Jack EngelhardJack Engelhard’s classic international bestselling novel Indecent Proposal, which later became a worldwide hit movie, has been republished to meet readers’ demands. His other major works include Compulsive: A Novel, his award-winning post-Holocaust Montreal memoir Escape from Mount Moriah, plus Slot Attendant: A Novel About A Novelist. His website: www.jackengelhard.com
The big story throughout the land here in America is the untimely death of Robin Williams, 63, from an apparent self-inflicted act due to depression.
It’s the only story. Nothing else is happening.
There’s been nothing like this for an entertainer since the music died with the loss of Frank Sinatra back in 1998.
Robin Williams deserves the attention. Yes, attention must be paid for so great and so gentle a comedic artist. He was one of a kind.
It’s been round the clock coverage. America weeps for the loss. It’s as though we’re afraid that we’ll never laugh again.
We will. We will laugh again, but never the same way.
We’re also reminded never to envy. “Be kind,” wrote Philo. “For everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.”
It’s to our credit that we place so much value on a single life. Thanks to our Hebraic heritage, we acknowledge that every soul is precious and irreplaceable.
From Moses’ exhortation to “choose life,” this is what we do – we choose life. Along with Israel, this is how we differ from the other half of the world. So do not be surprised when the Jewish State offers a thousand Arab prisoners in exchange for a single Israeli captive. This is Israel’s weakness and this is Israel’s strength.
Every life is special though it is also true that some lives are extraordinary and make all the difference. After Sinatra died, America stopped singing. Instead, we have noise. In losing Sinatra, Israel lost a powerful friend. Devotion to Frank meant devotion to Zion.
Instead we have celebrities like Geraldo Rivera who serve as human shields for Hamas terrorists. Some are born to be asterisks.
It’s to Jon Stewart’s dubious credit that the younger generation of Americans now favors Israel’s bloodthirsty irreconcilable enemies.
Again – the power of the individual to sway the world, some for goodness, some for evil, some to bring us laughter, some to bring us sorrow.
We take it as law that the generation that comes is never as great as the generation that goes. Compared to our fathers, we are lessened and diminished.
On this score the anti-Semites are right. We corner the market on “laughing through the tears.”
But once in a while we get lucky, as we did with Robin Williams…and he wasn’t even Jewish. How dare he be so funny? Telling jokes through the pain, that’s supposed to be our business. We invented humor. The Golden Age of Television featured Sid Caesar, Milton Berle and Jack Benny to name three out of 300 comedians who arrived from Borscht Belt traditions.
On this score the anti-Semites are right. We corner the market on “laughing through the tears.” Ask Jerry Lewis.
Robin Williams knew that he was a partner. He called himself an “Honorary Jew” and so far as we know, politically, he kept a respectful silence.
Sometimes (not always) that counts as the wisest move of all. Still the biggest laugh over the airwaves came from radio days, when, in a particular skit, Jack Benny faced a robber who demanded his money or his life. Benny’s silence as he mulled it over provoked the longest laugh on record.
Robin Williams spared us profanities. He proved that funny can be clean; wholesome enough for grown-ups and kids to share at the same time.
He was out to hurt nobody.
But he did make this point: In Germany, when asked why Germans have no sense of humor, he cracked:
“It could be because you murdered all the funny people.”
Here is one funny person, Robin Williams, we all wish he never would have killed.
Jack Engelhard writes a regular column for Arutz Sheva. Engelhard wrote the int’l bestseller Indecent Proposal that was translated into more than 22 languages and turned into a Paramount motion picture starring Robert Redford and Demi Moore. New from the novelist, the anti-BDS thriller Compulsive. Website: www.jackengelhard.com