Papa, can you hear me?

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 22, 2005

Those words pierced the inner part of me ever since I heard them roll off Barbara Streisand’s tongue back in 1983 when the melody of the song etched itself forever into my mind.

As a child, who two years earlier experienced the inevitable consequences of my parents’ divorce namely not seeing my father, no movie has ever ignited such passion in me as Yentl, even to this day.

For those of you who have never seen it, the story depicts the life of a young Jewish woman raised by her father in Eastern Europe in 1904. Influenced by her father’s deep devotion to God as evidenced by his study and teaching of the Talmud, Yentl cannot understand why women are forbidden from reading or learning scripture and begs him to secretly teach her the religious texts.

His consent to accommodate her request, shortly before his death, unleashes an irreversible desire to unlock the mysteries of life.

Completely orphaned and unbound by marriage, Yentl does the unthinkable and disguises herself as a man and embarks on a journey to a Yesheva to learn with the most promising religious scholars.

As a child, I remember being able to identify with her character. The grief she felt in losing her father, the questioning of everything in the universe and overwhelmingly, the intensity of emotion she expressed in song as her soul spilled out in poetry.

My mother had always been a Streisand fan, so hearing her music permeating the walls of our tiny basement apartment wasn’t uncommon, but after that film something in me had awakened.

All of a sudden I realized that my voice was an instrument by which I could release the emotions I felt no one else would understand. Just like Yentl, when hardships seemed too much to take, I lifted my voice in song and petitioned God for help.

It was an inexplicable comfort to me to know even though I didn’t know all the answers, someone out there did. In the months following my father’s suicide last January, I tried to find a copy of the movie, but soon found out it had gone out of print.

My husband searched high and low and discovered that it was pending a second release on DVD this year, but in the meantime, my spirit yearned to experience the healing it seemed only that movie could bring.

Recently, we found someone to loan us a copy and there was no doubt in my mind it was an answer to prayer. God knew that movie was a part of my healing process. But, he also revealed a work his hand had done five years ago when I visited the Czech Republic on a mission trip with the seminary.

Until I read the credits at the end of the movie, I had no idea that God granted me a desire I expressed 22 years earlier, when I told my mother I wanted to visit where the movie was filmed.

I was awestruck when I saw that it was shot on location in Czechoslovakia and realized then God is so much bigger than my mind can conceive.

Now, any time trials encroach on my life, all I have to do is think back to a time my soul cried out, &uot;Papa, Can You Hear Me,&uot; and I will know beyond a shadow of a doubt, he’s there listening to even the smallest desire of my heart.