Producer and director Chuck Davis (Raising the Sparks) has created a 60-minute documentary that moves on many levels of meaning. It interweaves the cycles of nature with the Jewish calendar using stunning visuals of the Colorado landscape, beautiful music, and the profound teachings of Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Schalomi and Michael Kagan. Here is a primer for Jews and a refreshing overview for Gentiles filled with insights into what it means to live a life connected to history and the natural world. Lovely musical performances by Alisa Fineman, Shefa Gold, Jack Kessler, Robert Esfromes, and Nadya Gross greatly enhance the lyrical dimensions of this holistic presentation.
Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Schalomi is the founder of the ALEPH Alliance for Jewish Renewal. He currently lives in Boulder, Colorado, where he has taught at Naropa University since 1995. He provides commentary on the ways in which the Jewish holidays encourage us to expand our understandings of self and the world in which we live. Michael Kagen is a director of a hi-tech company in Israel who has been developing and teaching Holistic Judaism through lectures and workshops in Israel and Europe. He is the author of The Holistic Haggadah. These two skilled teachers challenge us to see the ideas, events, and people in the Jewish holiday cycle in relation to the natural world and the growth of our own souls. They want us to ride the updrafts of the Holy One who lifts us on the winds of grace. Different points in the year remind us to take off our masks, to wake up and see the wonders of God all around us, to forgive ourselves and our neighbors, to walk in freedom, to grieve over the many times we have missed the mark, to open our hearts, and to dance with the sacred messages of the Torah.
The most appealing dimension of Seasons of the Soul is that it so successfully brings together the rich traditions of each holiday with appropriate rituals. During the section on Purim, for example, Reb Zalman describes the great "melodrama" of the day with its story of the good guys and then bad guys; he adds that the Jewish sages "tell us to get so happy on Purim that we forget the difference between who should be blessed and who should be cursed." It is a time for taking off the masks we wear and looking deeper into ourselves. The scene shifts to a workshop led by Michael Kagan where participants are making masks of their faces. He asks them to name the masks they wear whatever is keeping them from loving, perhaps fear or inhibitions. Then he has them take off their masks. The next time they feel confused, he advises, they should take up the mask and give it a name, put it on and sit with it a while, then with kavanaugh (consciousness), take it off. "The blessing of Purim," he notes, "is that we may grow so that the inside is the same as the outside . . . and two become one."
Imagination is what makes this production shine. Gratitude to Chuck Davis for another edifying and memorable exploration of Judaism that speaks to the devotional part of all of us.