Saturday, February 09, 2008
The episode "Don't Ever Change" of the TV show House (which I don't watch all that often, btw) has been brought to my attention so I made sure to watch it.
In brief, a woman who is ba'alat teshuvah (chosen to become Orthodox, or in this case Chasidic, a specific type of Orthodoxy), falls ill at her wedding and, as is customary on the show, her case is complicated and mysterious.
The doctor, Gregory House, is snarky and disrespectful of the woman's choice of religious rigor. He says that people don't change. He is relatively obnoxious. But his commentary doesn't really bother me -- because he is rude about *everyone* in my opinion,which I believe is how his character is always supposed to be. (He is remarkably knowledgeable about Judaism, though, even to knowing what Eyshet Chayil is...anyone out there know, is the good doctor supposed to be Jewish?)
The woman is adamant about her choice of frum-ness, and seems incredibly sincere. She is embarking upon an arranged marriage and the new husband is kind and attentive.
The thing that bugged me the most about this episode was the woman's desire to celebrate Shabbat with her husband before she embarks on the surgery. She frustrates the surgeons who trick her into bringing Shabbat in early. Her husband goes along with this charade. But I can't figure out exactly how early they do this -- does he go along with it as part of the pikuach nefesh, the commandment to save a life? In that case, even he is part of the fulfillment of the commandment. What bothers me here is that she is picking and choosing her commandments -- Shabbat over Pikuach Nefesh just doesn't work. There are far too many stories about different situations in which saving a life trumps the Sabbath for me to understand how she wants this! On the other hand, her own sentimentality about spending Shabbat with her new husband does seem sincere. (okay, the acting was just fair, imho, but this isn't a review of the acting!)
(for those of you who are interested, it's permissible to "bring in Shabbat early" -- approximately an hour and a quarter before sunset, which happens most often in families with young children in the summer who want to start Shabbat before 8pm. I'm guessing that in this episode it was far more than that before sunset.)
Okay, so was this episode anti-Semitic? I don't think so. Was it a good and wonderful portrayal of Chasidic Jews? Nah. Is TV ever good at that? Not so much.
What did you think?