A Serious Man2009

Larry Gopnik:
So, uh, what can I do for you?

Clive Park:
Uh, Dr. Gopnik, I believe the results of physics mid-term were unjust.

Larry Gopnik:
Uh-huh, how so?

Clive Park:
I received an unsatisfactory grade. In fact: F, the failing grade.

Larry Gopnik:
Uh, yes. You failed the mid-term. That's accurate.

Clive Park:
Yes, but this is not just. I was unaware to be examined on the mathematics.

Larry Gopnik:
Well, you can't do physics without mathematics, really, can you?

Clive Park:
If I receive failing grade I lose my scholarship, and feel shame. I understand the physics. I understand the dead cat.

Larry Gopnik:
You understand the dead cat? But... you... you can't really understand the physics without understanding the math. The math tells how it really works. That's the real thing; the stories I give you in class are just illustrative; they're like, fables, say, to help give you a picture. An imperfect model. I mean - even I don't understand the dead cat. The math is how it really works.

Clive Park:
Very difficult... very difficult...

Larry Gopnik:
Well, I... I'm sorry, but I... what do you propose?

Clive Park:
Passing grade.

Larry Gopnik:
No no, I...

Clive Park:
Or perhaps I can take the mid-term again. Now I know it covers mathematics.

Larry Gopnik:
Well, the other students wouldn't like that, would they, if one student gets to retake the test till he gets a grade he likes?

Clive Park:
Secret test.

Larry Gopnik:
No, I'm afraid...

Clive Park:
Hush-hush.

Larry Gopnik:
No, that's just not workable. I'm afraid we'll just have to bite the bullet on this thing, Clive, and...

Clive Park:
Very troubling... very troubling...

Rabbi Scott:
No, of course not. I am the junior rabbi. And it's true, the point-of-view of somebody who's older and perhaps had similar problems might be more valid. And you should see the senior rabbi as well, by all means. Or even Minda if you can get in, he's quite busy. But maybe - can I share something with you? Because I too have had the feeling of losing track of Hashem, which is the problem here. I too have forgotten how to see Him in the world. And when that happens you think, well, if I can't see Him, He isn't there any more, He's gone. But that's not the case. You just need to remember how to see Him. Am I right? [He rises and goes to the window] I mean, the parking lot here. Not much to see. It is a different angle on the same parking lot we saw from the Hebrew school window. But if you imagine yourself a visitor, somebody who isn't familiar with these... autos and such... somebody still with a capacity for wonder... Someone with a fresh... perspective. That's what it is, Larry.

Larry Gopnik:
Um...

Rabbi Scott:
Because with the right perspective you can see Hashem, you know, reaching into the world. He is in the world, not just in shul. It sounds to me like you're looking at the world, looking at your wife, through tired eyes. It sounds like she's become a sort of... thing... a problem... a thing...

Larry Gopnik:
Well, she's, she's seeing Sy Ableman.

Rabbi Scott:
Oh.

Larry Gopnik:
She's, they're planning, that's why they want the Gett.

Rabbi Scott:
Oh. I'm sorry.

Larry Gopnik:
It was his idea.

Rabbi Scott:
Well, they do need a Gett to remarry in the faith. But this is life. For you too. You can't cut yourself off from the mystical or you'll be-you'll remain-completely lost. You have to see these things as expressions of God's will. You don't have to like it, of course.

Larry Gopnik:
The boss isn't always right, but he's always the boss.

Rabbi Scott:
Ha-ha-ha! That's right, things aren't so bad. Look at the parking lot, Larry. [Rabbi Scott gazes out, marveling] Just look at that parking lot.

Rabbi Nachtner:
You know Lee Sussman.

Larry Gopnik:
Doctor Sussman? I think I - yeah.

Rabbi Nachtner:
Did he ever tell you about the goy's teeth?

Larry Gopnik:
No... I- What goy?

Rabbi Nachtner:
So... Lee is at work one day; you know he has the orthodontic practice there at Great Bear. He's making a plaster mold - it's for corrective bridge work - in the mouth of one of his patients, Russell Kraus. The mold dries and Lee is examining it one day before fabricating an appliance. He notices something unusual. There appears to be something engraved on the inside of the patient's lower incisors. He vav shin yud ayin nun yud. "Hwshy 'ny". "Help me, save me". This in a goy's mouth, Larry. He calls the goy back on the pretense of needing additional measurements for the appliance. "How are you? Noticed any other problems with your teeth?" No. There it is. "Hwshy 'ny". "Help me". Son of a gun. Sussman goes home. Can Sussman eat? Sussman can't eat. Can Sussman sleep? Sussman can't sleep. Sussman looks at the molds of his other patients, goy and Jew alike, seeking other messages. He finds none. He looks in his own mouth. Nothing. He looks in his wife's mouth. Nothing. But Sussman is an educated man. Not the world's greatest sage, maybe, no Rabbi Marshak, but he knows a thing or two from the Zohar and the Caballah. He knows that every Hebrew letter has its numeric equivalent. 8-4-5-4-4-7-3. Seven digits... a phone number, maybe? "Hello? Do you know a goy named Kraus, Russell Kraus?" Who? "Where have I called? The Red Owl in Bloomington. Thanks so much." He goes. It's a Red Owl. Groceries; what have you. Sussman goes home. What does it mean? He has to find out if he is ever to sleep again. He goes to see... the Rabbi Nachtner. He comes in, he sits right where you're sitting right now. "What does it mean, Rabbi? Is it a sign from Hashem, 'Help me'? I, Sussman, should be doing something to help this goy? Doing what? The teeth don't say. Or maybe I'm supposed to help people generally, lead a more righteous life? Is the answer in Caballah? In Torah? Or is there even a question? Tell me, Rabbi, what can such a sign mean?"

[pause as the Rabbi drinks his tea]

Larry Gopnik:
So what did you tell him?

Rabbi Nachtner:
Sussman?

Larry Gopnik:
Yes!

Rabbi Nachtner:
Is it... relevant?

Larry Gopnik:
Well, isn't that why you're telling me?

Rabbi Nachtner:
Okay. Nachtner says, look. The teeth, we don't know. A sign from Hashem? Don't know. Helping others... couldn't hurt.

Larry Gopnik:
No! No, but... who put it there? Was it for him, Sussman, or for whoever found it, or for just, for, for...

Rabbi Nachtner:
We can't know everything.

Larry Gopnik:
It sounds like you don't know anything! Why even tell me the story?

Rabbi Nachtner:
[chuckling] First I should tell you, then I shouldn't.

Larry Gopnik:
What happened to Sussman?

Rabbi Nachtner:
What would happen? Not much. He went back to work. For a while he checked every patient's teeth for new messages. He didn't find any. In time, he found he'd stopped checking. He returned to life. These questions that are bothering you, Larry - maybe they're like a toothache. We feel them for a while, then they go away.

Larry Gopnik:
I don't want it to just go away! I want an answer!

Rabbi Nachtner:
Sure! We all want the answer! But Hashem doesn't owe us the answer, Larry. Hashem doesn't owe us anything. The obligation runs the other way.

Larry Gopnik:
Why does he make us feel the questions if he's not gonna give us any answers?

Rabbi Nachtner:
He hasn't told me.

[Larry puts his face in his hands in despair]

Larry Gopnik:
And... what happened to the goy?

Rabbi Nachtner:
The goy? Who cares?

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