016: Yiddlife Crisis, Wandering the Desert, and Transparent

I found myself quickly making new friends including creators I admire and simultaneously discovered my Rabbi has been teaching me through their work for years now—well before we met


Early in Season 1 of Transparent, the beautiful, quirky, touching, very LA show on Amazon about a trans parent coming out to her fucked up Jewish family, we meet Rabbi Raquel (Kathryn Hahn) and see her give a sermon to a small congregation about the Israelites leaving Egypt.

For 40 years they wandered the desert between Sinai and Israel. Look at a map, she urges; it’s not that far. Why did it take so long?

Well, God saw to it that the slaves who left Egypt would not enter Israel feeling like slaves. The old generation had to die so that the new generation, born free, would (re)establish Israel as a free people. Is that fair, she ponders? Well, slavery wasn’t very fair, nor is the rest of Jewish history. But that question really piqued my interest on first viewing circa 2014.



Flash forward to 2019: sitting in Rosh Hashanah services with Sharon (post) , let’s call us back row buddies, her guiding me on my first night at Nefesh synagogue. This was a mere few days after the Transparent series finale (Musicale Finale) aired. She informed me that Rabbi Susan Goldberg was consultant on the show and that in fact, the man I’d said hi to from afar a couple times – soon to be a good friend, Shaun (Taslich buddies) – was there with Jill Soloway, creator of Transparent. They are cousins.

I’d spotted them the night before and thought Jill looked familiar, though I probably had only seen them in an interview at some point. Shaun and I ran into each other in the lobby later on Rosh Hashanah day and finally chatted for a bit. (Some flirting, NBD)

Jill Soloway (Annabel Mehran – Glamour)

There was Torah-toting and dancing soon after and Shaun called me over and said I didn’t have to dance alone. This was a so warm and welcoming and fabulous. It encompassed everything I’ve experienced in this journey thus far. Just immediate warmth, welcome, and connection.

And it was weird! Essentially all at once I learned that my Rabbi, newly guiding me personally, had been teaching me through the TV screen for 5 years, that these lovely people were the creators of that gorgeous vessel — Jill and their sister, Faith, and that mere days after a touching, catchy, fun, funereal finale of my favorite TV show, I was gonna dance and chat with the makers and talk about my conversion. On my first Rosh Hashanah. And swim in Jill’s pool. Then hang out on Yom Kippur (post). Stop it. Get out.


The Creativity Desert

I told Faith how much I loved her music. Seriously, I can’t wait to see her next musical. True talent and humility.

I felt so lucky to have this experience and to be reinvigorated creatively and spiritually all at once. I started writing again. Playing. Recording.

I’ve had this recording space in Hollywood less than a month at that point and know nothing about how to work all the switches and levers. Time to learn.

I took a long break from music after college. I studied it too hard. I was just too close to it, too far a way from why I was making it, and I’d seen behind the curtain and how the sausage was made. It felt mechanical, not emotional. My senior year in high school had seen me in lessons twice a week, one hour for piano, standard for years, and one for composing. I was in 2 choirs, playing weddings and parties, teaching, and played with a full orchestra – the Rachmaninoff 2nd concerto (first movement only, don’t get crazy with all three).

Then I went off to UT-Austin and was swallowed hole. My creativity after my third year in college languished. I changed majors, got mono, did all kinds of activism and organizing, and wound up taking 5 years to get a music composition degree. Then I didn’t touch a piano for 3 years and didn’t even have one for another 4 after that.


40 Years and a Flood of Realizations

This weird creative and spiritual drought overlapped. I still cannot fully explain taking such a long break from making music, something I have a passion for and enjoy daily. It seems silly and the kind of time-wasting only a young person does. How Xennial of me!

We explored early on in my first classes at American Jewish University (post) the theme of 40: the Israelites in the desert for 40 years, trying to find home. The number 40 had a great symbolic meaning to the ancient Jews and in fact “40 days and 40 nights” may just be an expression meaning awhile; a fuck-ton of time waiting, more than one moon, a non-literal period still measurable but kind of unreasonable if it’s something major like, oh, the human race being nearly destroyed (my opinion).

40 symbolizes a period of testing, trial, or probation. And Moses went up Sinai twice for 40 days after living in exile in Egypt for 40 years, each period being a test for him.

I ain’t Moses but I affirmed this Jewish journey on the eve of my 40th birthday and wholly feel I’m ending one odyssey to walk another – with obvious overlap – while exiting a desert of sorts. I’m leaving behind a creative and spiritual drought (post), a long test or purgatory, and opening myself up to magic and mystery and the promise of something better.


Wanting more like Yiddlife Crisis, Wandering the Desert, and Transparent?

Previous post: Yom Kippur, Schrödiner’s Jew, and themes of Returning to Judaism

H/T Yiddlife Crisis for the pun-spiration

Mini review – Transparent finale:

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I’ve watched this thrice and cried. The first time I didn’t, I was too enthralled with the captivating music and the creative tapestry unfurling on screen. I had to watch again to be able to even visualize Maura in a coffin. Enough time had passed since the prior season for that to not seem integral to the story; I knew she wasn’t coming back and naturally you don’t see a body, so it didn’t seem real. JT doesn’t appear except in clips before the first new scene. Then it set in. I was so moved watching the scenes with @rainnwilson’s mortician from Six Feet Under guide the family, viewing the body while it’s hidden from us, putting her in the incinerator, and her ashes rising like glitter at the very end… wow, that finally hit. Judith Light’s Shelley can barely contain her sadness and it’s so touching and sad and weird and lovely. Kudos to Shakina, my sister musician, for such a divine performance. And to Faith and Jill for making such a poignant play about death and love and family in modern America. Truly a Jewish musical and if ever we (I) needed one, it’s now. 👏🏽👏🏾🎉🙏🏽 Run from your Father’s House. 🎹 #transparentmusicalefinale #transparentfinale #transparentamazon #translivesmatter #transvisibility #jewishmusic #jewishculture #broadwaymusicals #tvreview #jillsoloway #musicaltheatre #transisimusically #jewishmusic #transparentamazon #kathrynhahn #queertv #queermusic #joyocaust #gayjews #queerculture #transwomen #transpower #yourboundaryismytrigger #runfromyourfathershouse #bartmitzvah

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