Sunday, August 23, 2009

Precious

If you haven't watched V for Vendetta, then I advise you not to watch this clip, as it will ruin the movie for you. For those who have watched it, here tis.



Here are the lines from the screenplay. To offer context, Evey is a prisoner of a totalitarian government. She was caught aiding and abetting a freethinker and radical named V who is attempting to set free the people of the country (through hijacking the media, killing high-ranking officials, etc). She has been kept in a dungeon cell and repeatedly tortured:

Interrogator: Are you ready to cooperate?

Evey: No.

Interrogator: Very well. [He stands, completely bathed in shadow. He paces toward the cell door.] Escort Ms. Hammond back to her cell. Arrange a detail of six men and take her out behind the chemical shed and shoot her.

[Evey is wreathed in darkness. She has accepted her death, stared it in the face and calmly chosen it. Bells sound, a strange chime. A stranger enters. He too is wreathed in shadow.]

Executioner: It's time.

Evey: I'm ready.

Executioner: Look, all they want is one little piece of information. Just give them something, anything.

Evey: Thank you. But I'd rather die behind the chemical sheds.

Executioner: Then you have no fear anymore. You're completely free. [He turns and walks out of the cell, leaving Evey utterly bewildered. She does not understand.]

Evey: (to herself) What?

[She listens as his footsteps fade down the hall, the door hanging weirdly open.

Evey takes a few tentative steps toward the door and sticks her head out into the empty hall, peering down both ways.

Slowly, she emerges from her cell, retracing her path down the hall that she has never seen before.

Quietly inching along the wall, Evey peeks around a corner, gasping at the rigid guard standing off to the side. There is something about the man's frozen stare that keeps her from running.

Evey straightens and crosses to the guard.

It is a mannequin.

She touches him, the wheeled platform he is mounted on rolling back against the wall. She sees a door and pushes it open to find...]


V: Hello Evey.

Evey: [She cannot quite believe it. She is shocked.] You. [Pause, accusatory] It was you.

V: Yeah.

Evey: [pointing to her dungeon cell, the hallway just beyond the door] That wasn't real. Is Gordon-

V: I'm sorry, but Mr. Deitrich is dead. I thought they'd arrest him but when they found a Koran in his house, they had him executed.

Evey: [whispers] Oh, God.

V: Fortunately, I got to you before they did.

Evey: [angry] You got to me. You did this to me. You cut my hair...you tortured me....you tortured me! Why?

V: You said you wanted to live without fear. I wish there'd been an easier way, but there wasn't.

Evey: [begins to sob, hyperventilate] Oh, my God.

V: I know you may never forgive me. But nor will you ever understand how hard it was for me to do what I did. Every day I saw in myself everything you see in me now. Every day I wanted to end it. [intensely, passionately] But each time you refused to give in, I knew I couldn't.

Evey: [spits the words out with hatred] You're sick. You're evil!

V: You could have ended it, Evey. You could have given in, but you didn't. Why?

Evey: [full of venom, hatred, disgust] Leave me alone. I hate you.

V: [passionately] That's it! See, at first, I thought it was hate, too. Hate was all I knew; it put my world, taught me how to eat, how to drink, how to breathe. I thought I'd die with all that hate in my veins. But then something happened. It happened to me just as it happened to you.

Evey: [turning from him in disgust] Shut up! I don't want to hear your lies!

V: Your own father said that artists use lies to tell the truth. Yes, I created a lie. But because you believed it, you found something true about yourself.

Evey: [shaking her head adamantly, tears coursing down her cheeks] No.

V: What was true in that cell is just as true now. What you felt in there has nothing to do with me.

Evey: [frustrated, shouting] I can't feel anything anymore!

V: Don't run from it, Evey. You've been running all your life. [she starts to hyperventilate, breathing very shallowly]

Evey: [she chokes out] I can't [breathing shallowly, fast] breathe...[falling to her knees] asthma...

