Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Chariots of Fire and Haftarat Lech Lecha

The most moving rendition of this week's Haftara that I have ever heard (and seen) is in this excellent '80's movie, Chariots of Fire. Unfortunately, the Haftara bit is a sermon in a church! but the words never seemed more appropriate!

The movie is about two athletes who participate in the Olympic games; a Jew who is running away from his Jewish identity in an effort to blend with society and to be more British, and a Christian who upholds his beliefs by refusing to run on the "Sabbath". Of course from our Jewish perspective, it is a sad tale; the tale of assimilation. But the resolute figure of Eric Liddell - the Christian - who refuses to realise his dreams of winning in the Olympics because it will clash with his Faith is a true example of Emuna, and what Rav Soloveitchik would call, "Heroic retreat."

(This film once came up in a conversation I had with Rabbi Sacks. He remarked that once when he met David Putnam, the film's directer, he asked him whether he could make another film about a Jew who KEEPS his faith at Cambridge university!)

 I am unsure that you will appreciate it fully without having seen the entire film. This is truly one of my favourite films. The mix of the British feel and the drama of faith in an alien environment is a great recipe!

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