San Diego Jewish Film Festival preview: ‘Bruriah’
LA JOLLA, California–The film Bruriah, to be shown Feb. 14 and Feb. 21 at the San Diego Jewish Film Festival, portrays a modern rendering of the Parable of Temptation and Sin that legend assigns to Talmudic Sage Bruriah and her weak-minded husband, Rabbi Meir.
The historic Bruriah was a daughter of one of the Ten Martyrs, Rabbi Hananiah Ben Teradyon, whose lives were forsworn by the invading Romans. She witnessed not only his death by burning alive but also the Roman executioner so moved by her Father’s heroism that he threw himself on the burning pyre and took his own life.
Bruriah is cited four times in the Talmud and in midrashim on Psalms and on Proverbs.
This modern retelling takes place in an orthodox home in Jerusalem. The main characters, Bruriah and her husband Yaakov, have three children, one about ready to leave home: she wants to go to a seminary for women and prepare for the rabbinate. The home life is well presented and the relationship between the married couple flows on an even keel. Each child actor is given cameo scenes where their character is fully developed and their talents as actresses fully displayed.
For reasons that are not clearly developed, alluded to, interleaved, or even nudged, the husband, Yaakov, becomes unglued and sets in motion a chain of events that disturbs their marriage and her fidelity to him.
The background for this is as follows: as a child Bruriah witnessed the violent burning of her father’s papers and books, including a treatise he had written on the Talmudic Bruriah. One of the leaders of the burning was Yaakov’s father. When Yaakov tells his father whom he has chosen to be his bride, his father tells him, that if he marries her, he will never speak to him again. And so it happens; Nor does he ever meet his grandchildren. (In their reconciliation scene toward the climax of the film, they switch from Hebrew to Yiddish, the language of love between father and son).
Bruriah has continued to search for her father’s book, believing that he must have hidden a copy. She even works part-time in a used book store in the hope that she’ll come across it.
At the same time, has Yaakov continued to be plagued by his father’s abandonment? Does Yaakov suspect the connection between his father and Bruriah’s? Does he feel conflicted in some way? Has his oldest daughter’s desire to study for the rabbinate pushed him over the edge? Why does he hurl the gauntlet of temptation to sin at Bruriah? Why does she still ruminate over her father’s burned manuscript? Why, all of a sudden, do the attentions of another teacher at Yaakov’s school, tempt her? The connections are not clear. The sense of “not clearness” weaves itself throughout the film and infects the motivations of the main characters.
The main leads, Hadar Galron and Baruch Brener, are both very accomplished actors and writers with backgrounds steeped in the theatre. Galdar has a long association with the theatre, Beit Lessin in Tel Aviv as a writer, comedian, and actress. She wrote the screenplay for the the film, The Secrets. Brener is a rabbi who teaches Midrash and Talmud at Nissan Nativ College in Israel.
What of the fate of the historical Bruriah? Did she or didn’t she? She most definitely did not! Rabbi Nissim Ben Jacob(990 – 1062) head of the yeshiva at Kairouan( Tunisia) researched the sources thoroughly a millennium ago. He laid to rest the lurid legends. Her reputation remains unblemished.
Fadem is a freelance writer based in La Mesa, California