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Yesterday: The Beatles, The Movie and the Torah

July 4, 2019 | by Rabbi Benjamin Blech

How could the world forget the Beatles?

Yesterday – first the song, now the movie.

For fans of the Beatles, Yesterday – the song Paul McCartney says came to him note by note in a dream – has a well- deserved claim on the best popular song ever written. Released as a single on September 13, 1965, Yesterday went to the top of the charts globally and was broadcast on American radio more than seven million times in its first 30 years. According to the Guinness Book Of Records it is the most covered pop song of all time.

Now it is back in the news as the title of a strikingly imaginative new film that perhaps requires a flight from reality too difficult to entertain: What if everyone in the world has somehow forgotten every song composed by the Beatles and only one person actually remembers?

The film follows Jack Malik, a struggling singer-songwriter who was hit by a bus during a global blackout. He makes the awesome discovery that no one earth but him remembers the Beatles. That allows him to perform their legendary songs and receive international acclaim.

It is here that the film goes off to deal with the theme of plagiarism and the true meaning of success as self-fulfillment. But there is something that moved me in the first portion of the film that spoke directly to the criticism of its totally unrealistic premise. How could the genius of the Beatles ever be forgotten by so many? How could their songs be stilled by the cruelty of forgetfulness?

This fantastical setup has a distinctively Jewish parallel. Historic amnesia is more than a transgression; it is a tragedy. And we as Jews are perhaps most sensitive to it when we reflect that long ago God appeared at Mount Sinai to teach the world the fundamentals of ethics and morality. The world was given the Torah as “a song” in order to enrich our lives, yet so many Jews today have never heard the song. For too many, it has simply been forgotten.

In the Yesterday, only Jack Malik was able to remind the world of the Beatles. And that sums up best the divinely appointed historic role of the Jews. In giving us the Torah, God gave us a mission. He told our ancestors that we were meant to become “a kingdom of kohanim, priests" But not all Jews are kohanim – priests? The answer is that what the priests were to the rest of the Jewish people, the Jewish people in entirety are meant to be to the world. Our mission to make the world remember what it should never have forgotten – the wisdom and values needed to live a live suffused with meaning, holiness and Godliness.

The premise of the movie Yesterday isn’t really far-fetched at all. If the genius of Torah that is the song of God can be forgotten by so many, surely so too can the works of the Beatles.

Our mission is to make sure that we always remember the spiritual meaning of these powerful truths:

Oh I believe in yesterday

"Renew our days as of yesterday" (Lamentations 5:21).

There's nothing you can do that can't be done
Nothing you can sing that can't be sung…
All you need is love
All you need is love
All you need is love, love
Love is all you need

"And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might" (Deuteronomy 6:5).

"And you shall love your neighbor as yourself" (Leviticus 19:18).

And then perhaps, just perhaps, yesterday will turn into the glorious tomorrow when we will be able to sing with great joy, “Here comes the sun.”

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