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The Jewish Mysticism of The Big Lebowski

Yeah, man, it's more than just not rolling on Shabbes

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“This is not ‘Nam. This is bowling. There are rules.” — Walter Sobchak

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The Big Lebowski, apparently, is a good film for Jews to watch during Coronavirus lockdown.

 That’s right – The Times of Israel recently made the suggestion, pointing to John Goodman’s portrayal of an observant Jew in the film.

But there is so much more. Oh so much more. 

It all began March 6, 1998, when The Big Lebowski hit the silver screen, and with it, a cult classic was stamped onto North American pop culture.

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Based incredibly loosely on a composite of real characters, it’s mostly the story of a laid-back stoner named Jeffrey “The Dude” Lebowski, a kidnapping, a soiled rug that tied the room together, an identity mix-up, and of course oddball bowling buddies.

The film has spawned an annual celebration of all things Lebowski called Lebowski Fest, and a religion was created called Dudeism – or the Church of the Latter-Day Dudes. Nearly half a million people are now Dudeist priests, worldwide.

It’s not the only time faith has been associated with the film. There is, after all, a character named Jesus (which nobody fugs with), and Lebowski’s pal Walter Sobchak is a practicing Jew who “doesn’t roll on Shabbes”.

More poignantly, the film is an allegory for the Exodus from Egypt. Ready for this?

As an interesting mix of faith and film, perhaps there’s a way to mix devotion to Judaism, with being a devotee to Lebowski-ism, and make a “Sobchak Seder”.

The festive meal, of course, takes place in a bowling alley. 10-pin, to be precise – each pin representing a plague in Egypt.

In the spirit of Sobchak, participants will retell the stories of each plague, but as the personal experiences during his tour of duty in Vietnam: a river turned to blood, swarms of biting insects, pestilence, days of darkness, and so forth.

The last plague, the death of the firstborn Egyptian male, is symbolized by a tin of Folger’s coffee, once-used to hold their friend Donny’s ashes. This is complemented by the use of Maxwell House Hagadahs (a version of the Seder prayer book published by the coffee company).

Symbolizing the Jewish people’s sorrow in slavery, horseradish is eaten at the Seder, but don’t think about getting it from the jar. Grate those bitter herbs by hand; if you want to enter a world of pain, you ought to do it right.

Instead of saying “Let My People Go”, the chant will be “This Aggression Will Not Stand, Man!” The celebratory songs will be sung to Creedence tunes (but not the Eagles, especially if the Dude is invited.)

Sobchak, naturally, is a Republican supporter. Because: Jerusalem. Plus, he loves his guns. The Second Amendment, man, shall not be infringed. And Sobchak was saying “believe me” long before The Donald.

Therefore, it would stand to reason that he would introduce Trump parallels in the Exodus story. To keep the nieces and nephews (and his ex-wife Cynthia’s kids) entertained during the long, drawn-out ritual, he’ll tell how Pharaoh made slaves build the pyramids – and made the Jews pay for it.

He’ll talk about how Moses was quoted as saying “Make Sinai Great Again.” And he’ll explain how the Golden Calf was a “disaster” that never should have happened (and anything golden should have been in Trump’s abode, anyhow.)

And finally, no Sobchak Seder would be complete without doling out the matzah straight from a bowling ball bag. 

If you’ve ever wondered how Joel and Ethan Coen’s masterpiece, The Big Lebowski, could fit into the story of the Exodus (surely, you have), now you know.

Dave Gordon is the managing editor of TheJ.ca. His work has appeared in more than a hundred media around the world, including all of the Toronto dailies, BBC, Washington Times, and UK Guardian.

 
 
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Thank you for choosing TheJ.Ca as your source for Canadian Jewish News.

We do news differently!

Our positioning as a Zionist News Media platform sets us apart from the rest. While other Canadian Jewish media are advocating increasingly biased progressive political and social agendas, TheJ.Ca is providing more and more readers with a welcome alternative and an ideological home.

We revealed the incursion of anti-Israel progressive elements such as IfNotNow into our communities. We have exposed the distorted hateful agenda of the “progressive” left political radicals who brought Linda Sarsour to our cities, and we were first to report on many disturbing incidents of Nazi-based hate towards Jews across Canada.

But we can’t do it alone. We need your HELP!

Our ability to thrive and grow in 2020 and beyond depends on the generosity of committed readers and supporters like you.

Monthly support is a great way to help us sustain our operations. We greatly appreciate any contributions you can make to support Jewish Journalism.

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