Monday, May 25, 2009

Shavuot Storahtelling – Prophecy or Madness
by Ruthi Soudack

On May 19th, Shoshana Olidort and I (Ruthi Soudack), both members of the Israeli Storahtelling Maven Training, presented our final project – a Storahtelling performance based on the Torah reading for Shavuot morning. It was based on five verses (Shmot 19:16-20), which describe the prelude to the giving of the Torah – the trembling, voice of the shofar, thunder and lightning, etc. The performance was done at a Jewish Renewal beit midrash, where there was a small and receptive audience.

The performance focused on the question of whether there is a difference between madness and prophecy – what does it mean to hear the voice of God? There were two characters – I played a “crazy” homeless woman who speaks, somewhat hysterically, of her experience at Sinai and “hearing the voices,” jumping back and forth between the past and the present. Shoshana played an American female rabbi, who is telling her congregation about the experience at Sinai and emphasizes that this is an ongoing process – that it is still happening and we can experience it now. For most of the performance the two characters speak with no relationship to one another, but at the end, they are in dialogue and the rabbi confirms what the “crazy” lady says.

We opened with the song “Esa Einai el Heharim,” followed by a quote from Daniel (10:5-7), which also speaks of a supernatural voice which causes trembling (and which starts with the words “V’esa et einai”). The metichta brought the story of the 4 rabbis who went into the Pardes and only one came out sane/alive, which led into a discussion of the difference (if there is one) between prophecy and madness (“If you met this lady on the street, would you believe her story? Would you believe the rabbi? Why one and not the other if they’re essentially saying the same thing? Is there a difference between prophecy and madness?....). The closing used two quotes that basically say that prophets are madmen (or vice versa) – Hosea 9:7 and Baba Batra 12b. We ended with the song “Lulei toratcha sha’ashuai,” which is what we think Storahtelling is all about.

Good discussions were generated, both during the metichta and at the end of the performance (the latter about Storahtelling and what people had to say about it).

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