You know that strange window of time Sunday morning before the Super Bowl starts, when you don't want to start anything that won't be finished by kickoff, but you've still got to find something to do? Sinai Temple, nearly a dozen other local Conservative men's clubs and the Federation of Jewish Men's Clubs have an idea: try joining 10,000 others who will be wrapping tefillin.
Sinai's Men's Club, along with men's clubs and temple brotherhoods across the world, will hold a breakfast at which it will air "The Ties that Bind," a 20-minute video produced by the Conservative movement's Federation of Jewish Men's Clubs and Mark Rothman of Ness Productions.
Rothman wrote and directed the film, and he artfully interweaves the history, how-to and spiritual significance of tefillin. The video is educational and entertaining without being didactic or simplistic. And since it comes in two versions -- egalitarian and all male -- it can be meaningful across denominational lines for anyone interested in the mitzvah of winding around the arms and head the leather straps and black boxes containing the Shema during morning prayers.
"The number one goal of the film is to give people a tool to move closer to God," says Rothman.
Rothman captures the power of tefillin through personal testimonials offered by men and women of all ages. One student likens it to wearing a satellite dish that opens up all channels to God. A women tells us it transforms her into a mezuzah. Someone else calls the leather straps healing bandages, while most recognize the symbolism of binding oneself -- betrothing oneself -- to God.
"It's like God is grabbing my arm saying 'You can do this, I'm with you,'" says Joel Grishaver, a local writer and educator.
Grishaver is one of many familiar faces that show up in the film, since Rothman is based in Los Angeles. The video is narrated by Rabbi David Wolpe of Sinai Temple in Westwood, and Rabbi Joel Rembaum of Temple Beth Am on the Westside gives a detailed demonstration of laying tefillin.
Sid Katz, former president of Sinai's men club and of the national federation, was instrumental in mobilizing the organization and clubs around the world to raise the $50,000 to produce the video.
"The federation has made a commitment to improving and increasing Conservative men's Judaic actions," Rothman says. "They want more Jewish men to do more Jewish things, and this was a great opportunity." "Ties that Bind" will be run Sunday, Jan. 28, at 8 a.m. at Sinai Temple, 10400 Wilshire Blvd. For more information call (310) 474-1518. To find other locations in Southern California or to purchase the video ($28, $18 for members) call the Federation of Jewish Men's Clubs at (800) 288-FJMC, (212) 749-8100, or visit www.worldwidewrap.org.