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Thursday, October 25, 2018

The Talmud on Broadway

This morning while walking around the neighborhood alone, meaning without my walking buddies, I was listening to Broadway tunes on Spotify. The King and I is one of the shows on my "Broadway" selection, and as I listened to the words before the song "Getting to Know You," I suddenly realized that the "ancient saying" referred to was Jewish. I was sure that the concept  "If you become a teacher, from your students you'll be taught." was from  Pirkei Avot, Ethics of the Fathers. When I got home, I quickly skimmed a translation I have of the book but couldn't find it.

Then I asked my husband to find the source, and he did. It's in the Talmud, Taanit and was said by Rabbi Chanina.

Considering the disproportionately large percentage of Jews who were involved in writing/composing Broadway musicals in the mid-twentieth century, the chances are pretty good that the line was inspired by the words of Rabbi Chanina. Rodgers and Hammerstein fit that ethnic/Jewish bill. Richard Rogers was Jewish as was the father of Oscar Hammerstein.

Can you think of any other Broadway shows or popular tunes or stories that could be inspired by, or related to the Talmud or other Jewish sources?


Adelaide Dupont said...


There are lots.

Kismet and Fiddler on the Roof, of course.

And I think sometimes the Talmud is built into every stone and brick on Broadway.

How wonderful that Ethics of the Fathers was in one of my favourite King and I songs.

Maybe Dear Evan Hansen has some Talmud in it.

Batya Medad said...

Could be. Thanks

Ester said...

Check out https://itsallfromhashem.blogspot.com/2018/06/who-knew-reposted-in-honor-of-my.html
for thoughts on "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" from "The Wizard of Oz". And of course the whole theme of Dorothy wanting to go home and finding it hard to say good-bye to her friends in Oz is the story of Aliyah in a nutshell.

Batya Medad said...

Thanks, Ester, good point. Also the ruby slippers remind us that we have a lot of power for teshuva and direct contact with Gd.