By Rabbi Mark Borovitz
On Christmas Day, Harriet and I went to the movies, imagine that! We saw the movie “Wolf of Wall Street.” It was 3 hours of everything that is wrong with our country, our times and our lives. It is based on a true story and I was terribly upset and uncomfortable throughout the rest of the day. I went home and couldn’t shake this terrible feeling. I have figured out parts of what was bothering me.
1) I understood and, on a much smaller scale, lived Jordan’s life. A life of taking from others with no regard for them. A life of caring only about “winning” and “where’s mine.” A life of debauchery and harm to all I came into contact with. A life of abandoning those close to me and putting them through emotional hostage taking. In this regard, I was disgusted with myself and thankful that I have redeemed my life.
2) Listening to the audience laugh at the harm brought about by Jordan and his band of thieves. Listening to the disconnect of the audience with their part in creating Jordan(s). Knowing the audience didn’t acknowledge their own inner Jordan. Listening to the audience, knowing what the “too big to fail banks” have done to us all for years with similar types of “business,” so much so that the financial crisis of 2008 happened. Knowing that taking no responsibility is the “NEW AMERICAN WAY.” While the audience didn’t think what I am thinking, I see this type of attitude everyday in our government, in trying to raise money to help those in need and in dealing with people who can’t figure out why they are not HAPPY!
3) There is no redemption in this movie at all. Jordan was completely cool being a scumbag and continuing to be this way, even after his prison time. The screenwriter said in a New York Times review that he didn’t want to clean Jordan up when there was no redemption in the book that Jordan wrote. We are left knowing that Jordan did all these terrible things, hurt other people, took advantage of their weaknesses/vulnerabilities, left his wife and children(way before the divorce), did 20 months in Federal Prison, got everyone else indicted, and did less time than someone found with ONE ROCK of crack cocaine for their personal use! We also know that no one from the “too big to fail” banks has done a day in prison for their crimes against the weak and the vulnerable. The message is: if you steal big enough and you have enough power, information, people to roll on, or cash stashed away, you are immune to any real consequences—unless you are Bernie Madoff.
4) Finally, what is most upsetting to me—this movie got made. WHY? The acting is good, no doubt. Martin Scorsese is excellent. Yet, there is no redemption, no real “fall from grace,” no acceptance of responsibility. My big fear is that people will be entertained by scumbag actions, become more desensitized to the harms we bring to others and Redemption will be looked down upon as weakness and something to be made fun of.
I am Addicted to Redemption because I can’t live a life of “where’s mine,” a life of not caring about others, a life of using the vulnerabilities of others against them. Been there, done that. I am asking everyone to look for the inner Jordan and stop him. I am asking all of us to continue to stop evil in its tracks. I am asking everyone to be responsible for their neighbor, the poor, the widow, the stranger and the orphan. I am asking you all to join me on this Revolutionary Road to Redemption.
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