Sketching Out Blog: Sketches of art, watercolor, photos, recipes, books, interviews, Jewish topics, and Highland Park, New Jersey

The Golden Compass – Dust

The Golden CompassThe Golden Compass, a new movie based on Philip Pullman’s novel, is creating controversy in the Catholic and Christian Right communities. I can’t say I blame them; having read the entire trilogy, his books are quite anti-Church.

That said, I am enamored of his books for the same reason that I adore the Narnia Chronicles (which Philip Pullman disdained). Not only are they great adventure, but the books make you think. About theology. About God. Or god, if you must. About where do we come from, and who is authority. One Conservative rabbi had a comment on how the books encourage b’chirah hafsheet, free choice.

One of the concepts I found intriguing was: Dust. I pulled out my handy-dandy JPS Tanakh and found dust in two pesukim in Chapter 2 of Breishit. What is the Hebrew for dust? I thought “afar” and my husband said “adamah”. It turns out the Hebrew is (Breishit 2:7):
עָפָר מִן-הָאֲדָמָה
afar min ha’adamah
dust from the earth

Then later(Breishit 3:19):
כִּי-עָפָר אַתָּה, וְאֶל-עָפָר תָּשׁוּב
kee afar ata, v’el afar tashuv
For dust you are, and to dust you shall return.

And just as the movie ended abruptly, I will end here abruptly.
To be continued (when I find some interesting insight to the word ‘afar’)…

Read Part II on Jewish Themes of Dust here

Alyssa says

Have any Rabbis come out and told parents to avoid this movie yet? I was curious... I got a chain e-mail from a fairly religious friend (incidently, this friend is a Jew who converted to Catholisism... not sure of the relevance of that fact though), warning parents of the potentials dangers of this film.

Here's the snopes page that references the email I was sent:

Leora says

I can't think of any Hollywood movie that a rabbi would endorse.
That said, the movie did water down some of the anti-Churchness of the book. And the last book, the Amber Spyglass, is really the most anti-established religion of the three. So if one finds that kind of stuff bothersome, then don't read it! But I found its depiction of the land of the dead fascinating. More like Dante's inferno than Olam Haba (the world to come).

One fact to know about Pullman is he grew up in the Church of England, and that he has some kind of internal struggle against it. He wrote them in opposition to C.S. Lewis, who laced his Narnia books with Christian propaganda.

As a parent, I raise my children to be exposed to all sorts of things. Especially my older children. But at their core, most of their exposure is to Jewish concepts.


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