It is so rare that Adina and I get a chance to sit down and watch a movie together. Recently we had the pleasure of watching The Invention of Lying. While it did not have a compelling ending ( Adina fell asleep), the premise was brilliant. Imagine a world in which no one knows how to lie. Every just says what is on their mind and has limited filters. That all changes with the invention of lying.
At a critical moment in the movie the protagonist who invents lying is dealing with his mother’s pending death. Instead of just allowing her to believe that death will be a meaningless void, he tells her a lie. There is an afterlife which is filled with joy. This conversation is overheard and everyone wants to know about this afterlife. At some points he decides to use his powers for good and lay out other information he has received from the ” Man in the Sky”. After staying up writing all night he rights down his top ten list of things that he thinks would make people better and would justify this “Man in the Sky” who told him about the after life. About to stand in front of the throng of people he takes two pizza boxes to hold up his top ten list.
I think it was a brilliant reframing of the revelation of the Ten Commandments as the revelation of a much needed lie. Done for good purposes but not necessarily yielding the best results.
Today is the 17th of Tammuz. The day commemorates the breaching of the walls of Jerusalem during the destruction of the Second Temple. It has been forty days since Shavuot. Moses ascended Mount Sinai and remained up there those forty days. Israel built the Golden Calf on the afternoon of the sixteenth of Tammuz when it seemed that Moses was not coming down when promised. Moses descended the next day (forty days by his count), saw that the Israelites were violating many of the laws he had received, and smashed the tablets. Poetically it also commemorates the the destruction of the Tablets of the Ten Commandments.
For many moderns it is hard to understand the ancient myth of revelation as something that actually happened. It is interesting to think of it as a lie. Modernity itself represents a breach in the wall of faith. Today is a day of fasting and prayer. It is important that we look at these lies in our life. Do we spend our time defending, rebuilding, or ignoring that wall? Can we ever return to life before the breach? How might we ever return to a time before that breach? In many ways I believe that these three weeks from now until Tisha B’Av are about a process of helping as achieve a Second Naivete. At the end of Eicha we will read, “Turn us unto You, O Lord, and we shall be turned; renew our days as of old” ( Lamentations 5:21) Just maybe we can return Gan Eden.
Maybe it is a lie, but maybe it creates a profound truth. As I write this I am at a summer camp. There is nothing real about camp. It is a completely artificial environment in which we experience some of the most profound, real, and authentic experiences in the world. Camp is really Gan Eden. There is a profound breach in that wall when get older and cannot go back or when we experience a tragedy in that community. All together we can strive to renew our days as of old.