V: [He cradles her in his arms, his arm behind her head. There is something very tender about the gesture] Listen to me, Evey. This may be the most important moment of your life. Commit to it. They took your parents from you. They took your brother from you. [she is rocking back and forth, sobbing, totally out of control- he holds her chin with his gloved hands] They put you in a cell; they took everything from you that they could take...except your life. And you believed that was all there was, didn't you. The only thing you had left was your life but it wasn't, was it?

Evey: [she is begging, crying] Please.

V: You found something else. In that cell, you found something that mattered more to you than your life. Because when they threatened to kill you unless you gave them what they wanted, you told them you'd rather die. You faced your death, Evey. You were calm. You were still. Try to feel now what you felt then. [she slows her crying, taking deep breaths, trying to calm herself]

Evey: God...I felt...

V: Yes?

Evey: I'm dizzy. I need air. Please? I need to be outside.

V: There's a lift. It will take us to the roof.

[Evey exits onto a balcony. It is the first time she has been outside since the beginning of her imprisonment by V. He offers her a cloak, but she does not take it. She walks tentatively, unbelieving, into the thunderstorm outside. We see the separate, beautifully formed raindrops falling upon her. They purify her.]

Evey: [in a tone of wonder and realization] God is in the rain.

[She is reborn. The scene is interspliced with V's freedom through the fire. She raises her arms and embraces her new understanding of herself; V recalls his own freedom.]

~

To me, this scene symbolizes the state of human existence. We are tortured, cruelly tortured by a God who seems not to care for us. We are tried beyond endurance; there is a pain that racks the soul and kills us. We do not know why we have been tortured so and then we are set free. And we realize it was all a sham. We thought it was someone evil and cruel who was torturing us, whether that was our Evil Inclination or some other tool. In truth, it was God. But God did it in order to set us free, to enable us to learn things about ourselves we could never otherwise have known. And thus the idea that the Tzaddikim see the Evil Inclination as a mountain and the Reshaim see it as a hair makes sense. At the end of time, the wicked ones see that it was only a mannequin guarding their prison cell. They were free to leave at any time. The righteous ones, however, see the entire torture chamber, the soldier who was guarding them and cannot imagine how they overcame all that terror and darkness. And then they step forward to confront God, the one who formed the Evil Inclination, who created our prisons and troubles and sufferings. And God shows us how our prisons set us free.

In a line that was cut from the screenplay, V explains to Evey that he did this: "Because I love you, Evey. Because I wanted to set you free."

Since elementary school we are taught that God loves the righteous ones, the Tzadikim, and that is why He hurts them. It never made sense to me until I saw this film. Once I saw it, everything clicked. I realized our world and our trials, tribulations and sufferings are all a construct. This is the fictitious torture chamber, if you will. The one who tortures us is God, so that we may discover ourselves and the purity that reigns within us. It is not pleasant; it is not what we desire. But it is the only way. In the strongest form possible, those who die al kiddush Hashem are those who have chosen their principles over their body; they realize this is merely a construct. But in our smaller forms and our smaller sufferings, we are purified. It is a question of who and what we become during our time in the dungeon. Do we betray V? Or do we find the integrity, that one inch of ourselves that is "small and fragile and the only thing in the world worth having," that allows us to stand?

All that we feel, all that we undergo, all that we are is a gift given to us by God, in whose eyes we are most precious. The pain He inflicts is necessary so that we understood who and what we are, and what is so much more important, who we have the potential to be.

27 comments:

धर्म said...

Now that you've arisen from under the Bodhi tree, do you find yourself at peace with your suffering?

Gavi said...

I saw V for Vendetta in its first showing in Montreal - I LOVE that scene! Reminds me of eruvin 13a, later chapters of iyyov, and so on.

Uri said...

Profound!

Christopher Darrin Horn said...

Very nice. I like the way you put it. Such a powerful scene.

DixieYid (يهودي جنوبي) said...

Great post! Where One Who Loves You Hurts You to Set You Free

Anonymous said...

