Shalom, Larry David!

(RNS) — I have been tallying up the telltale signs.

  • The earthquakes that hit the Northeast.
  • The eclipse.
  • The fear of war with Iran.
  • The rising political uncertainty and chaos in this country.

Add to the list: The end of HBO’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” which just aired its final episode.

The signs clearly point to a coming apocalypse.

No television series gave me as much pleasure and deep laughter as “Curb” (OK, maybe “Seinfeld,” which was also the work of Larry David).

But, more than that, whether or not Larry knew it, many episodes of “Curb” were Jewish short stories.

My favorite “Jewish” episodes in “Curb Your Enthusiasm”:

“The Baptism” (Season 2, Episode 6): Larry and his wife, Cheryl, have the “trip from hell” to attend the baptism of her sister’s Jewish fiancé, who must convert to Christianity in order to marry the sister. When they arrive at the ceremony, Larry inadvertently stops it from occurring. The Jewish side of the family rejoices, while the Christian side is angry. This leads to a miniature religious war between the two families, in which Larry emerges as the hero, having taken full credit for that accidental act of Jewish heroism. Compare that to the episode in the current season, in which Larry brings a bottle of water to a Black woman in Georgia waiting in line to vote, gets arrested for breaking a ridiculous law, and claims full moral credit as a civil rights hero.

“The Special Section” (Season 3, Episode 6): Larry’s mother dies, and because the funeral director notices that she has a tattoo (which Jewish law forbids), she is buried in a special section of the cemetery.

“The Five Wood” (Season 4, Episode 5): Larry and his manager, Jeff, face expulsion from their country club because of Larry’s unruly locker and endeavor to join a WASPish country club. Larry does an almost passable job of “passing” as a WASP in order to gain admission. The scene in which Larry attempts to imitate WASP tonal quality and subject matter (polo!) is hysterical.

Larry David finds himself embroiled in the Palestinian-Israeli dispute at a chicken restaurant during an episode of "Curb Your Enthusiasm." (Photo courtesy HBO)

Larry David finds himself embroiled in the Palestinian-Israeli dispute at a chicken restaurant during an episode of “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” (Photo courtesy HBO)

“The Survivor” (Season 4, Episode 9): As a gift for their 10th wedding anniversary, Cheryl offers Larry the opportunity, on a one-time basis, to have extra-marital sexual relations. Will it be with a seductive Orthodox dry cleaner? Meanwhile, Larry’s rabbi sets up a meeting between two “survivors” — but the rabbi’s “survivor” is from the “Survivor” television series, and the other survivor is a survivor of Auschwitz. How can you even begin to compare the experiences of a television “survivor” and a Holocaust survivor? The overarching question is profound: What happens when the word “survivor” becomes so universal as to become trivial?

“The Seder” (Season 5, Episode 7): It is a Passover seder that redefines the meaning of the word “awkward.” Larry invites a sex offender to share the festival meal. Yes, the Haggadah says: “All who are hungry, come and eat” — but does the mitzvah of hospitality extend to someone who has committed such vile acts?

“The Ski Lift” (Season 5, Episode 8): When Larry’s friend, (the now late) Richard Lewis, needs a kidney, Larry is the most promising candidate for being the donor. Unwilling to take the risk, Larry befriends an Orthodox Jew who has connections with the kidney foundation. In order to further ingratiate himself with the man, Larry pretends to be Orthodox and invites the man and his daughter on a ski weekend. The daughter, Rachel, smells a non-kosher rat. Larry’s attempts to pass as an Orthodox Jew, including imitating Orthodox speech patterns, are as hysterical as his attempt to pass as a WASP.

“The End” (Season 5, Episode 10): Larry, suspecting that he was adopted at birth, “discovers” that his biological parents are gentiles living in Arizona. Larry is delighted to know that he is not, in fact, Jewish. After experimenting with that identity, he enters the hospital for an operation that will give his kidney to Richard Lewis, only to die on the table. Larry goes to heaven, where he has a wonderful time until he commits a heavenly faux pas.

“Palestinian Chicken” (Season 8, Episode 3): Larry and Jeff go to a Palestinian restaurant, which makes Larry uncomfortable because of the pro-Palestinian art on the walls. Larry meets a beautiful Palestinian woman, Shara. Politically and ethnically charged eroticism ensues.

Larry David in court during the series finale of "Curb Your Enthusiasm." (Photo by John Johnson/HBO)

Larry David in court during the series finale of “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” (Photo by John Johnson/HBO)

There were others, of course — each of them irreverent meditations on Jewish identity, its boundaries, its challenges and the spectrum of embrace, ambivalence and denial upon which many contemporary Jews live. The final episode (miniature spoiler alert here) is a replay of the final episode of “Seinfeld” — a Yom Kippurish appearance before a judge and jury.

The late NBC executive Brandon Tartikoff thought that “Seinfeld” was “too New York, too Jewish.” We can only imagine what he would have said about “Curb.”

More than that: Almost all of the principal actors in “Curb Your Enthusiasm” are Jewish:

  • Larry David himself.
  • Jeff Garlin, who played Jeff Greene, Larry’s friend and manager.
  • Susie Essman, who played Susie Greene — the most consistently funny person on the series.
  • The late Richard Lewis.
  • The late Shelley Berman, who played Larry’s father.
  • The late Bob Einstein, who played Marty Funkhouser, Larry’s friend who had become an observant Jew.

The exceptions?

Cheryl Hines, who played Cheryl, Larry’s wife and then ex-wife. In real life, she is married to presidential hopeful Robert F. Kennedy Jr. When Larry would do exasperating, embarrassing things, Cheryl would simply sigh and say, “Oh, Larry…” Were those incidents dress rehearsals for the possibility that she would have to say: “Oh, Bobby…”?

And, J.B. Smoove, who played the perpetual house guest, Leon. Leon is my favorite character; he totally made that final season.

Larry David and J.B. Smoove in "Curb Your Enthusiasm." (Photo by John Johnson/HBO)

Larry David and J.B. Smoove in “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” (Photo by John Johnson/HBO)

One last thing about the Larry David character.

Larry is, consistently, the most annoying and irritating character on “Curb.” That is because of his moral and aesthetic fastidiousness. Larry has his own set of rules, his own Emily Post etiquette book, which he expects everyone to know, internalize and follow. When that does not happen, Larry gets offended.

Which is to say: Larry David has his own private Shulchan Arukh, his own code of halacha (Jewish law) — and he is very stringent about it.

I will miss “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” Many of us will.

For all those years, it was pretty, pretty, pretty good.

Larry David in court during the series finale of "Curb Your Enthusiasm." (Photo by John Johnson/HBO)

Larry David in court during the series finale of “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” (Photo by John Johnson/HBO)

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