Where is all this leading?
 
It was hard enough to imagine Madonna being caught up in Kaballah. Of course, before her fame, she was a pre-Madonna, but now, she has acquired the Hebrew name Esther and has visited Kaballah centers here in Israel. Honestly, in your most active imagination, did you ever think that Madonna and Kaballah would be said in the same breath?
 
Well, here comes another mind-blower, so buckle your seat belt. Scott Samuel “Scooter” Braun is the Jewish manager of the wildly popular Justin Bieber, whom he discovered on YouTube. Bieber became the first recording artist to have 7 songs from a debut album chart on the Billboard 100. (Didn’t Shlomo Carlebach match that?) He is a certified teen idol at the age of 17 (ha! I was a teen idol at 15, gotcha Justin) and his hit songs and awards keep piling up like shucked corn husks at a summer bar-b-que. He has it made for life. Leave it to Bieber.
 
Guess what Justin Bieber does before a concert? Guess again…..he recites the Shema! His Jewish manager plays an important role in Bieber’s development, as a kind of road dad. It seems that Justin and the crew used to have a prayer circle before each concert, ending with a reference to Jesus. To balance that, Braun and another Jewish member of the crew started saying the Shema, the seminal Jewish  prayer found in the Torah in Deuteronomy 6:4-9, and before you knew it, Justin chimed in after having memorized the prayer. The scene of Justin and the crew reciting the Shema together made it into the documentary “Never Say Never”, about Justin and his rise to fame and fortune.
 
Justin Bieber is coming to Israel for a series of concerts in April, and will be here for Passover, at which time Justin plans to attend the Braun seder. You know, if Justin was at my seder, I would have the perfect place to hide the afikoman- in his hair!
 
Madonna and Justin Bieber are very high profile non-Jewish celebrities, among others, embracing Jewish teachings. Now I hear an entire country is studying Talmud, and it’s not Israel! It seems that in South Korea, it is mandatory for all students to study the Talmud in school. Almost every South Korean home boasts a Korean version of the Talmud. South Korean Ambassador to Israel, Ma-Young Sam, explained this unusual phenomenon. “We were very curious about the high academic achievements of the Jews. Jews have a high percentage of Nobel laureates in many fields. We tried to understand the secret of the Jewish people. How are they, more than other people, able to reach those impressive accomplishments? Why are Jews so intelligent? The conclusion we arrived at is that one of your secrets is that you study the Talmud….We believe that if we teach our children Talmud, they will become geniuses.”
 
And if they say the Shema, they will become musical geniuses. And if they study the Talmud and say the Shema while holding a red string and drinking water from a Sage’s mikvah, there’s no telling what may happen.
 
I’m imagining Lady Gaga baking Shmura Matzah. I can see the Dalai Lama wearing a gartel. I envision the Pope putting up a mezuzah at the Vatican, though Hava Nagila in the confessionals is a stretch. Hillary Clinton wearing only long denim skirts? Nah…
 
I’m proud when others see some of our rituals and customs as something to value.
 

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