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Jewish Journal

A Kabbalistic Material Girl

by Gaby Wenig

October 31, 2002 | 7:00 pm

LMadonna doesn't like to explain her music videos, but in her newest one, "Die Another Day" (the title track for the soon-to-be-released James Bond movie), while wearing a dirty, white tank top she sneeringly sings to the camera, "Analyze this, Analyze this." So we will.

The video features a defiant and limber Madonna being tortured by nasty-looking interrogators, and a black-suited Madonna fencing with a white-suited Madonna in a glass shop. Throughout the video, Madonna has a prominently displayed tattoo of the Hebrew letters Lamed, Aleph and Vav on her right forearm. At the end of the video, when Madonna has somehow miraculously evaded being fried in an electric chair, her body disappears, but the letters smolder in the chair, much to the bewilderment of those evil interrogators. At another point in the video, Madonna wraps a black leather strap around her left arm, and although there is no phylactery attached to it, it is clear that she is going through the motions of putting on tefillin, because she wraps the strap carefully around her fingers.

It's well-known that the 44-year-old singer-actress fancies herself a kabbalist, thanks to her involvement with the Kabbalah Centre in Los Angeles. Billy Phillips, the center's director of communications, refused to say whether the Kabbalah Centre had any conceptual involvement in the video, but he did confirm that Madonna was learning there. He also sent The Journal a copy of "The 72 Names of God" (Jodere Group, $17.95), a book by Rabbi Yehuda Berg, which Phillips said had been given to Madonna before she made her video.

The book says that the letters Madonna was wearing on her arm actually spell out one of the names of God (which are not meant to be said aloud), and it is a name that refers to "the great escape ... escape from ego-based desires, selfish inclinations and the 'mefirst' mentality. In their place, you gain life's true and lasting gifts -- family, friendship and fulfillment."

"Tefillin is a tool to help us bind [as Abraham bound Isaac] our negative desires. Tefillin is an antenna that draws down powerful spiritual forces that help us purify our evil inclination," Phillips said.

So in the video, Madonna gets to escape from those interrogators, who, perhaps, represent "ego-based desires." Sometime after Madonna has wrapped the tefillin strap around her arm, the white-suited Madonna kills the black-suited Madonna, which could be analogous to the singer "purifying her evil inclination."

Who knew pop music could be so holy?

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