Three weeks ago while having lunch with Evan Sayet at Milk n’ Honey, I got into a conversation with singer/actor Rick Moses (Young Dan’l Boone, General Hospital, Avalanche) who was sitting next to us.
On Thursday, Feb. 21, I interview Rick at my hovel about his journey. Here’s the video.
As a child, Rick wanted to become an actor.
His brother Billy is an actor.
Rick: "My mother [Marian McCargo] didn’t become an actress until she was in her thirties. I was about 12 years old. My mother and I used to run lines together. I think she got interested in it by running lines with me. She’d put me in some professional acting class for kids."
Rick’s father was a magna cum laude graduate of Yale and an advertising hot shot.
He was raised Episcopalian though he (and his family) stopped going to church after his parents divorced when Rick was 12.
Marian was a Sunday school teacher.
Luke: "Did you believe in God?"
Luke: "Did you believe that Jesus was God?"
Rick: "From my earliest recollections, I did not respond to [the New Testament]. I was interested in the stories of the Old Testament. My mother read from the King James Version. I was not indoctrinated. I was taught the straight theology of Christianity by my parents and by my grandparents. I did not respond to it."
In tenth grade, Rick transferred to Andover, graduating in 1971. "I became a prep school All-American swimmer."
Luke: "How did your parents divorce affect you?"
Rick: "I didn’t find it troubling at all. I was looking ahead to the future. I became aware as the years passed that it had a profound and painful effect on my younger brothers. I was spared that. My mother and father were both kind to each other."
"I was never interested in drugs. I was certainly exposed to it. As a professional actor and musician, that was everywhere… I was more concerned with practical things. I was aware the world was a dangerous place and that there were a lot of unpleasant people who wanted to do unpleasant things. G-d had blessed me with a certain amount of physical strength and knowledge, and I wanted to stay alert and fit and ready to take care of things."
Luke: "How did you become aware that the world was a dangerous place?"
Rick: "Growing up in Pasadena, there was a stark contrast between the upper class and lower class. I had a paper route for the L.A. Times and that took me all over Pasadena. There were a lot of unpleasant people one came across. A certain dog-eat-dog mentality was present. I became exposed to it and decided it was better to deal with this through strength."
Luke: "Were you a good kid?"
Rick: "I don’t know what you mean by good."
Luke: "Were you a bully?"
Rick: "No. The thing I hated most was bullies. I was the bullies bully."
Moses quotes Rabbi Raphael Shimshon Hirsch that "art can be a bridge to G-d."
"I was always cognizant of G-d. I never doubted that G-d was."
Rick says most of his friends from chilldhood were Jewish. "They were not religious Jews. I didn’t understand there was such a thing as an ‘Orthodox Jew’ until I was in my 40s.
"As I became aware of Judaism, it was easy to look back and see that HaShem was making it easy for me to move close to Him."
Rick first married (to Johnnie Morris) in 1976. He had two sons. He divorced after eight years. He remarried in 1989.
Around this time, Rick found himself able to read much faster. He studied Shakespeare, Moliere, the Bhagavad Gita, and the Bible and anything available on Zen Buddhism.
"I revisited the New Testament several times.
"My secular life was Jewish but not religious. I was surrounded by Jews who were semi-knowledgable. I considered myself a scholar. I took upon myself the discipline of rereading the Bible. I had enough knowledge to know that they (the semi-religious Jews) were getting some things wrong and wanted to be the one to tell them.
"I got through the second book of Kings in the KJV, without Jewish commentary, and was completely convinced that this is beyond the works of men. This is from God.
"My wife started to become religious and she started taking me to lectures [at the Kabbalah Centre]. She started doing some of those arcane Jewish practices involving preparation for the Shabbat…
"She took me to a lecture and I heard a rabbi speaking about Sefer Yetzirah, how Avraham the patriarch had written over 450 books. I said, ‘Wait a minute, there’s no mention in the Bible of Avraham writing any books.’
"The [Kabbalah Centre] rabbi said, ‘I understand. You don’t know what the Jewish midrash is.’
"I went to a bookstore on Fairfax and asked for the Sefer Yetzirah. There was a whole wall of them."
"I became aware of books that introduced one to the midrash. It opened up countless worlds to me when it became self-evident to me that this was all true."
"My wife and I became observant Jews within a short period of time. We were blessed with more children. Judaism became the most important thing to me. I put my energies into it the same way a young man who wished to become a doctor would apply his energy to get into medical school. I had at least that intensity for the last ten years. I was blessed with the means and the time.
"Rabbi Avraham Gabay is my rabbi…"
"I had done something that merited criticism and he was so swift and on the money and I knew the basis of what he was criticizing me for that I loved it…that it was completely for the sake of God."
"My wife and I had a child who died after 44 days. We were under the wings of the shechina enough… Rabbi Gabai helped us deal with the ritual matters that had to be addressed. Though this was a terrible thing, our mutual study brought us to the point where through G-d’s grace we could understand the kindness of G-d, even in that. In a sense, the conversion had already taken place through the holy books available to us. Apart from that, there were mechanical things, important things, that had to be dealt with ritually, and they were attended to mostly through Rabbi Gabbi."
Luke: "What did you find most difficult in Torah Judaism?"
Rick: "No one would understand evil better than me. I had become it completely. I wasn’t the worst person on earth, I hadn’t done as many ruthless things as some people might, but I was completely capable. And I understood that."
"I knew many world famous astrologers and they couldn’t say one thing that was true about me, but a rudimentary study of Judaism could immediately tell me everything about me. It defined what evil was."
"What one has to face are the very things we want the most, we can not have on the level of our desire alone. Everything in this universe we can have but through the prism of derech eretz."
"The thing that one wants the most if you are a healthy American is as much illicit sex as possible. I was a very successful sinner. I was able to have things on my terms. It was easy. If there were obstacles, I could destroy the obstacle."