I   I am the Lord your G-d, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery;  Do not have any other gods before me.

The First Commandment introduces the presenter and sets the stage for the drama to come….

II      You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. (Birdman)

The second commandment focuses on not creating images to worship in lieu of G*d.  However, what if you become the idol?  In Birdman, Michael Keaton’s portrayal of an actor who has forever become inseparable from an iconic role, explores the challenges of becoming an object of worship for others and becoming stuck in your own idea of yourself.

III     You shall not take the name of the Lord for no  worth  (The Theory of Everything)

While the movie is about Stephen Hawking’s extraordinary life and overcoming of the most impropable physical challenges, the reach of Hawking’s thoughts and work are even more astounding. One of Hawking’s key contributions to science has had to do with the reality of what it means to be on the edge of nothingness – the event horizon of a black hole from whose gravity nothing can escape.  But Hawking has now shown that even a black hole is really a very very grey hole, that is.. something of some form must be emitted.  Even when face to face with such profound mysteries  Professor Hawking does not shy away from saying that in fact no G*d need exist in any way in order to explain the universe. Since the third commandment emphasizes the significance of treating the name of G*d with reverence and respect it would seem to be at best inapplicable to Hawking.  And yet, his life and work can inspires awe for G*d whose Name is never fully known.

IV    Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy (Selma)

The Sabbath for the Jewish people may seem like the quintessential ritual practice : the treating of one 24 hour period differently just because the Bible says to do it.  But the story of the Fourth commandment is not one of simple piety and obedience.  It is the story of freedom. Remember that you were slaves in Egypt. Remember that I, the Creator of the Universe came to your aid against your oppressors, smashed the apparatus of their cruelty, brought you out of Egypt to serve none but G*d.  The story of breaking both the irons of slavery and the shackles of continuing injustice for African-Americans in our country has no overt miracles nor was the redemption announced in an unmistakable Divine voice.  However, the civil rights movement stands for all time as a great miracle in the name of Freedom.

V    Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you. (Boyhood)

The hardest part about the fifth commandment is not what it takes to honor a parent in any given moment. Its what it takes to make honor and respect the basis of a lifelong relationship with our fathers and (or) with our mother under all of life’s changing circumstances.  Boyhood, by breaking with the norm and telling a story that is filmed over 12 years has a unique perspective on this challenge.

VI    You shall not murder. (American Sniper)

The sixth commandment often raises the question of whether the prohibition covers all killing or particularly murder, which is  the usual translation of the Hebrew word used.  However American Sniper explores what it means to kill in war under any circumstances and what it means to take many, many lives, even in service to one’s country. . While the movie brings to the fore strong feelings about history and ideology, its indelible truth is that killing, even if justified by one’s code of ethics always leaves a mark, whether on one’s conscience or on one’s soul

VII   You shall not commit adultery. (Grand Budapest Hotel)

While the movie has its share of every type of debauchery, the seventh commandment’s relevance here is not sex, but loyalty.  This strange and winding story, actually many stories, somehow always returns to the same place and the same promises.

VIII  You shall not steal. (Whiplash)

What is stolen doesn’t have to be a possession.  A childhood or sense of wellbeing can be stolen as well.  However just as one might decide that its worth stealing something valuable for a good cause, Whiplash asks if it is worth having one’s innocence stolen to become a great artist

IX    You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. (The Imitation Game)

A film whose main plot line hinges on espionage, code breaking, and winning a war at all costs must also have its share of lying.  Watching biographical depiction of the brilliant and iconoclastic Alan Turing, however, turns on another, more subtle theme of deception – how much does Turing’s identity as a gay man impact the story as its told and how much does it matter what the film chooses to highlight and what it leaves out?

X    You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Michael

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