Madonna/Esther, In Honor of Purim…

This originally appeared in the LA Jewish Journal around 1997, way before everyone caught up with the Kabbalah thing and our friend Esther. Madonna read the article, loved it and gave an interview to an Israeli paper about it. Note that her most recent tour’s theme is “reinvent yourself.” My friend Dave, a playwrite, was reading the Independent newspaper in the UK and saw an article where Madonna quoted me. Hmmmm. Here’s the original.
Chag Sameyach, Yossi


Dear Madonna:
Is it possible that I saw you at Sinai? The Jewish mystical tradition, which you have been exploring, teaches that the souls of all Jews for all generations – including converts to Judaism – stood at Mount Sinai when our covenant with God was affirmed. Could the Jewish soul of Madonna Louise Veronica Ciccone be trapped in the body of a rebellious Catholic?

Inside my Madonna file is a collection of little-known Jewish facts. You have been a paid member of Hadassah, the Zionist women’s organization, for nearly a decade, thanks to Sandra Bernard. Your dancing debut in New York was “I Never Saw Another Butterfly,? an adaptation of children’s Holocaust poetry. You learned to play guitar in a converted, old Bronx synagogue.

Unlike most American Jews, you have been to Israel. And like many Jewish women who visit Jerusalem, you were barred from praying at the Western Wall by the fervently Orthodox. You have attended several Passover seders where the spirit of freedom and liberation perhaps were the inspiration for you to speak up against the despicable living conditions of Palestinians in Gaza. And you have been regularly attending Sabbath services with your daughter in Los Angeles, including recently for the Jewish New Year.

Beneath these factoids in an even more compelling picture of an intelligent woman who has been on a spiritual journey, much accelerated with the birth of your daughter, Lourdes. The miracle of childbirth, coupled with the desire to rear a child within a system of morals and values that makes sense, often leads new parents to reconsider their religious allegiances. You feel attached sentimentally to the rich rituals of Catholicism, yet you reject Catholic dogma.

Judaism offers a comprehensive ritual framework for a progressive belief system that is more in tune with your inner convictions; Judaism could be a natural ally in raising Lourdes to be sensitive, politically conscious, happy and questioning young woman into which you hope she blossoms.

According to the Pope, you have not exactly been a model Catholic. Yet you have the elements of being a good Jew and a great Jewish mother.

Jews are commanded to have our values reflected in what we eat; you have been a vegetarian, keeping, de facto, the laws of kashrut.

Jews are commanded to give tzedakah (righteous and obligatory giving); you have championed AIDS, cancer and other causes.

Jews are commanded to rebuke society when we see failures; you have been a ceaseless critic of prejudice and censorship.

Jews are commanded to delight in sex and to satisfy our partners; you have rejected Christianity’s puritanical linking of sin and sexuality.

Jews are commanded not to make or worship images of God; you reject Christianity’s imaging of God as a white male.

A trademark of a Jewish worldview is to look critically at society and to question, challenge and prod status quo ideas, usually to the chagrin of the powers that be. Our prophets are nonconformists; our thinkers are trailblazers. Baruch Spinoza was first excommunicated for his heretical ideas and then later rehabilitated as a genius. You have perfected the art of pushing people’s buttons, partly out of fun and partly out of a commitment to free thinking.

And you have done something Jewish in each step of your public life: You have reinvented yourself. The Jewish view of creation is that we are not doomed to suffer our fate but are empowered to change the world and to change ourselves. Each year, we pledge to recreate ourselves, rejuvenating our quest to become closer to realizing the evolving Divinity in ourselves.

According to the Kabbalah, God, like the wisdom inherent in the Torah, has many faces. It is time to affirm that yours was one of them at Sinai. Make it official. Give Lourdes a new heritage that will bring meaning and a spiritual satisfaction for which her mother has always longed.


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