The War for the Sabbath

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Excerpt from this day’s program:

…But before signing off for the evening and the week, I must contribute my view on a current news story, the 40th anniversary of Steven Spielberg’s masterpiece, in my opinion, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, which I consider his most Jewish movie. Munich was certainly not.

And why is Close Encounters Jewish? Well, some of the movie critics’ opining on the anniversary and the remastering and digitalizing of the original print have commented on the mystical, spiritual atmosphere of this UFO story.

But what I see is probably an unconscious plagiarizing of the Torah miSinai. Every year when we read Parashas Yisro, Exodus 20,, the giving of the Ten Utterances, we are treated to a powerful description of the descent onto Mt. Sinai of HaShem preceded by clouds above a mountain top which the Israelites are warned not to climb.. Which is the same directive in Close Encounters. The army cordons over the Devil’s Tower — ponder that name for a moment — which a few people in the movie have been mysteriously drawn too, their minds imprinted with its outline and an uncontrollable drive to reach this place.

The lead, played by Richard Dreyfuss and others like him, are summoned to this place by a force they do not know. When they escape their handlers to run toward the mountain, the cartographer, played by Bob Balaban, wants them to go, shouting, “They’ve been invited!”

And when the spaceship descends in all it majesty, it is like the descent of HaShem on Mt. Sinai before His chosen people.

Not that Spielberg is an observant Jew but does have vague, childhood memories of being in the company of relatives who via his description sound like Haredim/Hasidim.

Everyone who has seen this movie experiences the religiosity in play as man finds out that in the universe, he is not alone, and the powers that be are not hostile, as in HG Wells War of the Worlds. They are benevolent…