Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The Influence of Pop-Culture on Our Understanding of the Book of Jeremiah

Posted by Rachael


Before I took this course, I knew vaguely that the book of Yermiahu was full of prophesies about doom and destruction. What else I knew about the book, I learned mostly from popular culture.

The first famous twentieth century reference to Jeremiah in popular culture that I know of is Leonard Bernstein’s Symphony No. 1. This Symphony is known as “Jeremiah”; its three movements are known as Prophecy, Profanation, and Lamentation. It was written in 1943 in the US and was performed by the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. According to the makers of a new illustrated Swedish Bible and Wikipedia, Jeremiah is popularly known as “the broken hearted prophet”. This label seems to beg sympathy for this prophet of old and it serves to popularize his message somewhat.

In our parents’ generation apparently, Jeremiah was a popular name (Wikipedia). At that time, a popular song by Creedence Clearwater was written , that is “Jeremiah was a bullfrog”:

Jeremiah was a bullfrog, he was good friend of mine. I never understood a single
word he said but I helped him drink his whine. He always had some mighty fine
wine. Sing it: Joy to the world...all the boys and girls now , joy to the
fishies in the deep blue sea and joy to you and me.

And if i were
the king of the world , i tell you what i would do. Id throw away the cars and
the bars in the world and id make sweet love to you. Sing it now : Joy the the
world , all the boys and girls , joy to thefishies in the deep blue sea , joy to
you and me.

Yah know I love the ladies , love to have my fun ... Im
a hard knock flyer and a rain bow rider ... a strait shootin son of a gun , i
said a strait shootin sun of a gun.

Joy to the world , all the boys
and girls , joy to all the fishies in the deep blue sea , joy to you and
me.

Joy to the world , all the boys and girls , joy to the world
joy to you and me

Joy to the world , all the boys and girls , joy
to the fishies in the deep blue sea joy to you and me.

Joy the the
world , all the boys and girls , joy to the world , joy to you and
me.

Joy to the world , all the boys and girls , joy to the world ,
joy to you and me.

Do you think that popular culture had any influence on your understanding of the book of Jeremiah? If so, do you think it was significant? How do you think the free-love version of Jeremiah’s plight compares to what we actually learned about this Navi from class? Do you think that Creedence Clearwater is in the least bit credible in his simple wish for joy to the world? Do you feel that as a person who lives in the midst of wide-spread popular culture in America, that the words of the prophets have more or less significance to you personally?

5 Comments:

Anonymous Suz said...

i dont think popular culture has had any impact on my understanding of navi whatsoever. i think, kinda, that CCR's idea of peace and love fit with the book bc the whole time thats what hes advoacting, for bnei yisrael to undo their bad ways and live in a society of harmony, specifically devoation to HaShem. But i dont think i started learning the book with any pre-conceptions.

April 22, 2007 3:52 PM  
Anonymous hadas c frnugta said...

Like the arts, pop culture expresses a true underlying mentality or feeling. Thoguh I have picked up on some pop culure abotu the prophets, it has hd very little influence on me except when I didn't know the sefer at all(eg job-neil simon). Otheriwise, it stood as a work of art on tis own. Religius pop culture, however, is a differnt story. Christian portrayal of the bible and theporphets have alwyways had a huge impact on me. IN the bibel books at the doctor's fofice, the prophets were strong, heroic, and god-like. THough it is the same text, the jewish interpretation thorough illusatration always seemed very differnt; an aold white haried man in a rag-liek cloak. Personally, I don't go for either. From what we've learned a prophet has to be well off btu also not the center of attention or the welathiest. I would say there needs to be ahappy mediuy,m between the two interpretations I picked up form "pop culture". (PS I can't belive LEonard Bernstein was once "pop culture"...)

April 22, 2007 11:09 PM  
Anonymous Lisa Amy said...

Wow!! ok this is crazy- i never mentioned this before because i thought people would laugh but very time rabbi krestt says "ok lets open up our yirmiyahus" Jeremiah was a bullfrog runs through my head! I would definetly say that pop culture has made an impact on my impressions of the torah or biblical figures. Though the song jeremiah was a bullfrog doesnt give a doom impression, as does the sefer, it definelty relates a story of someone who wanted change and the worldd to be better.
When i think of songs and biblical figures, I also think of Samson and PJ Harvey's song "Hair". Just to brush up people's knoledge on Samson- wikepedia says : He was a "Israelite warrior hero of the Old Testament Book of Judges. His mother had been told by an angel that she would bear a son whose life would be dedicated to God and whose hair must never be cut. Samson performed many powerful acts, including slaying a lion and moving the gates of Gaza. When he revealed to a Philistine woman, Delilah, that his hair was the source of his strength, she shaved his head while he was sleeping, leaving him powerless. He was blinded and enslaved by the Philistines, but later his strength was restored and he pulled down the pillars of a temple where 3,000 Philistines had gathered, killing them and himself."

