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Idol Chatter

As I watched the season premiere of “Lost” Wednesday night on ABC, it occurred to me that all of pop culture’s flash forwards and flashbacks (done masterfully here, in my opinion, as well as in “Damages” and other shows) owe a debt of gratitude to “Pulp Fiction” – with its many characters whose lives interlock in ways they don’t know about, but which the audience is privy to through a series of seemingly disjointed anecdotal scenes that, despite their perceived randomness, together do create a contiguous plot.
Maybe it’s my tendency to look at everything through a spirituality/pop culture lens, but it seems to me that TV’s themes – justice and retribution, good and evil, crime and punishment, sins of parents being visited upon the next generation, etc – are also inherited from the Biblical literary tradition.
When I was studying Torah text in yeshiva day school, we would occasionally encounter a phrase that seemed out of place, or which recounted an event that hadn’t yet happened in the linear reading of the text. Our teachers would note a principle that roughly translated to “there is no chronological order in the Bible”:

The principle of ein mukdam umeauchar is usually explained as follows: “The Torah did not care to for chronology and chapters that were given first are preceded by those given later (Rashi Pesachim 6b).” In other words, the Torah is arranged by topics, not chronology. “.. For more on this see The AishDas Society website.


While I’m not convinced that the writers of “Lost” are my long-lost high school colleagues parsing a Bible of their own non-chronological creation, or that Quentin Tarantino’s film was a paean to Torah study, even if it does present a major character who regularly quotes Scripture before gunning down his victims. But it does seem like this fluidity of time principle is at work, asking readers or viewers to trust that in the work as a whole, all questions will be answered, even if they’re out of order. And overall, it seems clear that the Biblical literary tradition has had and continues to make an impact on popular culture in a way that is eclectic, non-preachy, and intensely familiar, riveting us to story and character even when the narrative seems less than linear.
Post-script: This post truly consists of “Lost” thoughts, as the original post I wrote was consumed in a fit of apparent hunger by the Internet – the original words vanished, and I had to reconstruct them. But if those who believe the Bible to be divinely inspired and edited by rabbis rather than the direct word of God believe in such an editorial reconstruction, so who am I to judge?
Quentin Tarantino at LocateTV.com

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