Górecki: Symphony #3
Reflection On the Minimum Required Distribution From an Annuity

Shtisel, Again

I've now watched both seasons of this Israeli TV show, and will repeat and upgrade my recommendation. It's one of the few TV series that I would want to watch a second time.

Its portrait of the Shtisel family includes a number of subplots, and it occurred to me a couple of days ago that one of the major ones shares something with Chaim Potok's My Name is Asher Lev, as Robert Gotcher described that book in a post in our 52 Authors series.  The struggle between father (Shulem) and son (Akive) Shtisel involves Akive's talent for art and desire to pursue it. And it didn't hit me, until someone (in the show) stated it explicitly, that any representational art at all is of dubious morality from a strictly Orthodox (Jewish) perspective. 

If you have watched part of it, or when you do watch it, and found/find yourself frustrated with Akive's romantic life, press on: there is resolution. There is resolution of nearly all the running threads of the story at the end of season two, which makes me think there won't be another. Well, better to end too soon than to jump the shark

Aside from the fact that it's just a good piece of work in every way, the series has special relevance and resonance for Christians in this country, and I suppose in Europe, who, in trying to be true to their faith, find themselves swimming very much against the current of the national culture. I've had the impression that there is some tension between the haredim (see Wikipedia) and secular Israelis, and at several points Shtisel sent me off to the Internet to learn more about that. (Not that I learned very much--but it's more than I knew before.)

For that matter, secular culture aside, the whole problem of trying to sacralize every aspect of life in the world is probably applicable to many faiths and cultures. In the next or next-to-last episode there's a situation involving Shulem and a painting that is quite moving in the way Shulem deals with his own conflicting obligations and impulses. It's one of a number of incidents in the series, especially ones involving the often-exasperating Shulem, that had me thinking "You don't have to do that" and at the same time admiring and respecting his integrity. I'd like to discuss it but it would constitute too much of a spoiler, so I'll just leave it as something for you to look forward to. 


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My wife and I watched both seasons and couldn't agree with you more. As exasperating Shulem was (especially in his upstaging his son at his gallery opening) I couldn't but admire his tenacious faith. Hope I haven't done a "spoiler>"

Exasperating indeed! I was thinking of just that scene when I used the word. I just sort of cringed. And laughed. It's not a comedy but it has a lot of funny moments. I guess that's not too much of a spoiler....

Cheryl watched it and really liked it. Guess I'll have to give it a shot.

That's what you said on the previous post. So get to it! :-)

We have watched three, maybe four episodes and are really enjoying it. I am very impressed with the actress that plays Giti's daughter.


I was too. You've just begun being impressed. :-) I don't necessarily think everything this character does is entirely convincing, but in any case the actress does a fantastic job with it. Glad you're enjoying it. Giti herself is very good, too. I said to Karen at some point "They sure picked an actress who knew how to look unhappy."

Thanks for this insightful piece. You might be interested in the episode by episode analysis I've just published, Reading Shtisel: A TV Masterpiece from Israel. It's along the lines of my study. The Sopranos on the Couch, that Continuum published about 20 years ago. My Shtisel is available at lulu.com, amazon and barnes & noble.

You're welcome. I see your book on Amazon--looks interesting. Btw although you seem to be legitimate I'm getting a security warning from my web browser when I click on your blog link.

I have watched two episodes and Im very frustrated with the young rabbi's romantic failures. If he can't pick up a girl by the end of the third episode, Im out. I can't blame these women not wanting to date a guy whose main project is drawing pictures of animals.

Well, you may as well bail out now and do something else with the 45 minutes or so you would spend on the third episode. Because poor Akive has got a long road ahead of him. I don't think saying that is too much of a spoiler. Especially as I'm doing it for humanitarian reasons. :-)

I agree, it *is* frustrating. But I liked the show a lot anyway.


One of my favourite journalists, 'Peter Simple' (Michael Wharton) used to get on his school report card 'he is passive and lacks initiative'. This rabbi in the TV series is not my favourite rabbi. I don't know what Im going to watch when I finish Season 4 of Better Call Saul, but I don't think Im going back to Shtisel.

Go back and start BCS over again. I'm thinking of doing that, because there's so much I don't remember. Season 4 is good. It's a little sad to get this close to Saul as we knew him in Breaking Bad, though, because we know Kim is not going to be with him, and I really like her.

Yes I feel ridiculously upset about the situation with Kim

I actually watched the first and a bit of the second season of Better Call Saul when I was in NYC in 2015-2016. But I simply couldn't bear seeing Jimmie turn into Saul, and the prospect of Kim and Jimmie/Saul losing one another broke my heart. So I stopped watching. A few months ago I decided to start again. I couldn't remember much so I started again in Season 1. Now I am a little way into Season 4 and Im reconciled to the break up. As Kim says, she is now deep into 'sunk costs fallacy.' She *has* to drop him and move on with her life. I could even live with her marrying Howard at this point :)

Considering the way things generally went in Breaking Bad, there's no reason to expect a happy ending.

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