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The Disappointing Jedi

The Disappointing Jedi

Why do the Jedi masters avoid taking responsibility to save the universe?

by

I don’t want to offend anyone, but I was disappointed with the new Star Wars film (no real spoilers ahead). 

What disappointed me most was the repeat escapism of the master-Jedi. The Jedi Knight is supposed to be the embodiment of the Force. The Jedi is supposed to be the guardian of all that is good in the Universe. Instead what we see in each representative of the Jedi Master is an individual who is not a guardian of anything other than himself.

Back in 1977, the very first Jedi master we were introduced to was Obi-Wan Kenobi, a recluse living out in the desert. Luke refers to him as a “strange old hermit”. He is known to Luke as Ben Kenobi and when they meet he tells Luke that he hasn’t gone by his Jedi name in a long time, not since before Luke was born. The next Jedi master is the famous Yoda. This super-Jedi is found living on a swamp-ridden planet in a system far removed. And in this latest installment we find Luke in hiding with no one knowing his whereabouts.

All three Jedi masters are living a quiet existence while evil wreaks havoc. They each choose to do nothing.

All three Jedi masters are living a quiet existence while evil wreaks havoc on the Universe. They each choose to do nothing. It is only when some seemingly less qualified person urges, actually forces them do they get involved.

If this is the ultimate manifestation of the Force then it is antithetical of what Judaism says it means to be the defenders of good. To defend good means we must take responsibility and do something. We do not glorify the guru sitting idly on top of a mountain. While he may be filled with insights on how to live a lofty life, he lacks the crucial ingredient necessary to be called a wise person. He lacks the implementation of that wisdom. 

A wise person understands that if we can do something to improve a bad situation, we must act on it. As Voltaire (and Spiderman) said, “With great power comes great responsibility.” A Jedi should certainly have this clarity. And just because the task is immense and fraught with challenges and sometimes extreme tragedies does not allow us to quit. True, each of the three Jedi were hit with disappointment that many indeed would find overwhelming and perhaps crushing. But we are talking about Jedi Knights. We are talking about those unique individuals that we are to look to for inspiration. It is precisely those characters in film that don’t quit, that don’t give in to disappointment that lift the rest of us. That’s why Rocky was and is such an endearing character because he always goes the distance. He doesn’t quit. That is what a true Jedi is, a person who says it is my responsibility and I will never quit. That is how Abraham looked at the world and how we are supposed to aspire to be.

It may be true that Luke was being hunted by the Empire and that is why he needed to go into hiding. Yet he could have and should have taking at least one student with him. One of the greatest Jewish leaders ever was Rabbi Akiva. He started his true “Jedi” quest late in life at the age of 40. He amassed a following of 24,000 students. As the result of a tragic situation every last one of them died. Everything he built was destroyed. He is now 64 years old. That could easily break anyone. What does he do? Start over! He gets five students and builds from them. Those five students go on to be the pillars of Jewish wisdom. The majority of what we know today is the result of the teachings of those five students.

My rabbi, Rav Noah Weinberg, of blessed memory, built five organizations to help the Jewish people and each one failed. Did he quit? No. Starting with just a few students he opened Aish HaTorah and built one of the largest networks dedicated to helping the Jewish people.

The world is not as innocent as it was. There is true evil in the world. It isn't enough if we just refrain from doing evil ourselves, we need to actively create good and combat the existing evil. George Lucas’ Force is morally empty if at its pinnacle it encourages retreat and submission. Instead we should seek to become true masters of a force that has the power to change the world. That force is from the Source of all power and it is strong in each one of us.

May The Source Be With You!

December 26, 2015

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The opinions expressed in the comment section are the personal views of the commenters. Comments are moderated, so please keep it civil.

Visitor Comments: 21

(10) Stella, July 13, 2016 1:20 PM

I see the point that the writer is making and I also appreciate the feedback that suggests Yoda and Obi-Wan weren't going to fight the Empire head on but choose the right tactics. It was vital for Luke's identity to be protected from the watchful eyes of the Empire. I've watched some of "Clone Wars" which addresses the flaws of the Jedi, and we have "Rogue One" coming up that shows the rebels are taking matters into their hands.

I also recommend "Star Wars Rebels" for a different tactic in the face of evil. Jedi student Kanan Jarrus (formerly Caleb Dune) also went underground for years after the Empire rose up. He was reluctant to get into another war but his new team of rebels, his surrogate family, motivates Kanan to take affirmative action.

And then there's Kanan's relationship with Ezra Bridger, a 15-year-old orphan with Force abilities. At first Kanan struggles to teach Ezra but then he accepts "do or do not" and fully commits himself to training Ezra as a Jedi. It's a beautiful representation of the mentor/student relationship. As Ezra learns to connect with the Force, Kanan also learns to re-connect with the teachings of his past and becomes a stronger and better Jedi.

(9) Moshe Z. Matitya, December 29, 2015 11:19 PM

Alternatives

Han Solo [as the Death Star pulls in the Millennium Falcon]: "But they're not going to get me without a fight!"
Obi-wan Kenobi: "You can't win. But there are alternatives to fighting."
-- Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope

(8) Moshe Z. Matitya, December 29, 2015 11:17 PM

Not disappointing at all

The criticism expressed in this article is unfair and misleading. Obi-wan Kenobi and Yoda went into hiding only after the Emperor and Darth Vader had hunted down and killed all the other Jedi Knights. Kenobi and Yoda knew that hope for the galaxy rested upon the possibility of finding future potential trainees who were strong in the Force. Once such a person would be found, he would be trained -- and Kenobi and Yoda were the last people left who could provide such training. To have come out into the open prematurely would have been suicidal, and therefore would have dashed all remaining hope, since there would be nobody left to train the new Jedi. What Kenobi and Yoda did was therefore hardly irresponsible; to the contrary, it was wise and prudent.

The reasons for Luke's withdrawal into hiding are not entirely clear yet, but it appears from what we do know that Luke hid himself for very similar reasons: Snoke and Kylo Ren had wiped out all of the new Jedi trainees, and were seeking to kill Luke. Had he been killed, all hope would have been lost. So Luke went into hiding and bade his time, just as Kenobi and Yoda had done in their day. This way, Luke is now available to train Rey -- which would have been impossible if he had been killed.

As Jews, we are enjoined to observe the laws of Shabbat. Yet at the same time, one is supposed to disregard those laws if one finds oneself in circumstances where observing Shabbat poses a risk to one's life. The reasoning behind this is that it is preferable to violate Shabbat once, rather than sacrifice the possibility of observing many Shabbatot in the future. Similar reasoning dictates that it is better to hide and bide ones time, rather that fighting futilely in the face of certain death. That way, the flame of hope is left burning, and one lives to fight another day.

Part of wisdom is knowing when to act, and when to be patient.

Rebekah, December 30, 2015 11:02 PM

Nicely stated, Moshe Z. Matitya. I wondered if the author had seen all six Star Wars movies to understand the circumstances behind Obi-Wan and Yoda's hermitage. Granted, it is just a movie series, but since we are speaking of hiding vs. being in the open...I wouldn't state that those who hid during the Holocaust were doing nothing and that those who harbored them were privy to condoning selfish shirking of responsibility in the world. On the contrary, preservation of Jewish heritage was vitally contingent on the survival of those who placed themselves in seclusion. Without them, there would not be many of us.

Shalom Denbo, December 31, 2015 11:24 PM

Yes I saw all 6

I do understand the circumstances and still maintain my position. I did see all 6 although my opinion is that only Episode IV and V were worthwhile.

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