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Megillas Lester

If you celebrate Purim, the next major Jewish holiday, you might like Megillas Lester, a new, animated feature from Kolrom studios. As might be inferred, the movie is a departure from the book of Esther from which Purim is based. In fact, Queen Esther never materializes throughout the course of the film. Instead, the narrative focuses on Doniel Lesterovich or “Lester,” a young boy who attends yeshiva in an area like Cleveland. Some degree of Jewish background, including light Hebrew reading ability and a bit of Yiddish vocabulary will boost viewers’ enjoyment of Megillas Lester; still, it has a positive, biblical message of trusting God to work out human struggles, which any viewer could understand.

Spoiler alert: Lester is entrusted with devising a new Purim play for his school. Amidst his scheming, Lester is transported into the Purim story, where he accidentally uses his knowledge to alter the outcome of its events, not unlike Back to the Future. Thankfully, unlike McFly, Lester seeks out the sage wisdom of Mordechai to help right the situation. Mordechai counsels Lester to daven (pray) and trust God to take care of the situation. At first, Lester continues to struggle to smooth out his well-intentioned blunders, failing each time. Ultimately Lester is forced to rely on God to fix everything, which is depicted in the number “Upside Down” where all the characters sing out their struggles. Of everyone involved, Lester alone turns to God to fix what’s beyond his control. He allows God to work things out for the good of all the characters, except Vashti and Haman, but that’s probably a given in any version of the Purim story.

Granted, the movie is meant for children, but there were two possible contentions for parents. Firstly, showing drunkenness in Shushan was jarring, as most kids’ videos don’t normally depict alcohol abuse. Secondly, the emphasis on Haman’s evilness was over-the-top. He demonizes himself (quite literally) in an unapologetically passionate scene not unlike Scar’s “Be Prepared” from The Lion King.

On a spiritual level, Megillas Lester promotes the idea of God putting us in the right place at the right time to fulfil our unique purposes. It supports His omnipotence and our needing to seek Him for direction and control over our lives. This writer couldn’t agree more. In the original Purim story, Queen Esther’s presence and righteousness in the king’s palace was the key to God using her to save His people. If God had not ordained her to save Israel, God’s promise to Abraham that his seed would prosper and that the messiah would come through him would have been broken. God is in the business of keeping His promises. We are grateful for that and that He brought messiah into the world at the perfect time to fulfil his role in saving all of us who accept him--the Jewish people and the nations--from living, and dying, apart from God.

If you are curious to know more about Purim from a messianic perspective, we would love for you to join us in live chat.

We pray that any struggles you might currently face you would bring to God, letting Him take over and reverse sticky situations which can be common when trying to solve problems that overwhelm us.

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas - Movie Review

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas
Movie Review
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (2008)
-reviewed by Matt Sieger

April 7–14 marks Holocaust Remembrance Week in the United States. Among the many compelling films one could view to remember the victims of the Shoah, I would like to recommend the simple yet overpowering movie, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, based on the young adult novel by John Boyne.

Some critics maintain that the book and the movie trivialize the Holocaust. But I find myself in agreement with the "thumbs up" for this film from the late Roger Ebert, the "critic for the common man," as The New York Times referred to him in its obituary last week. As the obituary noted, "His credo in judging a film's value was a simple one: 'Your intellect may be confused, but your emotions never lie to you.'"

The boy in the striped pajamas is Shmuel, an eight-year-old Jewish child in a concentration camp. He is befriended by Bruno, a German boy of the same age whose father is a Nazi official in charge of the camp. They meet on opposite sides of the barbed wire. Neither of them understands what is going on at the camp. Even Bruno's mother does not know, but when she finds out, it causes great tension in their previously well-ordered family.

Through the children's innocence, some of the awful ironies of the situation are underlined. Bruno, instructed by a tutor, leads an isolated life in his family's big house in the country. When he sees other children in the camp, he tells Shmuel "it isn't fair" that he has all those friends. Bruno thinks the numbers on Shmuel's "pajamas" must be part of a game they play.

As Bruno begins to sense what is really going on behind the barbed wire, he wonders if his father is "a good man." But he is reassured after he secretly watches a propaganda film his father is showing the other Nazi officers about the entertainment and cultural activities the prisoners supposedly enjoy in the camp.

Yes, as critics note, some of the plot is contrived. But this is fiction. Don't most novelists stretch plot elements to achieve dramatic effect? The setting and the facts are real. Some say the story is too simplistic in contrasting good and evil. But, until the heart-stopping ending (which is seen through the eyes of Bruno's parents), everything is viewed through the eyes of the children. So of course they see things in black-and-white categories.

The film was produced by David Heyman, best known for the Harry Potter films. Heyman's father is Jewish. Aware that the film is small in scope in that it deals with one family's experience, Heyman hoped the movie would cause viewers to explore the Holocaust more in depth.

The ending of the film is mind-blowing. Director Mark Herman's handling of it, as Ebert deftly describes, "gathers all of the film's tightly wound tensions and savagely uncoils them. It is not what happens to the boy, which I will not tell you. It is—all that happens. All of it, before and after."

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