Director, writer & producer: Taliya Finkel
Photographers: Taliya Finkel & Talia (Tulik) Galon
Editors: Tzurit Kesler & Ronit Gilad
Composer: Raffi Toren
Sound: Irit Levi & Dalit Goren
Assistant Director: Yael Reed
Production Assistentents: Dafna Ron , Yael Ingber, Haim Noiman, Ido Angel
Graphicks: Danni Bookvald
Clarinet: Shmulik Kovalsky
“If I saw someone else screaming like my mother, I would be sure that person was mentally disturbed if it wasn’t 100%authentic…” This is what Israel Meir says about his mother, Rabbanit Lea Kook, whose discourse, according to him, stems from absolutely authentic belief.
Who is the Rabanit Cook- A religious missionary, an Actress or motherly housewife?
At almost any given moment in the movie “Tikkun” about Rabbanit Leah Kook, playing tonight on channel 8, there’s something worthy of quotation. The Rabbanit who has a “wild wild wild crush on the Holy One” is world-famous for her verbal qualities (good news, good news, because, Blessed art thou our God, Blessed art thou our God.) has agreed to cooperate with director Taliya Finkel and let Finkel film her and her family, their house and their lives. Even her driver, Shoshana, raised an eyebrow: “suddenly she gave you this much – it made me ponder.” This ponderous accompanies the viewers all along the film. The Rabbanit is an energetic woman; she does not rest for a moment. When she returns home from lectures and religious workshops, she maintains an open-house policy. “Excuse me, excuse me, the Rabbanit. I need 40,000 Shekels within a week, God willing. Bless me so I can get it.” Addresses her a religious man at the stairway. The Rabbanit, standing in the entrance with her hand on the door, starts blessing immediately: “God will grant you a miracle. He, who has blessed our fathers, Abraham, Yitzchak and Jacob, and our righteous mothers, now in the Garden of Eden, Let him bless?” and he completes “Eliyahu, son of Nechama”. “Eliyahu, son of Nechama”, she repeats, “and grant him a miracle.” With no delay she carries on to a practical advice: “Eliyahu, do you live in Jerusalem?” she asks (meanwhile her little girls come in and out of the house without paying any attention to the everyday routine.) “Go to the Western Wall, pray with all your might, take a book of Psalms, read it without speaking, as I did, and that very day I got good news. Go to the Wall…read it, without speaking from the beginning until the end, and say ‘Father, Father, you’re a millionaire! I am poor and needy, Father, you’re a millionaire, I a poor and needy, Father, you’re a millionaire, and believe in him, he who created the whole globe, and for him, 40,000 Shekels is a sneeze, with a sneeze he will give it to you. Believe in him and it will happen and come back with a miracle. Good tidings, Good tidings.” Does all this help the family life? Apparently it does not interfere. Her children are almost as fascinating as she is. Israel Meir, for example, makes an excellent impersonation of his mother and has a dramatically sense that does not fall far behind her. Meir describes the audio-visual event that occurred when God revealed himself in front of his mother. “When I think about what this woman experiences, things we could only feel if we took ecstasy, and also only to some extent” he explains with contemporary metaphors. Then he speaks of how she begged him not to shave his beard, impersonating her motherly emotional manipulation, which peaks in “when I’ll be old and sick, don’t take care of me, don’t wash me, I will go to the home…just don’t shave the beard.” The Rabbanit’s daughters, wearing aprons with the words “with almighty god” embodied on them, speak mainly about betrothal. One of them explains, “Generally, we don’t think much of exteriority,” but it is plain to see that is exactly what the fourteen year old, the prettiest of the Rabbanit’s daughters thinks of day and night. The director asks the Rabbanit, which is constantly smiling, if she will agree to a Sepharadi betrothal. She refuses to answer. “It is an unpedagogic question’” she explains – she speaks only of Jews who stood at Mount Sinai. She wishes her daughters and the rest of the world’s women a love like she and her husband have. “You don’t see this kind of love’” she says, and frankly, you don’t see her husband as well. The movie contains innumerable magnificent moments. One of her fans tells how the Rabbanit saved her. She was lost, “I believed mainly in UFO’s, I waited for UFO’s…at the end came the Holy One.” Another one tells about working in a restaurant on Saturdays, but according to the Rabbanit’s advice she stopped working Saturdays, as a matter of fact she stopped working at all. Now she and her daughter make a living only from loving the Lord. At Saturday, says the Rabbanit; “we will eat soup instead of gasoline.”
