Just Live it!

Loving Our Enemies

Stephen M. Hudspeth

Nov/2013, 29 Pages, INSTANT DOWNLOAD

ISBN-13: 9781606741535

This play addresses issues of bullying, cheating, name-calling (including use of the word “gay” as a taunt), and in-group exclusion. It does so head-on with focus upon a young person who must choose between following her Yester Tov or her Yetser Ha-ra in dealing with these issues. The battle within us between our good impulse and our bad impulse is always an on-going one. These impulses have names in Jewish tradition, Yetser Tov—the good impulse—and Yetser Ha-ra—the driving impulse that can be creative and energizing but that can also turn to the bad or even evil. That tradition views Yetser Ha-ra as a particularly strong impulse within us and holds that only by constant study of Scripture, prayer, and the regular doing of good can one fully reach for his or her Yetser Tov to control properly his or her Yetser Ha-ra.

The play actually offers two endings for the congregation to choose between through an on-the-spot congregational vote as the play is progressing—though the ending in which the protagonist’s Yetser Ha-ra prevails, if chosen in the vote, is “rewound” to the go to the ending in which her Yester Tov prevails. (The students thought of the idea of “rewinding” themselves by moving backwards the way a DVD does when it rewinds. When the Narrator says, “rewind,” this is what happens. This was a big hit with the congregation! ) In fact, the play was very popular among both our students (who loved acting in it) and our congregation.

The play strives with both humor and great seriousness to address circumstances unfortunately all too real in many young people’s lives—bullying, cheating, name-calling, and in-group exclusion. In so doing, it seems to resonate with our young people’s own experiences and offers a way to address constructively what they face regularly. This statement appeared right under the play’s title in the church bulletin for the service in which it was performed: “This play addresses difficult issues of bullying, cheating, name-calling, and in-group exclusion. It may open a door for discussion with your children in whatever way is most age appropriate and helpful to them. Your clergy and staff are available to answer any questions you may have.”

This is the third of three sermon plays (of which each can be performed without having seen the previous plays) in the Temptation Trilogy that feature the characters “Hari” and “Tovi” who act like invisible shadows to the character, Max. They are like the “angel” and “devil” often depicted in cartoons with each whispering over the right or left shoulder of a person (like their subconscious).

Cast Needed: 25 +/-
 Cast List
Narrators (7)
Pastor 1
Pastor 2
Liz
Joe
Lawrence
Tovi
Hari
Students (6)
Youth Group Members
Other Students
Stagehands (as needed)
(Many parts, and especially narrators, can be doubled)

Time Length: 30-45 minutes
Age Level: Youth
Audience: All ages 

 

Stephen M. Hudspeth of Wilton, Connecticut, has taught church school for over twenty years, mostly to sixth and seventh graders, at St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in Wilton, writing a new play script almost every year for his class in a church school which is conducted jointly with Wilton Presbyterian Church; he has also taught confirmation classes for six years. He has been the chief lay officer (Senior Warden) of two Episcopal parishes, one in New York City and the other St. Matthew’s in Wilton, the latter two times.

He also served for a decade as the Chair of the Stewardship Commission of the Episcopal Diocese of New York and for two terms as a trustee of Union Theological Seminary in New York City (affiliated with Columbia University). In his current professional work, he teaches courses in law at the Yale Law School and in law and administration at Union Theological Seminary.

Until his retirement as a partner of a large international law firm at year-end 2004, he served for a dozen years as the chair of its global litigation department and of its pro bono committee. He has been married for over four decades to Rebecca Hudspeth whom he thanks profoundly for all of her help and support in this play writing and production process (and in all other things!) They have two children and two grandchildren.

The Worst Temptation of Max
Name Me
Just Live it

These plays form a trilogy that is intended for performance in either a single-faith or multi-faith setting and were actually each performed at services joined in by Christian and Jewish congregations. They benefited greatly from the insights of Rabbi Jon Haddon of Temple Shearith Israel in Ridgefield, Connecticut, and Rabbi Leah Cohen of Temple B'nai Chaim in Wilton, Connecticut, on the concept of Yetser Ha-ra, the powerfully energizing impulse that can easily turn to bad and even evil if not channeled and controlled, and Yetser Tov, the good impulse. This concept dates back in Jewish tradition to the time of the great Rabbi Hillel who died in 10 C.E. in Jerusalem, right before Jesus began his ministry in Galilee and Judea. The tradition views Yetser Ha-ra as a particularly strong impulse within us; it holds that only by constant study of Scripture and the regular doing of good can we fully empower our Yetser Tov to overcome our Yetser Hara.

The sermon/plays present this concept in the context of events which are part of the environment of our students' own lives and then place the concept in a larger context both of history and of theology in terms accessible to students of their ages and younger. The concepts of Yetser Tov and Yetser Ha-ra have been enormously popular with both our student actors and our congregations, including the young people from kindergarten through high school age who attend the joint "Festival of Children" services where the plays have been performed as the service's sermon. The actors and congregations have also reallyliked the congregational choice of endings that is a feature of the last two, and, in fact, my students even petitioned me to include the choice again in what became the third play in this trilogy after its use in the second one.

A hamsa is an amulet shaped like a hand, with three extended fingers in the middle and a curved thumb or pinky finger on either side. It is thought to protect against the "evil eye" and is a popular motif in both Jewish and Middle Eastern jewelry. The name "hamsa" comes from the Hebrew word "hamesh," which means five. Hamsa refers to the fact that there are five fingers on the talisman, though some also believe it represents the five books of the Torah. Sometimes it is called the Hand of Miriam, after Moses' sister. In Islam, the hamsa is called the Hand of Fatima, in honor of one of the daughters of the Prophet Mohammed. Some say that in Islamic tradition the five fingers represent the Five Pillars of Islam.

In addition to being shaped like an oddly formed hand, many hamsas will have an eye displayed in the palm of the hand. The eye is thought to be a powerful talisman against the "evil eye." The evil eye is a certain "look" that can cause bad luck for the person at whom it is directed. This "look" often originates with a person, though not always intentionally. Legends about the evil eye give both regular people and those with certain powers the ability to cast the evil eye. In the case of the average Joe, envy is most often cited as the unintentional source of the evil eye.

We are using this symbol for the covers of the Skiturgies by Steve Hudspeth as his plays examine how this "evil" as well as "good" play out in our own lives and actions today.