Have you guys all gone absolutely crazy? Its a no no in Jewish thought to say that G-d tortures ANYONE. The possuk in Eichah tells us that "evil does not come from Heaven". This means that Hashem created the world for man's free choice to do good or evil. Man is the creator of evil by his bad deeds (see Tomer Devorah by the Ramak - studied now during Ellul)Hashem ALLOWS evil to take place - or not, for the reasons mentioned and more. Please, please learn or re-learn basic Hashkafa seforim like Da'as Tevunos and Derech Hashem of the Ramchal.I could write more but i am too upset by all of this.

yitz.. said...

I like the point and I totally hear it.. but let me play devil's advocate for a moment, no pun intended.

It's all well and straightforward that someone dying al kiddush HaShem has reached a complete expression of their spiritual yearning for God, or however you want to classify it.

But.. how would you judge a suicide bomber who from his point of view died al kiddush HaShem? Or any less extreme case of someone dying for their (lets say mistaken) ideals?

DixieYid (يهودي جنوبي) said...

Anon 5:54:

It sounds like you've completely missed her point. You're right that "no evil comes from Hashem." That's exactly the point here as well. Things that only look like Hashem torturing us or putting us through something hard are really chesed/love/good coming from Him.

In reality though, everything that happens, even through the choices of others, cannot happen without the Hashgacha Pratis of Hashem. So "indirectly," everything you speak of comes from Hashem anyway.

And even if, as you said, Hashem mearly "allows" bad things to happen, that merely begs the question of why he allows it, since free choice isn't enough of an explanation because Hashem wouldn't be just (ChV"Sh) if he allowed unjust things to happen even as side effects of some other concept.

So again, her point was not that evil comes from Hashem. But that things that look outwardly like "evil from Hashem" are really good and out of love.

Chana said...

Anon 5:54,

Right, exactly what DixieYid said. I'm saying that this is what it seems like from the person's point of view, but in truth all of this pain/ torture is there in order to create someone. (For example, the fact that the Matriarchs were barren and had to pray for children, or that Jacob lost Joseph and suffered, or that Joseph was sold into slavery and taken to Egypt, or that Moshe had to run away from Egypt...all of these things seem awful and terrible and painful from the perspective of the human being involved, but in truth they are there in order to create the person in the way God intended.)

Although out of curiosity, I wonder how you would explain Isaiah's famous:

יוֹצֵר אוֹר וּבוֹרֵא חֹשֶׁךְ, עֹשֶׂה שָׁלוֹם וּבוֹרֵא רָע; אֲנִי יְהוָה, עֹשֶׂה כָל-אֵלֶּה. {פ} 7 I form the light, and create darkness; I make peace, and create evil; I am the LORD, that doeth all these things.

Sounds like God states that He creates evil (borei) - not just that He allows it to happen.

DixieYid (يهودي جنوبي) said...

Chana, good point about "u'boreh ra."

yitz.. said...

@Chana,

I'm not anonymous but,

kiddushin 30: "בראתי יצר הרע בראתי לו תורה תבלין"

One could say this 'creation' of evil, is the creation of the yetzer hara.

Which squares with Anonymous' statement and potentially explains the discrepancy between these two passukim.

Chana said...

Yitz,

Regarding your question (about the suicide bomber, etc) - I think it comes down to a clash between what we are expected to know is morally wrong and our pure intentions. Murder of innocent people/ civilians is understood to be wrong; that is considered a 'rational' commandment (even though in its other forms, i.e. euthanasia, one can argue it is no longer predicated upon a rational foundation.) So I think it's understood that a suicide bomber is wrong in his action of killing innocent people. However, assuming that someone on this earth lived a good, pure life as a Christian/ Muslim/ other theist of some sort (or even an earnest, dedicated, searching and moral atheist), I think that the purity of their intentions counts for something before God. If someone truly believed that what they were doing was right, sincerely and honestly, and they lived a pure life but simply served Allah/ Jesus rather than Hashem, undoubtedly they ascend to Heaven, I would think. (Obviously I can't know for sure.)

yitz.. said...

