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The Avengers

The Avengers

There’s an important lesson about the power of the Jewish People.


The Avengers, the new Marvel Studios movie starring everybody, is chock full of morals and characters arcs, and everyone walks away with something different. I walked away thinking that I live way too close to Manhattan.

In the movie, Nick Fury, the leader of SHIELD (a global peace-keeping organization) assembles a team of all of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, besides for Spider-Man, the X-Men, the blind guy, and the one who looks like he’s on fire, in order to save the world from aliens who want to destroy the Earth -- one building at a time, apparently. Hilarity ensues.

“Alone they are powerful. Together, they are unstoppable.” – Nick Fury

The aliens are led by Thor’s annoying little brother, Loki, who calls himself the God of Mischief. Like what’s he’s doing is “mischief”. (“Oh, that scamp! He killed 80 people! What’ll he do next?”)

“There’s only one God,” Captain America says. “And he doesn’t dress like that.”

At the beginning of the movie, Loki steals a super-powered cube (even the cubes in this world have super powers) from SHIELD, so he can use it to open a portal and... actually, the less detail I go into here, the quicker we can get to the action.

So the heroes band together and spend most of the movie fighting – well, each other. These are not new characters; they’ve each had their own movies, are coming from vastly different places in life, and they all have their own points of view. One comes to work with long hair and a hammer, while another likes to wear expensive suits. That fire tiny guided missiles. One basically wears a flag, and another likes to take off his shirt and fight big government.

“We’re not a team,” the latter observes. “We’re a time bomb.”

Captain America argues with Iron Man, who tackles Thor, who tussles with Hulk, who chases Black Widow, who repays Hawkeye for saving her life by literally beating the mind control out of him. And then they all turn against Fury when they find out that he’d been using the cube to make weapons.

The weapons were plan B. But to be fair, weapons don’t spend half the movie hitting each other.

And all the while that they’re fighting each other, Loki watches, amused. He knows he’s attacking a planet with heroes, and his best shot is keeping them from working together. Divide and conquer.

If “divide and conquer” is a good plan, our enemies have it easy. The Jewish people have no shortage of super-villains -- of aliens who want to breach our spatial borders and take our land and blow up our buildings and control our minds and ride around on flying jet skis and maybe take metaphors one step too far. Our villains have come and gone, but there are always sequels, featuring different villains.

That said, you’d think we’d stick together. We were brought together to be a team, right? But we’re more divergent than ever. We’re Ashkenazi, Sephardi, Chassidic, Yeshivish, Litvish, Zionist, Yerushalmi, Modern Orthodox, Reform, Conservative, Secular, and all the combinations and permutations thereof. I would venture to say that there are more factions of Jews than of any other religion. I say this based on absolutely no research, but it makes sense. We’ve been playing telephone for longer.

And what do we do? We either: A. Spend all day fighting and debating each other over who’s right and who’s wrong (Hint: We’re right, the other person is wrong) or B. Going our own separate ways, and having our own adventures and praying in our own synagogues full of like-minded supporting characters, and trying not to think too much about the other people, because the fact that they’re different bothers us.

I’m not saying that we shouldn’t fight each other. Fighting’s fun, and it gives us something to do until the aliens start pouring out of the wormhole. (There are actual worms in the wormhole too. Don’t ask.)

No one loves to argue more than us Jews. We come from a long tradition of people arguing. You can’t go two pages in the Talmud without coming across a major argument between two or more sages, with all of the other sages suddenly dropping everything they were doing to take sides. But that doesn’t make them enemies. They’re all still superheroes. At the end of the day, they can still all get together to have an all-night Seder and eat korech sandwiches. And what do you suppose they were doing at that meal that took all night? Not arguing, right?

They say that we only argue with the ones we love. Like our spouses. And the reason is that of all the people we know, it bothers us the most when they don’t see things our way. It bothers us that they like different foods, or that they don’t like our movies and maybe don’t have a real interest in seeing The Avengers with us. But we don’t want to watch the news with them either. That doesn’t make them our enemy. In fact, the fact that you each have different strengths and interests but are ultimately on the same side might make you a more efficient team. One of you takes care of the big picture and the other takes care of the details. One of you is good with your hands, the other with their head. One of you earns the money, and the other one spends it. Teamwork. You can spend all day arguing, but at the end of the day, your wife might be better suited to wake up with the kids in middle of the night, while you are in exactly the right place to keep an eye out for burglars from your position on the couch.

It might bother us when the people around us are not exactly like us, but minor differences are actually a strength. It makes for a more rounded team. And in fact, if we spend the time arguing, we become intensely aware of our differences, and we have a better idea of each other’s strengths so that we can rely on each other later. To get through challenges, you have to work as a team, and let everyone play to their strengths. We can’t all get lookout duty; nothing would get done.

