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Entourage & the Modern Jewish Experience
We recently had a showing of the popular TV show “Entourage” in our community (to ages 16 and up). Entourage is a story of an up and coming movie star living life in Hollywood with all the glitz, glamour and struggle. To many, what makes the show such a hit is the character of the movie star’s Jewish agent Ari Gold: a hard lined, extremely aggressive and no holds barred agent who stops at nothing to be number one in his business, often jeopardizing other priorities in his life.
Ari Gold is not only Jewish but proud of it. He unabashedly makes reference to his Jewishness and his being part of the Jewish people, even happily telling his clients that today is Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year – so they order another round of drinks to celebrate. In fact there is an entire episode about Yom Kippur, where Ari’s wife makes sure he is without his cell phone during services so he won’t be doing any business. Even so, there is a big movie deal that needs to happen, so he secretly keeps his phone in his pocket to make the phone calls to secure the deal. When his wife finds him being outside of the services, understanding in shame of his incessant need to work and to be on his cell phone, even on the holiest day of the year, she sends out their daughter to find him. The daughter finds him talking in secret outside of Temple on his cell phone with his colleague. Ari comforts his daughter by telling her, “That is the beauty of Yom Kippur honey. As long as you apologize by sundown, it doesn’t matter what you do”.
But there is pride in Ari’s Jewishness. He invites his clients and associates to his daughter’s Bat Mitzvah, invites people over for brisket after Yom Kippur, and consistently makes proud, unabashed and confident one-liners about being Jewish, even saying once about himself, “It’s all going to be fine, the Jew has arrived.”
There are two things that make Ari’s character all the more intriguing. One is that he is based on a real person, a Hollywood agent Ari Emanuel (Rahm Emanuel’s brother, Obama’s Chief of Staff) and the other is that a significant percentage of Jewish people today would probably meet Ari’s experience of being Jewish. That experience being on the one hand of being proud to be Jewish: proud of Jewish customs, traditions, foods, culture and people hood. Proud of our history, of our story and of our ability to seemingly overcome all of history’s obstacles that have come in our way – we are strong and we are proud.
This means that although this is merely a TV show and possibly exaggerated at times, it is more of a reality show that tries to portray the life of a living and breathing Jewish person today. What it portrays is a person who yes, is proud to be Jewish. But more so, portrays a person who although deeply identifies with being Jewish, is quite far from what Judaism is supposed to be for a human being.
In a marital therapy meeting, here is the following exchange.
“Mrs. Ari (doesn’t want Ari to pick up his phone during couples therapy): I ask for one hour of a day for his undivided attention, and I can’t even have that.
Ari: You could have it if you want to live in Agoura Hills, and go to group therapy. But if you want a Beverly Hills mansion and you want a country club membership, and you want 9 weeks a year in a Tuscan villa, than I’m gonna need to take a call when it comes in at noon on a Wednesday.”
Money driven, insulting, one up-manship, angry, afraid and most of all isolated from his family and his wife is the painting of this caricature. There may be Jewish pride, but this is not living the power of Jewish life, and why I feel so many Jewish people today feel estranged from Judaism and look elsewhere for meaning.
What it all comes down to though, is that I do not see joy in the life of Ari Gold. Not in him, not in his colleagues and not in his clients. There is lots of money, lots of fame and recognition, lots of mansions and fancy sport cars – but no joy. True this is not reality and only a TV show, but this show is entirely based on reality and on real people; and I would like to offer a perspective of Torah on how to live a life in Hollywood and anywhere in the world with joy, meaning, trust and be able to spend time with family as well.
“The days of Chanuka are days of gratitude, as it says in the Siddur, ‘and they established these 8 days of Chanuka to appreciate and praise God’. And gratitude is the experience of heavenly enjoyment and pleasure…for in the end of days, there will be nothing but gratitude”
– Rebbe Nachman of Breslev, Likutey Mohoran, 2:2.
When a person lives every minute with gratitude for everything they have, they live a life of enjoyment and pleasure. Because if I am grateful and appreciate all that I have been given, not paying so much attention or focusing on all that I don’t have and that which is wrong, then everything I have is enjoyed. To appreciate is to enjoy and to be grateful is to be alive. This is so deeply essential in Judaism that we are called, “Yehudim” Jews, which come from the Hebrew word, “modeh” meaning to be grateful, for that is the essence of Judaism.
Ari Gold works hard to bless his family with all the blessings of this world: a Beverly Hills mansion, country club membership and a villa in Tuscany – but all that his wife wants is an hour with him. An hour to appreciate eachother, to talk, to relate, to appreciate what they have instead of running around maintaining what they have. But Ari can’t see it. If Ari were to go out of his way to spend that hour (or two or three or four) with his wife, to focus, to talk, to relate and ultimately to appreciate the life he has with her – not only would she be happy, but he would as well.
It is also an illusion to think that he can’t give up his time, either on a Wednesday afternoon or Yom Kippur in order to live the life that he wants. Because there is another essential element, more fundamental, critical and even urgent than anything else in Judaism – and that is to experience and know God.
“From Rosh Hashana to Yom Kippur it is decided in heaven how much money a person will earn for the upcoming year. This amount is added to, to the extent one invests in Torah and Charity.”
– Talmud, Rosh Hashana
“A person has to know 3 things: That everything that happens to him/her is from God; that everything that happens to him/her is for the best; and that everything that happens to a person is a direct communication from God, a communication of how God is trying to bring the person close to them”
– Rav Shalom Arush, Garden of Emunah
When a person lives with the reality that his money is from God, there are no worries in the world. When a person lives with the reality that everything is for the best and a direct gift from God who is trying to communicate with us – what need is there to worry? Obviously there is a need to work, but to overwork is unnecessary. To the extent that in Judaism we all have to take one day off every week to totally relax, be at home and reconnect with our lives and ourselves. Because ultimately it’s all beyond our control, but is in the control of the One who gave us life.
If Ari Gold took an hour off his day to spend quality time with his wife, it would change his life. If Ari would take off Shabbos to reconnect with his family to be at home to reconnect, that would change his life. If Ari spent a little time everyday studying what Judaism is really about, what our power and strength really are, studying books that open our mind and hearts to a greater reality, to settle our mind, to awaken our soul and to learn how to live a life of gratitude (literally Jewish) – even for 10 minutes a day, he would be a different person. A more settled person, a happier person, a richer person, a more confident person, less stress and more chilled person; Ultimately a more Jewish person.
In the end though, I have a soft spot for Ari. Despite his rough exterior and demeanor, he has a good inside filled with a desire to give to his family, make things work for his clients and ultimately is someone you enjoy seeing in action.
So thank you to Ari Gold, Ari Emanuel and everyone at Entourage for giving us all the opportunity to think and rethink what it means to be a Jew in today’s world.
Wishing a happy Chanuka to the entire Jewish world. Everyone should be proud of their Jewishness and enjoy it, and God willing enlighten us all to become truly appreciative, generous and happy people.
To learn more on how to enjoy your life and relationships – and how to effect positive change in any environment – go to Rabbi Ari’s FREE video course at: http://www.ediin7.com.
(Article appeared in the Shalom Magazine of the Atlantic Jewish Consul)