The 36th Line

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Authors
Striano, Hope
Issue Date
2020-05-17T00:00:00-07:00
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Master of Fine Arts (MFA)
Academic Department
Writing, Linguistics, and Creative Process
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Abstract
<p>Abstract</p> <p><em>The 36<sup>th</sup> Line</em> is a full-length drama that uses humor, sometimes bordering on slapstick, to diffuse the intensity of family obligations and a daughter’s need to break free of them. It pits co-dependent behavior, an addiction to being needed, against the ancient Talmudic legend of the <em>Lamed Vov Tzadikim</em> (ל"ו צַדִיקִים), thirty-six righteous people, colloquially known as <em>lamed vovnicks.</em> The alphanumeric Hebrew letters <em>lamed</em> and <em>vov </em>equal thirty-six.</p> <p>The Talmudic statement pertaining to the <em>Lamed Vov </em>claims there are thirty-six people in every generation whose role it is to justify the existence of mankind in the eyes of God. In his novel <em>The Last of the Just, </em>Andre Schwarz-Bart explains, “If just one of them were lacking, the sufferings of mankind would poison even the souls of the newborn, and humanity would suffocate with a single cry. For the Lamed-Vov are the hearts of the world multiplied, and into them, as into one receptacle, pour all our griefs.” Also known as the <em>Tzadikim Nistarim</em> (צַדִיקִים נִסתָּרים), meaning “the hidden righteous,” the <em>lamed vovniks</em> live unknown to their neighbors or even themselves. Tradition holds that if a person claims to be one of the <em>lamed vov</em>, it would be proof that they are not. A true <em>lamed vov tzadik</em> would be far too humble to believe that such a thing is even possible.</p> <p><em>The 36<sup>th</sup> Line </em>is a play about Shellie Weiss Lindstrom, a woman in her thirties who is struggling to break free of family obligations and perceived responsibilities, including care of her handicapped sister, Suki, a task her mother has prepared her for all her life.</p> <p>Shellie is at a crossroads, having to choose between daily involvement with the demands of caring for her increasingly needy family or abandoning them and moving to Texas with her husband.</p> <p>Thematically, the play asks a question: Is the need to care for others, even to one’s own detriment, divinely determined or self-appointed?</p> <p>In the final moments of the play, while one daughter is released from her perceived bonds, the other, overlooked and underestimated, is poised to receive a blessing. Whether that blessing is real or imagined is up to each individual to decide.</p>
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<p>The two Hebrew letters for 36 are the <em>lamed</em>, (pronounced Lah-med) which is 30, and the <em>vov</em>, which is 6.</p> <p>There is a belief, based on a Talmudic statement, that in every generation, 36 people greet the <em>Shekhinah, </em>the divine presence. They are the <em>Lamed Vov Tzadikim</em> (ל"ו צַדִיקִים), 36 righteous people. Their role is to justify the existence of mankind in the eyes of God. If just one of them were missing, the world would come to an end.</p> <p>The lamed vovniks do not know that they are among the 36. Tradition holds that if a person claims to be one of the lamed vov, it is proof that they are not. The 36 are far too humble to believe that such a thing is possible.</p>