Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Curb Your Enthusiasm Minyan with Bill Buckner

Larry David's TV show "Curb Your Enthusiasm" on HBO is known for forging into new territory for television shows. This most recent episode certainly marked a few TV firsts. To begin with, I don't believe the following statement had ever been uttered on TV before: "I don't wanna' be in your stupid minyan anyway."

I also believe this was the first time that the Jewish concept of a minyan was ever defined on a TV comedy. In one of the most creative episodes in the show's history, Larry David attempted to revive the career of disgraced Boston Red Sox first baseman Bill Buckner. Just about 25 years ago in the 6th game of the World Series, Buckner botched a slow rolling hit off the bat of the NY Mets' Mookie Wilson to allow the winning run to score. The Red Sox eventually lost the World Series in the 7th and deciding game.

Larry David brought in Mookie Wilson and Bill Buckner as guest stars in this episode which gave Buckner the opportunity to poke fun at his fielding error from a quarter century ago. But the highlight of the episode was the minyan scene.

As Larry is walking on the street with Bill Buckner, they are approached by a Jewish man (played by Jerry Adler who was Hesh on the Sopranos) who asks if they are Jewish. Buckner says he's not and Larry is reluctant to answer affirmatively. The man explains that it's an emergency and they need one more to make a minyan to say Kaddish before going to the cemetery. Larry explains to the confused Buckner that a minyan is "when a Jewish person dies you need to have ten men in a room to say a prayer."

Before heading up to the apartment Larry asks Buckner if he's ever had Jewish food before to which he responds, "Koufax gave me some kishka one time." Once they actually make it to the shiva* one of the men refuses to allow Buckner in the room since, as a devout Red Sox fan, he can never forgive Buckner for his error in the 1986 World Series. I guess it wasn't the best pre-Rosh Hashanah message about forgiving others for their mistakes.

*As Ami Eden of JTA correctly noted, there's no shiva minyan before a funeral (only after). Apparently no one on the show consulted with a rabbi on that one. Oh well, it was still a hilarious episode in my opinion. Here's the clip:


rachel kapen said...

The clip is truly hilarious and I can forgive the error of starting a shiva before the fans can be fanatic and especially Red Sox fan, I have one at home. The serious healer-professor of mine, as soon as comes home he wants to know how the Red Sox did. Also, in a great article by Charles Krauthammer today in the Washington Post which was also printed in the Oakland Press he talks of the Nationals, obviosly his team, and how important it is to go on with baseball and other sports even when there are more serious problems which beset our country. He brings the example of President Roosevelt who didn't want to cancel the World Series during the war. In light of all that, the banishment of Bill Buckner the former Red Sox causing them to lose is quite understanable.

Anonymous said...

I'm surprised that they would give the traditional definition of a minyan as being 10 men.

Rabbi Jason Miller said...

I noticed that too. Maybe LD's a traditionalist. Actually, it was probably easier than saying "some say 10 men and some say 10 adults". After all, it's only a 25 minute show with very tight dialogue.

Leon Morris said...

Thanks so much for this!
Also, check out an episode of "Northern Exposure" from the 80's (I think) called "Kaddish for Uncle Manny." What's fascinating is the way in which the minyan, as described by these Jewish writers, is re-defined in the most universal and non-particularist way. The main character decides that for him, 10 non-Jewish neighbors are more a part of his tribe than 10 Jews he doesn't know.