Sunday, July 1, 2012

Carly Rae Jepsen's Call Me Maybe

IT'S BEEN DUBBED, “the song of the summer.” And, like it or not, Carly Rae Jepsen's song, “Call Me Maybe” is pretty catchy. Once Justin Bieber and his friends posted a spoof of her song on YouTube, you just knew that it would be a smashing success. But who knew that the Bie's liked it so much that he would sign her to his new label? Either way, I hope that this song catapults her career to stardom and that she doesn't suffer the fate of so many who came before her that produced one-hit wonders and floundered.

In this song a girl tempts fate by “putting a wish in a well”, and before you know it she encounters the handsome man that must have emerged from it. (Most pop songs interpret beauty as something that is skin deep, so get used to it; but I digress.) She believes that this guy is everything she could have ever hoped for. He makes her dizzy, he “keeps getting in her way,” and she can't stop thinking of him. So she does what every 21st century girl would do: walks up to the guy and asks him out!

Okay, that's not how it usually works. Yes, it's rare for a woman to do the asking. She may strike up a conversation with him in the hope that he takes the initiative, or maybe she asks someone to make the “shidduch” (Jewish for matchmaking) for her. But to take action on her own? That's the exception, not the rule. Nevertheless, we should applaud her; not because what she did was right or wrong, but because she was willing to be bold and take a risk.

Being bold is an important message which finds its roots in a well known Talmudic story about Nachshon Ben Aminadav. Standing at the Sea of Reeds, pursued by Pharaoh and the Egyptian army, the Jewish nation hesitated and moaned, not knowing what to do. They were caught between a rock and a hard place. The sea before them; the Egyptians behind them. But Nachshon knew what to do. He jumped into the water and almost lost his life. Only at the last second did God split the sea enabling the Jews to enter the waters and escape their attackers. All the other Jews, including Moses, did not have the courage to take this unprecedented step. They were paralyzed by fear and were unwilling to take the leap of faith that Nachshon took. They waited until the waters were split before they entered.

Looking at history, one has to realize that the greatest accomplishments of mankind were achieved by the Nachshons of every generation. Galileo, for example, was put under house arrest for the last 9 years of his life for refusing to retract his “heretical” claim that the earth revolved around the sun. Amelia Earhart set new standards for the aviation industry, and for females in general, at a time when the status of a woman was very different than it is today. They and courageous men and women like them were declared by others to be insane and irresponsible. But they refused to give in and conform to popular belief. They took bold action and earned a place in history.

Now, I don't want to give you the impression that I am advocating that people should take risks indiscriminately. Surely, risks must be calculated and carefully planned, but dreams can't be fulfilled without taking a leap of faith.

The girl in “Call Me Maybe” is not Nachshon nor is she Amelia Earhart. But her principles are sound. And maybe that is why Jepsen owns the song of the summer.

Rabbi Joshua Hess is a rabbi in Linden, New Jersey. Together with Rabbi Jason Miller he is the co-founder of Follow him on Twitter at @rabbihess.