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Looking for Pan

Lev Avos Blog

Exploring Tanach while reflecting on parenthood

Looking for Pan

Yechiel Shaffer

With all the troubling news of the last few months, the mass-murders in Syria, the radical Islamic killings in Iraq, that include 15th century style commands of 'convert or die', numerous plane tragedies, war between Israel and an enemy dedicated to a renewed Holocaust of Jews, the brutal murder of three Israeli teens - one is provoked into doing some serious soul-searching. I cannot help but think of the holiest section of the Temple in Jerusalem, which was beautified with the child-like imagery of the angelic Cherub. Side-stepping the possible hurdles of placing a graven image in our Holy place (including the second commandment!), the Torah explicitly commands us to mold the Cherub's out of gold and place them on top of the Ark of the Covenant. The innocence features of the child is a message that is placed alongside the most sacred of places.

The news of the demise of Robin Williams was troubling and struck a particularly sad chord. His movies offered inspiration and demanded reflection on so many life issues. From Mrs. Doubtfire to Jack, to Hook, Robin Williams inspired a generation of children to be exactly that, children. Particularly in his movie, Hook, based on the timeless story of Peter Pan, Williams challenged the children of the 90's to never grow up. And if we had to grow up, which we did, Williams demanded that we remember what it was like when we were in the never-never land of our youth. Live your adult-life, like your child-life would have wanted.

The death of Robin Williams brings to light the troubling struggles of this genius actor and the consuming illness of depression which he suffered from. This man who was the champion of childhood silliness was suffering from life-threatening depression. Such talent and genius was hiding the earth-shattering feelings of lonesomeness. It demands that we reflect on both the lessons he brought to life through his brilliant and wholesome movies (imagine today, an actor as famous as Robin Williams, making a movie about dressing up as a nanny to see his kids!) and the tragedy that what we experienced in his movies was not the complete Williams. His silly and moving acts were just that, an act and the real Williams was suffering terribly.

Upon hearing the tragic news of his demise, a part of our childhood broke. This part, that reassure us that it is still OK to be silly now and then, the part that hopes the world isn't as sad as it may seem, that part is broken with the news of Williams' death. His epic performances where a large part of the experience of growing up in the 90s and knowing how lost he was should encourage to remember what we value, what is real and who is important to us.

In the picture above, from the movie Hook, Peter (played by Williams) is having difficulty integrating back into the 'lost children'. Captain Hook has kidnapped his children (Peter Pan grew up, had a family and forgot his promise to never grow up!) and he needs the lost boys to help get them back. Their new leader, Rufio, questions whether he is indeed the real Pan because he got so old and wrinkly. A little boy walks over to the grown up Peter, pulls back his wrinkles on his face and sees the young Peter Pan once more, "Oh there you are Peter!" Perhaps, what we need today is a child to walk over to us, pull back our wrinkles and remind us that we were all once children.