THE SPELLBINDING Daniella Michaeli in ‘Making God Laugh.’.
(photo credit: COURTESY RAHEL VILNER)
The subtitle is “Meeting Rabbi Froman” and for an hour playwright/ actress/artist extraordinaire Daniella Michaeli holds us spellbound as she leads us through the life, philosophy and faith of Rabbi Menahem “Chai Shalom” Froman (1945-2013) in a piece that is a trinity – a tale, a play, a prayer.
Rabbi Froman was one of the earliest settlers in the West Bank, a founding member of Gush Emunim, and the chief rabbi of Tekoa where he lived with his wife and 10 children. He was an unwavering and ardent believer in “Eretz Israel Hashlema” (the Whole Israel). He was an unwavering and ardent believer in peace with the Palestinians. Peace, he believed and taught, was an existential human need and purpose. He was an ultra-Orthodox Jew who adhered minutely to the law, yet believed and taught that the secular world has something to say to the religious one, and also that religion is intrinsic to peace, especially between us and the Palestinians. He met with Yasser Arafat, went to Gaza to meet with Hamas sheikh Ahmad Yassin. He and Hamas drew up a peace agreement. There was no reply from our government.
When he was diagnosed with inoperable colorectal cancer his prayer was for time to make peace happen. Hate was our cancer, he said. One of his favorite songs was “There will yet be peace among us.” His motto was “believe – pray – do.” His weapons, he said, were love and laughter. He called himself “Rabbi Purim” so that his more radical suggestions might be laughed at rather than reviled.
Michaeli reveals the rabbi to us, facet by facet, as she turns the kaleidoscope of his life this way and that, with grace, with humor, through song, without pretension, never making more or less of the rather remarkable human being that was R. Froman.
Pianist Halbertal, a Froman son-in-law, quietly adds his mite.
That Michaeli presented her program just before Rosh Hashana... could that have been a hint?