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Let's see how a huge pop star used תפילין in one of her music videos. We'll analyze what תפילין symbolize in this context and compare that to what we've learned about the symbolism of תפילין.

"Die Another Day" is the theme song from the James Bond film of the same name by American singer-songwriter Madonna.The music video was directed by Traktor, and was developed as an independent video from the film but contained Bond influences. It depicts Madonna as a prisoner in a torture chamber, alternating with scenes of a fencing duel between good (clad in white) and evil (clad in black) personas of the singer. Wounds inflicted on both fencers are mirrored on the imprisoned Madonna, and in the end she escapes being electrocuted in the chamber. The usage of Jewish religious texts and objects in the music video led to controversy, with Judaism scholars deeming it sacrilegious.

Watch the video below.

Here are some questions to reflect on in your posts below:

  1. What do you think the תפילין are supposed to symbolize in Madonna's video?

  2. Some people have had a negative reaction to Madonna's use of תפילין in her video, in this way. How do you feel about it?

  3. What did you see about the תפילין that was NOT accurate in Madonna's video?

Play 2



The Barbie doll, launched in 1959 by Jewish businesswoman Ruth Handler, started out as a fashion model toy intended for young girls and has long since moved into the realm of cultural icon. Over the years, Barbie has been everything from fashion model to astronaut, from Olympic medalist to Hollywood movie star. In the 80s, she joined the multicultural movement and was depicted as African-American, Latina, and Asian. Her creators and followers have always strived to help Barbie adapt to the times and offer a variety of options for our imaginations. In her 1994 autobiography, Handler explained Barbie's true purpose: "My whole philosophy of Barbie was that through the doll, the little girl could be anything she wanted to be. Barbie always represented the fact that a woman has choices."

Barbie has also been the object of parody and criticism. Her unrealistic measurements have prompted many to worry that little girls might strive to look like Barbie and fail, causing low self esteem and poor body image. She thus represents an icon of beauty for millions, and for many others the embodiment of our culture's unrealistic expectations for women.

In 2006, Jen Taylor Friedman—one of the first סופרות (female ritual scribes) in a male-dominated profession—gave Barbie a new look: she created a version of the famous doll sporting modest clothing, a טלית (prayer shawl) and her own miniature pair of תפילין. Tefillin Barbie—whose picture swept through the blogosphere—provokes reactions that range from disgust to shock to amusement to great admiration.

  1. What's your reaction to this image?

  2. What do you think the message the creator of this image is trying to send?

  3. Do you think this image does a good job of conveying that message?

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