One of my vices is binge watching foreign television series on Netflix or Amazon. I’m not proud of this. Most of the time it’s cotton candy for the mind. But sometimes, when you least expect it, you find God.
I’ve just finished an Israeli TV series called Srugim, about five 30 something, Modern Orthodox Jewish Jerusalemites. It is a fairly standard television drama of misadventures in love and career. But, it is also an exploration of the role God plays in the lives of the characters.
Three of the central characters are women: Yifat, Hodaya, and Reut.
Yifat is the character most at ease with her faith. God walks with her through her journey and supports her along the way. Her path is not always easy and includes complicated friends, unrequited love, career setbacks, a space cadet for a husband, and an elusive pregnancy culminating in the premature birth of a child. However, God sustains her and gives her life meaning.
Hodaya’s relationship with God is broken. She is actively trying to become “non-religious.” She gives up living as an Orthodox Jewish woman, stops eating Kosher food, develops romantic and sexual relationships with secular Jewish men, and struggles to find her place in the world.
Hodaya’s more observant friends never lose faith in her, despite some pretty appalling behavior towards them on her part. She is invited and returns time and again to the Sabbath meal. God shows love for Hodaya through the faith her friends have in her essential goodness.
Reut, both observant and outspoken, is my favorite character. She knows what she wants and isn’t afraid to ask for it. Yet, she has the misfortune of falling for some spectacularly inappropriate men. In the first instance, it is with a sweet and guileless Torah scholar. She is clearly his forbidden fruit and Reut is smart enough to call it off.
Reut’s second love interest confesses that despite his love for her, he is gay. Reut is willing to give it a try and her heart is broken when the young man spares her and ends the romance. By putting small heartbreaks in her life early on, God helps Reut avoid bigger ones later in life.
Of the two main male characters, Nati is the bad-boy. He’s a doctor. He’s handsome. He’s brooding. He’s playing the field. He’s never satisfied and commitment phobic. He needs to grow up.
When his mother dies he is wracked with grief and guilt that he was not at her bedside. God helps Nati through his grief.
Nati, his father, and brother prepare to end their mourning period and commemorate his mother with a set of handmade Torah curtains. Nati falls for the young woman artist he commissions to make the memorial for his mother and is heartbroken when he commits and she leaves him.
Finally, there is Amir. In the second season of Srugim, God sends an angel to Amir with a message. Subscribe and check back next week to find out what the angel tells Amir.