@Chana,

I tend to agree with you.. (with a caveat that most atheists aren't really atheists)

and it's clear that what you were saying was that as Jews we can take comfort in this metaphor explaining to us (in terms easy to relate to) that our personal sufferings are actually HaShem helping us to connect to something deeper and more true (in an objective sense.)

but I was mainly pointing out that it is just that, a tool to help us get through the hardships but not a means to justify our actions..

Because while we can say HaShem's actions are always helpful and always productive, our own don't get the same benefit of the doubt -- we always need to re-assess our actions and make refinements -- which [to segue nicely into inyana d'yoma] is perhaps part of what Rosh HaShanah is all about.

may you and your readers have a year full of newness and discovery.

Chana said...

Thank you for the brachot, Yitz! You too. And absolutely that we must self-assess- I meant the way that we relate to God as opposed to assuming that *our* torturing others (see Peninah and Chana) is justifiable.

DixieYid (يهودي جنوبي) said...

Chana & Yitz,

I'm not sure I can really agree with y'all that anyone can ascend to heaven on the wings of their good intentions alone, without any objectively true goodness.

See the following Rambam in Hilchos Melachim 8:14:

כל המקבל שבע מצוות, ונזהר לעשותן--הרי זה מחסידי אומות העולם, ויש לו חלק לעולם הבא: והוא שיקבל אותן ויעשה אותן, מפני שציווה בהן הקדוש ברוך הוא בתורה, והודיענו על ידי משה רבנו, שבני נוח מקודם נצטוו בהן. אבל אם עשאן מפני הכרע הדעת--אין זה גר תושב, ואינו מחסידי אומות העולם אלא מחכמיהם.

Anyone who accepts upon himself the (pre-existing) obligation to keep the Sheva Mitzvos and is careful to perform them is classified as one of the "Righteous of the Nations of the World," with a portion in the World to Come. But this is only if he accepts them and performs them because they were commanded by G-d in the Torah as transmitted by Moshe Rabbeinu, that Bnei Noach are commanded to do them. But if he does them just because of logic, his is not of the "Righteous of the Nations of the World," but rather, is counted among the wise.

This Rambam seems to say that even sincere intent isn't enough. The nations have to not only keep the Sheva Mitzvos (as opposed to Islam/Xianity/Buddhism/Hinduism/etc.), but also must do it lishma, because it was commanded by G-d through Moshe in the Torah.

Yitz,

The yetzer hara pshat also only begs, but does not answer, the question. Hashem may have created the yetzer hara, but the bad choices that people make because of the Y"H's wiles are still evil, and the pasuk in navi says Hashem creates evil (itself), not just the inclination to do it. But in reality, even that statement that Hashem creates "evil," is misleading because it's saying that Hashem creates that which outwardly appears evil (but beneath whose shell is not actually evil at all).

Chana said...

Dixie Yid,

We're operating off different premises. You're citing Rambam- Yitz, if I am correct, is talking Chassidus (but I don't want to put words in your mouth. Am I right, Yitz?)

You see, the problem that arises from that Rambam is: what if someone has never ever heard of the Sheva Mitzvos Bnei Noach? They can obviously not keep them lishma because they don't even know what they are.

I recall having this discussion with one of my friends; I think it is a minority opinion that one has to be aware of and accept the sheva mitzvos l'shma (isn't this discussed in a Gemara somewhere?) I'll go try to look it up.

yitz.. said...

@Dixie Yid,

Wait, are you claiming the Rambam is making a case that Tinok SheNishba only applies to Jews?

I think I'd agree with you that a fully informed non-Jew who had access to the Rambam, and someone with whom to understand and learn it, and then chose to keep the 7 mitzwoth for logical reasons and not because HaShem commanded them-- he would not be rewarded for his actions in the next world, rather in this world.

