and mutual respect. This story teaches us that our actions can impact others, especially in times of crisis like the Covid-19 pandemic. It encourages us to unite as a community, support each other, and take precautions to keep everyone safe.

Struggling with these stories with my class was weird and wonderful. Although these tales are difficult to digest, they are not escapist entertainment. Countless Rabbis have written books of commentaries explaining what these tall tales have to teach us.

Modern Insights: Torah in Today’s World

In the first session of his Zoom course, The Big Questions About Judaism *4, Prof. Hazony laments that in our present intellectual climate, the Hebrew Bible is too often disparaged as antiquated and even perhaps geared to children and the unsophisticated. However, many ancient and contemporary scholars have found the Torah a marvellous source of ideas on all aspects of human striving.

Anyone who has attended a Jewish mainstream synagogue knows that a significant portion of any service is the ceremony of taking the Torah out of the ark, unscrolling it, and chanting the Torah portion – the Parsha – for that week in the original Hebrew.

Over the year the complete Torah is recited every year. Rabbi Jonathon Sacks *5 discusses the value of reading and rereading the Torah in his essay on Parsha Ki Tavo.

The great questions – “Who are we?” “Why are we here?” “what is our task” – are best answered by telling a story. This is fundamental to understanding why Torah is the kind of book it is; not a theological treatise, or a metaphysical system, but a series of interlinked stories extended over time, from Abraham and Sarah’s journey from Mesopotamia  to Moses’ and the Israelites’ wanderings in the desert. Judaism is less about ‘truth as system’ than about ‘truth as story.

Embracing Abundance: Navigating a Wealth of Knowledge

We are fortunate in our time to have ready access to Torah texts, commentaries, brilliant teachers, movies, television, and the internet, all at the touch of the finger. So, how does one choose from this embarrassment of riches?

“When the student is ready, the teacher will appear!” Find the teacher who speaks to you. Start with a favourite teacher of Torah wherever you are. I found mine when I visited Yeshivat Simhat Shlomo*6 in Nachlaot, Jerusalem and sat in a class with Yehudis Golshevsky.

Amid a pandemic, amidst this wealth of knowledge and entertainment, one may find solace and wisdom in unexpected places. Whether seeking guidance from a revered teacher, delving into the depths of the Torah, or immersing oneself in cinematic experiences, each moment offers growth and enrichment.



  1. Washington Post, Opinion: Go Ahead Take a Chance, See a weird Looking Movie Like The Green Knight or Pig
  2. Shiviti Yeshiva: An international online intermediate and advanced Torah learning community for women centred in Jerusalem, Israel
  3. The Legends of Rabbah Bar Bar Hannah with the Commentary of Rabbi Abraham Isaac Hakohen Kook  Introduction, P.9
  4. Prof. Yoram Hazony, The Really Big Questions About Judaism
  5. Rabbi Jonathon Sacks, Ki Tavo, Lessons in leadership: A Weekly Reading of the Jewish Bible, P. 276 -278
  6. Yeshivat Simhat Shlomo, Torah from the Heart to the Heart


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