Marveling at Mrs. Maisel

“That’s the way it is, if you want to do something great,” the reclusive, genius artist tells Mrs. Maisel. They gaze upon his masterpiece which was supposed to hang in his home with his wife. But he can no longer have that life, because he poured his best into his art. “If you want to take something as far as it’ll go, you can’t have everything. You lose family, a sense of home. But, then, look at what exists.”

Geniuses do end up lonely. Their passion consumes their best, costing them a sense of belonging. For Mrs. Maisel humor is expensive. Even as it is delivered at the expense of others, it comes with an even higher cost: companionship. Being alone can feel terrifyingly sad. But is loneliness an artist’s only companion?

Artistry is central to this week’s portion of Torah.  The Tabernacle is assembled by many.  Indeed all of the Children of Israel contribute willfully.  But the craftsmanship resides with a gifted individual named Betzalel.  The early phase of construction repeatedly describes “they made” (Ex. Ch. 36), while the final phase consistently tells us “he made” (Ex. Ch. 37).  Interestingly, Betzalel’s singularity is accompanied by Ohaliav who “has the ability to grow learners” (Ex. 35:34).  It is no accident that the portion which singles out the Torah’s most gifted artistic individual is named for collective association and assembly (va-yakhel).

Belonging, connections, and relationships are built into the fabric of the universe according to Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel.  “No cell could exist alone, all bodies are interdependent, affect and serve one another.  Figuratively speaking, even rocks bear fruit, are full of unappreciated kindness, when their strength holds up a wall.”

Events in the life of Mrs. Maisel reliably defy expectations.  Just went life seems warmly headed toward hope, a sharp curve in the road takes Mrs. Maisel in a completely different direction. 

Unexpected turns animate our lives too.  When they arrive uninvited, may the fruits of our connectivity nourish alongside the fruits of our creativity.

About the Author
Rabbi William Hamilton has served as rabbi (mara d'atra) of Kehillath Israel in Brookline, MA since 1995.
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