TORA TORA TORA was one of my mother's favorite films. She loved history and the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor burned bright in her memory. Her friends from Jamaica Plain enlisted in the Marines, Army, and Navy by the scores. Many of the them failed to return to Boston. Their bodies rest on islands across the Pacific. The 1970 film flopped at the box office. Hippies didn't want to see a war movie, but I went with my mother and father. She cried at the sinking of the Arizona. My father had joined the Army Air Force that next January in 1942 much like many young Americans volunteered for the armed forces after the 9/11 attacks.
The title TORA TORA TORA was manipulated into TORAH TORAH TORAH for episodes of NYPD BLUE and MAGNUM P.I. This last week the power of the Torah was exalted by a very religious friend from Eastern Parkway. Rondell said proudly, "The Torah is one of the most important school books in Korea. Its truth is taught to many of the young."
"The Torah?" The five books of Moses form the backbone of Hassidic tradition. Christian accept the Pentateuch into their Old Testament and the Muslims regarded the ancient text to be the words of Allah. Korea was on the other side of the world. "What's the Torah have to do with Korea?"
"The Korean ambassador told Israeli TV that Talmud study is a mandatory part of the country’s school curriculum and almost every home in South Korea boasts a Korean version of the Talmud, and mothers commonly teach it to their children, who call it the "Light of Knowledge." He appreciates the value of Jewish knowledge. Koreans love education.
"I know many Koreans are Christian. I had several baptized in my youth." Three to be exact. I had paid the nuns at Our Lady of the Foothills $45 to name the three orphans under missionary care. "They are also prone to Evangelism."
"Evengelism?" Rondell was unfamiliar with Christian subsects.
>At the mention of these words my co-worker turned her head. Ava is from Brazil. She believes in the God of the Only Faith. Ava prays for my soul. I am a devout non-believer.
"Yes, they are the ones who back Israel 100%, for without Israel there can be no Apocalypse, which will bring back the Messiah to battle the forces of Satan. Ava, do you have a Torah in your house?"
Yes, it's called the Book of Light." Ava is a good mother. We are friends. She went back to work on her baby's photos. She has a church event coming this Easter weekend.
Thanks." I respect her faith. In this country the Constitution guarantees the freedom of religion and from religion. "The Talmud gets around and so does the Koran."
"Not according to the Korean Ambassador. He says no Koreans read it, because it's a book of Islam."
"That may be true." I have traveled through Korea's main airport on my many trips to Thailand. I have seen few Muslims in Inchoen Airport. No Jews either, but then you don't have to like pastrami to be Jewish. Rondell was ecstatic to have stumped me on this issue and I told him, "I'll have to get back to you."
"You do that?"
In the meanwhile have a good sedah."
We hugged as men equal in love of the world and I shouted TORAH TORAH TORAH after him. He pumped his fist in the air. I love Passover. It's a Jewish holiday and I don't have to go to work at the diamond exchange tomorrow.
Sometimes even a cruel god get to be kind.
Nearly ten years ago, the Korea Times reported: “Interestingly, there are at least two different books currently sitting on Korean best-seller shelves that purport to explain the Jewish Talmud. The popularity of these books initially came as a surprise. But Koreans aren’t converting to Judaism. They read those books because Jews have gained a reputation for hard work and success, two things Koreans relate to well.”
Reports of Korean schoolchildren reading the Talmud – or at least stories thereof – have also been known for several years. One American teacher in South Korea related that in 2005, his elementary school students told him that as children, they had all read the Talmud, which they called the "Light of Knowledge." When asked if they had also read the Koran, they burst into laughter, saying, "Of course not, that’s the Muslim book.”