Resolved: VaYchi 5775 by Cantor Lipp

Tue, 01/06/2015 - 12:25pm -- lcanfield

[The producer Phil] Spector stumbled out of his booth and into the studio. In one hand, he held a .45 revolver, in the other, a half-empty bottle of Manischewitz sweet kosher wine. He put his arm around Cohen's shoulder and shoved the revolver into the singer's neck. “Leonard,” he said, “I love you.” Not missing a beat, Cohen replied, “I hope you do, Phil.”

            --A Broken Hallelujah by Liel Leibovitz, about Leonard Cohen.

I wondered whether Phil Spector was a long lost descendant of the Tribe of Simon.

Simon and Levi come in for some particularly harsh language as Jacob delivers his final predictions for his children and their tribes before he dies. “Simon and Levi are a pair; their weapons are tools of lawlessness. Let not my person be included in their council, let not my being be counted in their assembly. For when angry they slay men and when pleased they maim oxen. Cursed be their anger so fierce, and their wrath so relentless. I will divide them in Jacob, Scatter them in Israel.”

As I read the Torah portion this past Saturday afternoon, Martha Ziskind, always an appropriately savvy gabbai, said of Jacob: “He wasn’t very concerned about his kids’ self-esteem now was he?”

The Levites become the most scattered, taking care of the service of the ancient Sanctuary and Temple. Simon becomes engulfed in cities within Judah according to the book of Joshua. The midrash takes this pretty clear insult against Simon and suggests a positive spin: All the poor, scribes, and teachers of children are from the tribe of Simon according to this interpretation. In other words there needed to be one tribe in charge of teaching and that tribe couldn’t only be in one region but needed to be scattered among all the tribes.

In 2009, Spector was convicted of second-degree murder in the 2003 shooting death of actress Lana Clarkson in his Alhambra, California home. He is serving a prison sentence of 19 years to life. He still claims his innocence but even if he is, his love affair with guns is largely responsible for Clarkson’s death as it was available for the shooting in his home.

Perhaps it’s not such a blessing to only be concerned with our kids’ or our own self-esteem. In this time of New Year’s Resolutions, it may be better to make a few realistic choices rather than too-optimistic reaches. At the very least, we should be aware, as was Jacob at the end of his life, that our futures are far more likely to be coherent with what we’ve done up to now than a pure disjunction one from the other.

Cohen relates that he has “been influenced by a remark of Emerson's," he continued. "It is this. What you are speaks so loudly that I cannot hear you, that is, reality speaks so loudly in you that I can't hear what you are saying. I ask you to apply this insight to me. I shall apply it to you. I will always feel what you are more deeply than what you say."

Shabbat Shalom.

David Lipp

Hazzan