A team is made up of people who are different.

There is a lot of Jewish diversity, and yes, at times we all find each other annoying, and we’re all probably right. And yes, there’s a whole huge army of aliens who keep pouring out of the other side of the universe, and there’s only like six of us. But an army is a group of people trained to be exactly alike. Individuality is discouraged (as it should be – otherwise there’d be chaos) and everyone has the same training and the same strengths. A team, on the other hand, is made up of people who are different. If we’re all the same, then all we are is a smaller army.

The Jewish People’s differences are not a disadvantage. They make us better suited to win. We don’t have to be the same, we just have to be united in cause. That’s why even though Fury did develop some weapons, in the end he decides that the best plan is Plan A -- to just have these disparate people, who can’t stop harping over their differences, put it aside and work together.

We’re all superheroes. That puts us on the same team.

“Alone they are powerful. Together, they are unstoppable.” – Nick Fury

May 13, 2012

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Visitor Comments: 6

(6) Norman Davidson, May 19, 2012 3:34 AM

A beautiful concept .

Our history is filled with "aliens" who wanted to destroy us .My question is,if we had not had these enemies seeking our destruction for thousands of years wouldwe have survived as a Nation? Terrible as this may seem I truly believe that without these mortal challenges that our people have suffered throughout the ages we would not have seen the miracle of todsy's Israel.Why? At every point in our turbulent history when the heavens looked the darkest we were able to forget our little differences and realized that by being united and with a strong belief in our G-d we would survive and flourish. Doesn't our 4000 year history prove this?

(5) Rose, May 16, 2012 3:53 PM

The Ties that Bind Must Become Stronger than the Differences that Divide

Very good message. The Jewish people do love to argue and each sub-branch feels as if it is the "right" one. (So do I, the pot calling the kettle black) But I've come to realize after years of listening to other Jewish people express themselves and reading their opinions in the papers that: 1.You can't change what someone else thinks. You can talk until you are blue in the face but by opposing them, they'll be just as stubborn as you. But try to treat others with respect and kindness. It doesn't hurt at all. 2. The concept of "50 gates of understanding the Torah" and recognizing how diverse the Jewish people have become over 2,000 years of Diaspora. Naturally some people will prefer gefilte fish and others will chose spicy Moroccan fish. That's not blasphemy. It's free will. And G-d gave us plenty of that. 3. Jewish stubbornness can be our weakness or our strength. There's a time when we need that "chutzpah" as an extra kick to get the job done (I'm betting on the IDF to take out Iran's nuclear projects) and when the chips are down, all Jews have to stick together when we stand up to our enemies. We'd stand a much better chance that way.

(4) ruth housman, May 16, 2012 11:48 AM

Post Script Lane

Hi Mark Papers, I just wanted to say one thing, and that is, how fitting you are a writer, and your name is, Papers. I say this, because I keep a Paper Trail, and I think those among us, who write about love, in our divergent ways, also are doing this, and as for me, when I hear something truly deep, that comes from the "reel world", I know it's also very much about our "real world". A long time ago, I saw the movies actually often "lead" the way, and we do imbibe, such truths, also in unconscious ways, and it seems, we're all being lead, into a new way of seeing, and it does steep, like tea, into our hearts and minds, into affirmative, actions. Thank You!

(3) ruth housman, May 16, 2012 11:45 AM

Super B

I put a B on my diary entries for this month and yes, this is Super with a B, superb. I love the metaphoric connectivity, in how you draw deeper truths, or the same ones, from this Action Hero Adventure Story, and we're all on such a heroic journey, and you GOT it, for sure. We are diverse as a peoples, we Jews, and yes, as someone commented, so are Christians, so are people of other faiths, and yet, in diversity there is a kind of strength, and it comes from the very fact we get together, argue, and converse, and you are right, about families, how families LOVE to do this together. And to get her, in this case, me, you are right on, track. We're going to do this together, namely, usher in a new world wide, way of seeing the world, and as Jews, we can also acknowledge we're part of family, and there is also a greater subset called, The Family of Man. When we put the KIND back into this family, into Mankind, we've made it. And we will dance, in the streets!

(2) Tuvia Dovid, May 15, 2012 6:53 PM

Just one little nit ...

Great piece even for someone like me who has no interest in The Avengers, but when it comes to diversity, dissension and factionalism, Judaism could hardly rank first except maybe on a per capita basis. Overall, Christianity and Buddhism make Judaism look like so much white bread -- Christianity especially. You've got Catholics, Eastern Orthodox churches, Anglicans and all the rest of the Protestants. Trying to keep track of the Anabaptists alone -- American Baptists, Southern Baptists, black Baptists, Amish, Amana, Mennonites, Hutterites, Dukhobors and Lord knows how many others -- is bewildering.

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