But, if a Jew who is born and raised with no knowledge of Judaism but performs mitzwoth out of their very nature can still go to heaven -- then why can't a non-jew born into a similar situation if they were to inadvertantly keep the 7 mitzwoth or even part thereof?

Chana said...

Okay, so here's what I have (from an old discussion with a friend)-

1. It's a minority opinion that people are magically supposed to somehow intuit the Sheva Mitzvos if they were never taught them, and therefore if they don't keep them, they don't get killed. At the same time, they don't necessarily get Olam Haba, either. (However, they might be rewarded in this world.)

(As opposed to, apparently the norm is that if a non-Jew doesn't keep the sheva mitzvos he is klled.)

2. I remember having a question on this- you know the story by R' Akiva where the Roman soldier takes the wet cloths off his chest in order to ease his passage and he is awarded Olam Haba instantly? So obviously he didn't keep the Sheva Mitzvos (he's in the middle of executing R' Akiva, for goodness' sake) and yet he automatically earned Olam Haba - seemingly due to the fact that he did Teshuva. So I would think that if a Roman soldier who is killing R' Akiva can change in one instant and earn Olam Haba, certainly someone whose intentions are pure before God would be rewarded with that. (I have no basis for what I am saying other than my own thought...but yeah.)

yitz.. said...

@Reb Dixie Yid,

Re: Borei Yetzer Hara vs. Borei Ra

What I didn't get into was the fact that Beriyah is still only in potential.. Asiyah is fully expressed creation. That's why HaShem oseh shalom, but only Borei Ra.

Why Borei Ra? So that there is no room to say that 'Ra' is the absence of HaShem, or the anti-HaSHem -- there is NOTHING except HaShem, Ein Od Milvado --- so yes, HaSHem Created Ra, but he doesn't cause its expression in practice, people's actions do.

Just as the passuk says about Shabbat, "..la'asot." The Asiyah is left to us.

Which could potentially lead to a question of: "Borei Yetzer Hara" -- HaShem creates the Y"H b'phoal (in practice, not in theory) .. but again I think if we get into the depth of the inyan, the actions and thoughts of the parents at the time of conception actually 'oseh' the yetzer hara. (as we know the yetzer hara comes in variable flavors/mixtures of good and evil, in accordance with our parents' thoughts at time of conception see Tanya ch. 2)

Chana said...

(Although, for the record, my friend would disagree with my logic and/or lack of it- "You can't throw out a Rambam because you think you have a question!" *smile*)

DixieYid (يهودي جنوبي) said...

Chana,

I like the logic in the story with the wet wool, but I'm not sure it proves the point. Tanach clearly shows that Goyim still have the idea of teshuva. So if that guard did teshuva and ostensibly accepted whatever idea of faith that the rabbi who was being killed kept (Sheva Mitzvos from Har Sinai), which would have made the teshuva and mitzovs he did in his last few minutes on earth lishma. It doesn't necessarily have to be that a gentile *always* did the mitzvos lishma.

Yitz,

The Ramabam doesn't seem to make any reference to a way into olam haba for a gentile as a tinok shenishba. It could be there are other opinions, as Chana mentioned. I don't know. But according to the Rambam, if one keeps the mitzvos for non-lishma reasons, then he wouldn't be killed. But he also wouldn't have olam habah.

And how can one logicaly copare the fact that a Jew has an idea of tinok shenishba to a gentile? The Jewish neshoma is qualitativiely different. Kol yisroel yesh lehem chelek l'olam habah. But there's no such default status for a goy.

If there's a source for a goy having a status of tinos shenishba and still getting olam habah, I'd really like to hear it. But I've heretofore never heard of that concept and certainly wouldn't infer it logically just because Jews have that status. It seems like apples and oranges.

Chana said...

