Transparent’s third season dropped last week, and we are kvelling. As Maura (Jeffrey Tambor) continues to transition, the family deals with dramatic changes and reversals. But there’s one constant in this installment: the Pfeffermans are as Jewish as ever. Here’s a run-down of this season’s best Jewish moments.
1. Elizah’s Crisis
As the season opens, we see a ‘day in the life’ of Maura and Rabbi Raquel (Kathryn Hahn). After her break-up with Josh (Jay Duplass), Raquel takes to the wilderness to contemplate what to preach this Pesach. Meanwhile, Maura volunteers at a help-line for at-risk trans youth. A call arrives from Elizah, a poor, black trans girl who wants to commit suicide. Sure enough, Maura goes in search of her. It’s a clever twist on the story of Elijah, the prophet whom Jews leave a seat for at the Seder table. He asks God in the Bible to strike him down out of despair, before God saves him and restores his faith. As for Maura, she’s no Hashem.
2. Sarah Gets into Temple Politics
It’s widely known that there’s no chattier place than the Kiddush table on a Saturday morning. Such is the case for Sarah (Amy Landecker), who applies for the temple board, only to be undone by her arch-nemesis, a life-coach who trashes her morals to the other board members.
3. Hipster Shabbat!
Sarah regroups after her disappointment with the board to organize a temple without walls, aka the Shabbat carnival that she and Raquel put together and call Hineni (Biblical Hebrew for ‘I am here.’) There’s papusas and espresso, and the whole Pferfferman gang shows up, including Ali (Gabby Hoffman) and her Judith Butler doppelganger, Leslie (Cherry Jones). It’s quite the evening, with a fight over Israel-Palestine and an unexpected emotional climax thrown in.
4. Ahava on the Bima
This season introduces a new cantor to the Pfeffermans’ synagogue. Duvid, with his knitted kippa, comes straight from Israel, and he attended seminary with Raquel. The two renew their friendship, and eventually that leads somewhere else.
5. Raquel to the Mikveh
After an emotional melt-down, Raquel heads to a mikveh (a Jewish ritual bath) to cleanse herself literally and figuratively. She dips under the water, while singing the customary prayer, and we know Transparent has gone deeper into Jewish trivia than almost any other general audience show.
6. A Seder Afloat
After a season of break-ups, disappointments, and gnawing questions, the Pfeffermans land on a cruise ship for Passover (no getting rid of hametz for them!). In the spur of the moment, Sarah and Alli decide to celebrate the holiday, and head to the all-you-can-eat buffet to find suitable replacements for the items on the Seder plate.
Contact Daniel J. Solomon at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @DanielJSolomon