The “Tikkun” (Atonement)Ma’ariv//Television critics //Chanoch Daum// 15.10.02
A nice guy from Tiberius, about 30 years of age, comes into the house of Rabbanit Kook and asks her to pray for him because he urgently needs 40,000 shekels. “Run to the Western Wall,” tells him the Rabbanit, “say many times ‘Father, you’re a millionaire, I am poor and needy, say it standing up. What’s 40,000 thousand Shekels for the Almighty? It’s a sneeze.” The man from Tiberius set off good-hearted. Did he get the 40,000 shekels thanks to Rabbanit Kook’s advice? I guess not. Will he return for an advice? I guess so. Why? Because he does not need 40,000. He needs a blessing. He needs warmness. Even if you watch only a few minutes of this fascinating movie by Taliya Finkel, you would understand that it doesn’t take much to tear Rabbanit Kook to shreds. It is also not an unfair thing to do. Something in her way of living is insane, not to say dangerous. Her language is wrong, she looks a bit like, well, Rabbanit Cuckoo, and her philosophy can be summed in bright sentences such as: “God, I have a crush on you.” and “In Sabbath we’ll eat a hot-dog not a frog.” But he who explains the phenomena personified in Rabbanit Kook as mere insanity, is an arrogant and uncultured person, and one who is making life easy for himself. In contrast to the old-fashioned, classic Rabbanit, the one that’s preparing Kugel for her husband’s guests, Kook is an active Rabbanit, a sort of a latent feminist, a spiritual leader in her own right. To make of her some modernist lady in a skirt will be ridiculous, but to focus on her wackiness and on the emotional manipulation she puts her followers through will be just as silly. In her hallucinatory way, Kook is very much an innovator. Unlike the Courts of righteous men, she boldly refuses to take fee for her doings, she declares that her son can marry a Sephardic girl and she is the only Jewish orthodox woman from whom even men come to receive blessings.
Cuckoo’s nest//Yediot Achronot//Raanan Shaked// 15.10.02
Alongside Kermit, gonzo, piggy and fonzy, the Rabbanit Kook is my favorite muppet. With much ease, one can easily see the Rabbanit among the Muppet crew. She will be the messaionic Muppet, constantly ecstatic. A babbling, unceasing flow of energy, mumbling blessings and prayers without a pause, loaded with the energy of a hand-granade. I see her in ‘Wigs in Space’ – the local counteract of ‘Pigs in Space’. “Captain, The Holy One, he warped us in time, blessed art thou our God” that will be her last words before an explosion will be heard and will her turn into a cabbage. The Rabbanit Kook is an amazing woman. She really is. “This woman experiences the world in a way we can only perceive with ecstasy. It is like being buzzed every day, all day long” her son says to the camera, and shows what I find as a suspicious insight in Clubbers jargon. Kook is a very funny and charismatic woman, not ceasing to pray and bless. When a man knocks on her door and pleads, “Rabbanit, I need 40,000 Shekels within a week”, Kook gives him an on-the-spot blessing, in the stairs: “may The Lord grant you a miracle, for him 40,000 shekels is like sneezing”. God bless. The court that Rabbanit Kook created for herself in Tiberius is a cuckoo’s nest humming with activity. Kook spends her time spreading squeaks, spells, prayers and blessings. In fact, she functions as the Ashkenazi branch of the Baba-what-you-may-call-him from Shas. In any case, come what may, Kook is harassing God: Once she asked him for a boy. He gave him to her. Then, she asked for a birth without labour. She got it. Then, she tells, she had a problem in the kitchen – she didn’t know how to bake Hallah for Shabbat. And The Holy One told her to put another pack of margarine and ever since her Hallah is something. If Kook will be find herself on the street with no watch, you can rest assured that she will ask His Holiness what time is it, and he will answer. The Tikkun was a rare, energetic and effective encounter – with many unforgettable moments – with a ridiculous woman that will bang on your head, but with a certain charm. If I wouldn’t know how to finish this article, i would have asked The Holy One to help me. Lucky I am for knowing.
Globs, T.V. review
Hatikkun – a rare encounter, full of unforgettable moments of a ridiculous woman, who will make you crazy with her special charm. If I wouldn’t have the words to describe her, I would turn to G-D. Luckily, I do. The court Kook has established in Tiberius is a weird, vibrant kuku’s nest. Kook herself, splits her time between prayers, blessing the needy, and talking to G-D about every minute issue she has to confront; she asked him for a child, and got one. Asked him for labor with no contractions, and had it. She even got her Challah recipe from him – the almighty.
Un-pedagogic question//Globes Magazine//Nir Kipnis// 14.10.03
The Rabbanit Kook is an old curiosity, a thing to remember from time to time. The Rabbanit with her “my righteous sisters” and the prayer of “Hear O Israel” in her squeaky voice will always raise a smile. Not only on faces of secular viewers, but also on faces of a few orthodox viewers (if they happen, God forbid, to pass near the abominable device.) But after the admiration from the gimmick evaporates, it is hard to fill what’s left with true content, the same content that’s completely missing from the Rabbanit’s words. She lives in a world of ceremonies, congregations, blessings, amulets and whispers. When she runs out of words (yes, it can even happen to Kook) vast emptiness fills the frame. Despite her insane gaze, Kook is a perfectly sane woman. So sane, in fact, that she grasps the precise moment when this movie ceases to do her good. That is, just when the movie is getting good, the moment when she tells how she broke her daughter’s arm because the kid’s refusal to eat made her angry (and the remorse that followed caused her to make a purification [Tikkun] of prayers and fasting, until she was given the powers she has today.) Or the moment where she is caught at her worst, when Taliya Finkel, the director, asks her if she would have agreed that one of her children will have a Sephardic spouse (a highly problematic issue among Ashkenazi orthodox Jews) and she evades it, saying that it is “an un-pedagogic question” as she defines it. What is pedagogic according to her? To bring poor people nearer to the Torah of Israel, or as one of her followers defines it: “I used to believe in UFO’s until the Holy One came.”
