I recently finished a teaching for a congregation as part of a series we called “Sacred Cinema”. The last film I asked them to watch, with Jewish lenses, was “The Wizard of Oz”. The discussion was energizing and revealing. Yes, we did spend time on the Rainbow song and the implications of the lyrics from two Jewish writers who may have been channeling their immigrant DNA and observing what the world was forecasting in 1939.
However, there was a wonderful exchange when we discussed the scene in the “holy of holies”, or the Wizard’s chamber. In search of home, a heart, a brain and courage, our heroes appealed to the Wizard, were tested, (as was Abraham and many Prophets) and came back to receive blessing from “the all powerful” only to have Toto pull back the curtain to reveal the truth. There was no Wizard, but there was blessing. The blessing was that one’s heart, brain and courage was always there, within each person.
How often do we pray to God in hopes of a “yes” answer? How often, is the truth revealed to us that the answer to our prayers rests within each of us. I think this is one of the great gifts of Judaism. Our prayers are there to speak to our own souls. Life, especially as we get older, hands us challenges equally as grand and as altering as confronting the Wicked Witch. Each of us masters these tests in our own way and, we hope, learns and grows from each encounter. There is evil and challenge around us. We overcome the challenges and tests of life by gathering our strengths and trying, as best we can, to meet those challenges and pass those tests. We sometimes succeed. We sometimes fail. But the source of strength comes from within, the sacred power of our life force, that force which propels us rests within each of us. As life unfolds, we, like Dorothy, just wish to get “home”, however we define that idealized goal, Like Dorothy, our challenges remind us that it is love and relationships that carry us home. For this, we thank that Wizard.
Rabbi Richard F Address
Rabbi Richard F. Address, D.Min, is the Founder and Director of www.jewishsacredaging.com. Rabbi Address served for over three decades on staff of the Union for Reform Judaism; first as a Regional Director and then, beginning in 1997, as Founder and Director of the URJ’s Department of Jewish Family Concerns and served as a specialist and consultant for the North American Reform Movement in the areas of family related programming. Rabbi Address was ordained from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 1972 and began his rabbinic career in Los Angeles congregations. He also served as a part time rabbi for Beth Hillel in Carmel, NJ while regional director and, after his URJ tenure, served as senior rabbi of Congregation M’kor Shalom in Cherry Hill, NJ from 2011-2014.