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Menashe, in Yiddish

Saw a deeply moving and highly unusual movie on Thursday with Ken – Menashe, filmed within a Hassidic community with amateur actors and in Yiddish. It’s about a schlemiel, a kind but impractical man whose wife has died and who within the strict laws of his faith cannot raise his young son alone – it says in the Torah that children must be raised by two parents, so his son must live with humourless relatives. Our hero wants his child back. It reminded me of I, Daniel Blake, another film about one good man against the universe. But that one was didactic; we knew Daniel Blake would not get anywhere. This film is humane and haunting, goes deep, stays with you. It clarifies the power of religion to provide comfort and community, and at the same time, to restrict and terrorize.

I was at the High Park playground with Eli, Ben and Anna’s best friend Holly on Friday, when a large group of Orthodox Jewish women arrived with their children, the women in wigs and demure clothing, the girls too in skirts and long sleeves, and the boys in yarmulkes with payes – sidecurls. I don’t understand people’s need to shut themselves away in any community, let alone a religious one with hundreds of rules, but at least, after seeing the film, I felt I knew more about who these people are.

We had fun.

Danger Baby, aka Ben, keeps saying the word “up”, which means, I want to go as high as my big brother if not higher. Terrifying.

Today, with Wayson to keep me company, I cooked with stuff from the garden, including a mint-yogurt-cuke gazpacho, fresh green in colour and taste. As mentioned, I am drowning in cucumbers and tomatoes. Next week, of course, pesto. This has been a beautiful summer because of the rain – have hardly had to water the garden – and the mild temperatures. Had my AC on a couple of times in early July and not once since.

Mostly, I’m doing two things: scouring my manuscript, going over and over it, line by line, which is giving me joy because it is coming together. Yes it feels good now, like I’m polishing, or deepening, rather than rescuing.

And I’m reading the papers and FB and the NYT and Twitter as part of the “What the @#$# next?” brigade that we all are now. How much worse can things get? Plenty, I guess, as a few weeks ago we thought it couldn’t get any worse, and voila, Nazis on the march, and an apologia for “nice people” Nazis, and more attacks in Europe, and tonight an item on the national news about women in South Sudan who are starving, who turn to prostitution to survive and contract AIDS.

To cheer myself up when it seems unbearable, I go out into the garden and watch the bees, covered with pollen, rolling drunkenly around on the pistils of my rose of Sharon. It’s nearly pornographic, the way they rub, splaying themselves, sometimes writhing and sometimes motionless, as if exhausted or overwhelmed. It’s love.

Saw a documentary about trees; it said that most medicines are plant based and trees exude chemicals that are good for us not just psychically but physically. Get thee into the greenery, the garden, the trees and plants. Sometimes it feels like that’s the only sanity left.



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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

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