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Superman & the Jewish Mission

Superman & the Jewish Mission

We all want to live in a world where goodness triumphs over evil.


Once I met him, I knew I wanted to be like him. Who wouldn’t want to fly, bend steel in your bare hands and “fight for truth, justice and the American way”? (Are we still allowed to call it “The American way”?) Every embodiment of Superman was one of greatness, sacrifice and heroism combined with a sense of humility and purpose of being.

I loved reading the adventures of Superman at the cottage on summer days as he battled Lex Luthor, Brainiac and a host of other villains “whose every impulse of the heart was only evil all day long.” To this day my comic collection of close to 700 titles, primarily from the 60’s and 70’s (the so-called Silver Age of comics), sit patiently in plastic bags and boxes waiting for a new generation of youngsters to move from their smart phones and ipads and appreciate their beauty and message. (Alas, it may be a long wait.)

It is well documented that Superman’s creators – two Jewish lads from Cleveland, one originally from my hometown Toronto and who patterned the Daily Planet after the Toronto Star – took many cues from our Torah to create the story. The similarities between Superman’s origins, being sent as a baby in a rocket ship from his world of Krypton before it would be destroyed, parallels the story of Moses being sent down the Nile in a basket for his own protection as his world was falling apart from the slavery and the infanticide around him. Superman’s original name is Kal-El – bearing the Hebrew name of God, El, and perhaps even invoking God’s voice since the Hebrew word for voice is Kol. Hence Kal-El means God’s voice – which is indeed what Moshe became as God’s prophet, lawgiver and voice of truth justice and goodness.

The meaning behind Superman is one that so resonates in a Jewish soul because the message and mission is so similar to that of Judaism’s. As father, Jor-El (Russell Crowe) tells his son in the movie:

"You will give the people of earth an ideal to strive towards.
They will race behind you, they will stumble they will fall.
But in time they will join you in the sun.
In time, you will help them accomplish wonders."

Is there anything more Jewish than the outsider, the alien, the one who does not fit in with the rest, the “nation that dwells alone” coming to earth and doing everything in its power to perfect that world and make it a better place? Judaism’s hallmark is to be an Ohr LaGoyim – a Light unto Nations – to be an example nation that strives to teach mankind of the grace, beauty and holiness inherent in truth and justice. And while we still have a lot of work to do, the Torah has indeed taught much of mankind basic ideals such as liberty and freedom for all, do not murder, do not steal, take care of the orphan, widow and the less fortunate, might does not make right, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” “Justice, justice you shall pursue,” universal education and a host of other notions that our world still grapples to learn and live by.

And just as Superman must engage in force at times, its sole purpose is only to defeat evil so that there can ultimately be peace on earth, the same way the Jewish people only wish to take up arms as a last resort to restore a peaceful equilibrium.

Rabbi Noah Weinberg zt”l, the Rosh Yeshiva and founder of Aish HaTorah, used to often say that deep down every person wants to be the Messiah. Every person has a secret, innate desire and sense of responsibility to not only just make the world a better place, but to do everything in our power to make it whole and perfect. It was this self-same desire that two young Jewish men, living in an age when the evils of Nazism began to take hold and threaten the world, it was this deep Jewish stirring that gave birth and rise to Superman.

Superman has become an icon for generations because its message, rooted in Jewish aspirations and ideals, is such a basic and universal one: We do want to live in a world of goodness, truth, fair-play, and one where - despite the trials and tribulations and times when we seemingly are on the brink of destruction - Good triumphs over Evil.

All we have to do is understand our mission and remain dedicated to it every day with the same passion and consistency that Siegel and Shuster did when they created their hero.

"I have to believe you were sent here for a reason
And even if it takes the rest of your life,
You owe it to yourself to find out what that reason is.”

June 15, 2013

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Visitor Comments: 9

(6) MABSH"Y, June 20, 2013 2:08 PM


As my brother, z"l, was fond of pointing out, "Kal-El" (or as the creators originally spelled it, Kal-L) was said to mean in Kryptonian "son of a star",i.e, Bar Kochba

(5) abey, June 18, 2013 3:27 PM

How can that be done when good is called evil & evil good today, the fruit of indulging in the very same tree.

(4) Yehudith Shraga, June 16, 2013 11:14 PM

"An" Ideal is no good for anybody and especially for Jews.

The article has a lot of interesting observations and thoughts,BUT they are all secondary to the main idea,the article promote,which looks very non-Jewish in its origin "You will give the people of earth an ideal to strive towards".
According to the Sages of Kabbalah THE Ideal,people are coming to this earth to strive towards,is encoded in their souls,and so there is no need for anybody to give anything to anybody,if everybody already have it.
Moshe didn't give anything to anybody,he was sent by G-d to speak to the people of Israel,which means saying ALOUD, what everybody felt insight,but couldn't find the right form to put in words and correlated corporeal equivalents to the spiritual law system, to share the ideal of their hearts with others.
The Creator's instructions and spiritual models of behavior, passed through Moshe,could find their way to the hearts of people only because these instructions were originally imprinted in their souls.One of the spiritual laws states, that the person may not wish anything he has no idea about. We may desire and strive only for the things we experienced or come to know on any level of our existence, be it spiritual or material.
The ideal we come to this world with is similar for all the people, It vibrates in Jewish hearts, It finds Its way to the hearts of the people of other nations being pronounced by the Jews, and that is why Judaism doesn't impose itself on others, it just share THE Ideal through the Word of the Sages.Judaism doesn't have an ideal, we have THE ideal, which is the ability of the creation to become co-Creator with the G-d.
The story of Superman is a myth,Judaism is the practical instruction on the way a person should undergo to become the Creator's Partner, this is what the Judaism is about, and if somebody thinks different, he /she is still afraid to say aloud the deepest desires of their hearts and souls which will never allow them to settle for less, than that High.

(3) Evan, June 16, 2013 11:08 PM

The elephant in the article.

C'mon.... is anyone else gonna admit it? Jor-EL... sends his only begotten son to earth, who at 33 becomes super and saves mankind???

Andy, July 9, 2013 7:54 PM

You're referring to...?

And how do we know that the person you're referring to was Jewish? Simple. He went into his father's business, he lived at home until he was 30, and his mother thought he was G-d.

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