Dixie,

Sorry, I typed R' Akiva and I meant R' Hanina ben Teradion. Sometimes I'm an idiot. Anyway, this is brought down in Avodah Zarah 18a. I don't think your contention that the Roman soldier in that case accepted the Sheva Mitzvot can be supported because he committed suicide:

"The Executioner then jumped and threw himself into the fire. And a bathkol17 exclaimed: R. Hanina b. Teradion and the Executioner have been assigned to the world to come. When Rabbi heard it he wept and said: One may acquire eternal life in a single hour, another after many years."

Obviously committing suicide is a violation of the idea that you cannot kill...so through his action of easing R' Hanina's pain AND jumping in the fire he nonetheless earns Olam Haba...it seems to me through the purity of his intentions, not through accepting the Sheva Mitzvos.

Chana said...

(Also, it says clearly in the Gemara that the Executioner asks R' Hanina whether, assuming he does these things- takes off the wool and raises the flame- R' Hanina will cause him to enter the world to come, and R' Hanina accedes. Interestingly, though, the Executioner enters it before R' Hanina is dead...I'd have to look into it more to figure out exactly what happened there. Anyway, this is somewhat tangential to your main point, apologies.)

DixieYid (يهودي جنوبي) said...

Chana,

That's a good point. Although there are other instances where people have committed suicide before someone else can kill them. And while there are two sides to whether that is right, there are at least some opinions that would not count causing one's self to be killed in certain circumstances as murder.

What "limud" from the story certainly is a likely reading though.

yitz.. said...

@Reb Dixie Yid,

Tinok She'nishbah is a person who was raised outside the regular normative framework that would have given them the background they need to perform mitzwoth.

It's a real-world status, not just a halachic definition.

HaShem built his world upon midah kneged midah, so I believe there's room to make a clear case for tinok shenishbah by gentiles.

Does the rambam paskin that mitzwoth need kavanah? Because it seems like they need kavanah in the case of a gentile, which is interesting, because l'halachah we don't generally hold that way.

yeshiva dude said...

Thank you for posting my favorite scene from my favorite movie! I thought of the sma e analogy myself. Wow.

Anders Branderud said...

Regarding benei Noakh:

Both according to the logical proof based on scientific premises presented in the Netzarim (the only legitimate Netzarim) (www.netzarim.co.il)-site (click on the “Jews”-section in the main page) and according to Tan’’kh, ha-Sheim requires of all of humankind that they observe His mitzwot in Torah non-selectively.

See also the Benei Noakh-section in the History Museum (left panel) in the above Netzarim-page.

“Noachides” are according to Tan’’kh the same thing as goyim, and goyim are not promised ha-olam haba in Tan’’kh. One can learn this by studying our glossary entries, particularly Bәn•ei′-No′akh, and consulting an Iv•rit′ concordance to make an exhaustive study of what is prophesied to happen to all goy•im′.

Quote: “The Nәtzârim Beit-Din were the original Beit-Din who defined the Noakhide Laws as the minimum threshhold requirements to admit a proselyte, thereby enabling him or her to study Torâh with Jews, in the Jewish community, and begin the transition of learning and becoming non-selectively Torâh-observant.” (source: the above Netzarim-website)

The ancient Halakhah is this:
The Noakhide should practise the minimum threshold-requirements, come before a beit-din (implying Orthodox) promising to adhere to that requirements and to start doing his/her utmost to observe the mitzwot in Torah non-selectively; and then “study Torâh with Jews, in the Jewish community, and begin the transition of learning and becoming non-selectively Torâh-observant”. Doing this he/she is given the title geir toshav (a resident-alien)/geirah toshav by the beit-din, and has a part of ha olam haba as long as he/she is doing his/her utmost to keep Torah non-selectively to his/her utmost (which ha-Sheim requires of all of humankind (see Yekhezeqiel 18 et.al. in Tan’’kh).

The conclusions in the Netzarim-website is in accordance with Tan’’kh and the research of the eminent Scholar Louis H. Feldman (Biblical Archeological Review states: "There is simply no one in the world who has a better grasp of Hellenistic Jewish literature than Louis Feldman" , Jew & Gentile in the Ancient World.)

Anders Branderud