The PJ Harvey lyrics are as follows, and i would say they definelty do an even better job at being true to character than Jeremiah was a bullfrog.

Hair lyrics

samson
the strength
that's in
your arms
oh to be
your stunning
bride
samson
your hair
glistening
like sun
oh would
that it
were mine
samson
your hair
that's in
my hands
i'll keep
it safe
you're mine
you're mine
he said wait
said wait
delilah my babe
delilah my babe
said wait
said wait
delilah my babe
delilah my babe
said wait
said wait
delilah my babe
you lied in my face
you cut off my hair
you lied in my bed
samson
your stay
with your 'lilah
i'll hold you in
my hands
yeah
your hair
your strength
my man
my man
he said wait
said wait
delilah my babe
delilah my babe
said wait
said wait
delilah my babe
delilah my babe
he said wait
said wait
delilah my babe
delilah my babe
said wait
said wait
delilah my babe
you lied in my face
you cut off my hair
you lied in my bed


Thank ya'll

April 23, 2007 10:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

First off, I do not believe that this song has a strong relationship to what we have been studying. From what I’ve learned, this song doesn’t really portray Jeremiah. I think that many people of that time spoke of joy and wishing happiness upon the entire world. Regarding the last question, it seems like pop culture nowadays does affect us every day. For many people, the Jewish world is less significant to them because of our surroundings. It is so easy to get caught up in what is going on around us. Who’s wearing what or what TV show is on next. I can think of many people today that would say that it’s not a good use of time. Instead we should be trying to make ourselves better people and going deep into the Torah world. It is quite possible that during the times of our forefathers it was easier to connect to God. No televisions or radios around, just your next door neighbor. Sure people could still gossip, but I believe that the desire to be closer to God was greater.
Naomi Z

May 28, 2007 1:05 PM  
Blogger tamar said...

okay, first off im loving lisa's comment so madd props to u lis. now as for my comment, clearly pop culture influences our view on the prophets and Bible in general, for we tend to coonect all aspects of our lives together for example, i too tihnk of the song Jeremiah was a bullfrog EVERY SINGLE TIME that we say the name Jeremiah, or when R. Krestt is like "so in the book of Yermiyahu". the Jeiwsh/religious aspect of my life is comdbined with the intellectual, just through the basic fact of school, and the "cultural" aspect of my life often helps me relate to Navi, Chumash, etc. Additionally, we live in a cutlure thagt has been very much influenced by Jydeo-Christian thought, therefore not only does pop culture affect how we view the Tanach, but the pop culture in wihich we live alludes to the Tanach, aka the Tanach affected the culture whichh we kind of reapply to the Tanach. while i dont necissarily think this is the greatest thing, sicne in today's society skeptism is a major factor of life, and one cannot be a skeptic and truly believe in God for full belief in God requires the leap of faith which most skeptics refuse to take. the influence of pop culture trhough has also been a postitive fthing, for it helps make the TANACH seem less archaic and more applicable to our times. despite the fact that pop culture has made people tihnk that most prophets were on Lsd or some other hallucinatory drug , it has also helped the smae people not only recognize names and themes (as seen with the song about Samson, and with Jeremiah- for in the alst section of his book he does indeed provide Nechama to Bnei Yisrael and hope for "joy to the world" with the thought of Mashiach) but also apply it to our times."Joy to the World" was written during the 70's , an era during which many felt fed up with the constant war and degradation of humanity, they therefore wished equality and joy unto all, this same thought of wanting a better world, without war and with joy (although this joy is through GOd, not drugs or other hedonbistic ways of life) is reflected in Jeremiah- this song helps the normal teenager relate to Jeremiah not as an arcane book of the Jews problems of thousands years ago, rather reflecting a modern concern and altohugh this depravation of humanity has palgued humanity for millenia, perhaps we can look into the past, and the books of old to pulll out the answers and try to "cure" the world, and make it a better place, as Jeremiah said. through alluding to the Bible in pop culture, a venue is created for people to remmber and learn abotu the same issues which are presented today, and learn how to deal with/solve them.

June 03, 2007 10:30 PM  

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