Hatikkun// CITY MOUSE // HA’ARETZ //Michal Yafeh//14.10.02
Mrs. Kook, a rabbi’s wife, became well known in her own right in public several years ago, as a result of the huge assemblies she took part in. Her claim to fame became the loud cries “my precious”, which soon turned into a laughing matter in her crowd. Taliya Finkel’s documentary attempts to outline Kook’s true character, and see if it corresponds with her public image. Finkel does portray the well-known caricature of Kook, but the truly innovative angles come to life in the interviews with Kook’s children. Kook’s eldest son, a great imitator of his mother, writes poetry and admits that if it were for another woman, he would be positive she was insane. Kook’s daughter shares with the viewers her dreams for the future. Above all, the Kooks seem like a family who encourages independent thinking and Self-fulfillment. Because despite the fact Kook describes her mission as devotion to G-D, her work is her self-fulfillment. There aren’t too many people in her crowd that would approve of a woman dedicating time for herself more than to her family.
MA’ARIV //RATING Magazine // Dvorit Shargal//14.10.02
I find Kook’s character controversial, because of her hollow sayings and the messianic state of mind she seems to be in and uses as a manipulation over her listeners and followers. But upon viewing Taliya Finkel’s documentary, a commendable achievement in its own right, a new picture comes to life. Kook is a devout woman, gifted with a hypnotizing charisma. Finkel interviews the charming children, who were also granted with mommy’s talent for self-expression. Kook’s eldest son stands out in particular, describing in detail how his mother always has her lipstick in her pocket, ready to make herself pretty for her husband, as soon as she hears his footsteps down the hall. Towards the end, Kook decided to end the shooting, without letting Finkel know in advance – a dramatic finale to a surprising movie.
Naturally buzzed//wallan news//Dana Kessler//14.10.02
First things first – these are hard times. Moreover – the times are always hard times, in one way or another, to one person if not to another. It is a well-known fact that redemption cannot be found in your nearest store, so one scratches it wherever he can. In a country where so many women find redemption in images of Gustavo Bermudez or Facundo Arana, there is no wonder that so many other women find the same thing (not including the flat bellies) in Rabbanit Kook. As a person who is in an unfamiliar territory in both the worlds of Tele-novella and Jewish Orthodoxy, I can safely say that after watching Taliya Finkel’s film “Tikkun” (Atonement), the Rabbanit Kook does it for me more than ten hair-sprayed men from Argentina. Because for Rabbanit Kook all daughters of Israel are righteous, even if they are not replicas of Natalia Oriero (in the movie the Rabbanit herself says that she doesn’t care if someone pierced his tongue, tit and belly, has four tattoos and has styling jell in his hair – she helps everyone!) If one is in need of a hug and encouragement, he need not travel all the way to Buenos Aires, the bus to Tiberius is quite enough. “Tikkun”, which followed the number one celebrity of the Jewish Orthodox community for two whole years, tries to answer the question who really is the Rabbanit Kook. It is needless to say that a 24-chapter BBC series would not answer this question, as even her children look at her many times with amazement and cannot explain this hyperactive phenomenon. One of the Rabbanit Kook’s sons, Israel Meir, uses a few secular examples, which are very popular in the Kook family vocabulary, to try and explain his mother. “How she feels is something that other people can experience only with ecstasy, it is like being buzzed on ecstasy,” he says without any moral judgment “Not for an hour or two in some party, its being high all the time”. I cannot fathom what Rabbanit Kook feels inside, but looking at her behavior, this is the best explanation. Eve [the Rabbanit herself says, “The Torah’s a drug, the drug of life, not a deadly poison” After the Kook family left the pressurizing conformist Orthodox community of the city of Bnei Brak and moved to Tiberius, as well as after a few founding experiences, about which she speaks in the movie, Leah Kook transformed herself from an ordinary Jewish orthodox woman to a religious missionary with enormous popularity and great powers for helping people. A man came to her house from Jerusalem to get her help in raising the 40,000 Shekels he urgently needs (No, he didn’t mention what for). The Rabbanit told him to go to the west wall, read Psalms from beginning to end, without speaking in between, preferably in a standing position. She soothed him as she told him the whole thing takes two hours tops, and that he shouldn’t forget to ask the Holy One to make him a millionaire. The man looked a bit skeptic, but the Rabbanit explained to him that “The Holy One created the whole globe, what are 40,000 Shekels for him? He sneezes it out!” With these logos and with the thrust of Rabbanit’s Kook enthusiasm it is really hard to argue. And all the skeptics who do not believe in divine interventions cannot help but to believe the power of autosuggestion that Rabbanit Kook can give rise to in even the most septic secular person. And even her most devoted followers are aware of the fact that Rabbanit Kook’s powers lie mostly in her enthusiasm, joy and strong personality.