Yada Yada Yada | Sojourners

Yada Yada Yada

Although a "show about nothing" may seem to offer us little to ponder theologically, we need only look at the Jewish tradition of seeking wisdom to see connections to Seinfeld. Even one of its main writers, Larry Charles, compares Seinfeld to "a dark Talmud" with "brilliant minds examining a thought or ethical question from every possible angle." Jerry Seinfeld himself admits to a higher purpose: "Comedy is my mission. That's what I can do to make the world a little less bad."

Seinfeld is, in many ways, the Ecclesiastes of sitcoms. In the Hebrew wisdom book of Ecclesiastes, the author, Qohelet, laments that "all is futility." The more common translations give us the famous catchphrase as "Vanity of vanities. All is vanity" (Ecclesiastes 1:2). Hebrew scholars say that this key word translated as "vanity" can also be interpreted as "futility." Either way, Seinfeld qualifies. The characters in Seinfeld are vain, and their lives seem futile. In their worldview, human beings are victims of the forces of fate that constantly put their lives in danger. Suffering seems to define human life. Therefore, meaning can be sought or contained only within the very small, mundane things that make up everyday life. Just like Qohelet, the characters in Seinfeld decide it is best to enjoy life's little pleasures, such as the humor in the nagging irritants of modern life. And why not? Death, or failure, is right around the corner. Also like Qohelet, the show depicts a God who is far away and unengaged. Both Seinfeld and the author of Ecclesiastes are solitary men....

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Sojourners Magazine November-December 2001
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