GOOD MORNING! This coming Shabbat is the Bar Mitzvah of my third son, Hizkiyahu. I can't begin to describe the pleasure I have in this boy and how meaningful and important this event is to him -- and to me. My blessing to each of you is to have the same nachas, pleasure, from your children!
The big news these days is the new Star Wars movie (Kosovo has been dropped to three paragraphs on page 7 in the Miami Herald...). It is fascinating to me the number of Jewish themes and ideas in the movie. For instance, Yoda is suspiciously close to the Hebrew word "Yeda," knowledge. I suspect that Jedi comes from the same source. Even Anikan Skywalker -- break up his first name into syllables and you have "Ani Kan," which translates directly from the Hebrew as "I am here"! (I can't help you with "Skywalker;" it just may have a non-Hebraic origin...)
It amazes me to read and hear how people slept out in lines waiting for tickets and called in sick to work in order to go to the movie the first day. One of my students decided to take his whole staff to the movie as a gesture of goodwill ... and to avoid be left alone at work. Certainly, the movie strikes a harmonic chord with people's intuitive understanding of life and the universe. I thought it might be interesting to see if I could find some lessons about G-d that we might learn from Star Wars. It is somewhat ironic looking for lessons in life from fiction rather than from revealed wisdom of the Almighty, but I shall let Star Wars serve as my "transporter" for Jewish wisdom!
7 LESSONS ABOUT G-D THAT CAN BE LEARNED FROM STAR WARS:
- There is a Force (It is called G-d, the Almighty, All-knowing, All- powerful, All-good).
- The Force IS with you (G-d is always there. Constantly watching out for you.)
- There is a "Dark Side of the Force" (This is what is called in Hebrew the "Yetzer Hora" -- the inclination to follow our bodily desires rather than our spiritual quest; physical pleasure as a goal is an illusion)
- Success comes from conquering the Dark Side of the Force (To come close to the Almighty, one must conquer and control his passions).
- To become a Jedi Knight one must recognize the Force, study it, work hard and have a master (To know G-d one must search for Him, read the Chumash -- the Pentateuch, ask questions of people who know; don't think that it will just happen by chance.)
- To be acknowledged as a Jedi Knight, one must pass tests (To come close to G-d, one must realize that everything in life is an opportunity to grow, perfect oneself and bridge the gap between you and Him; G-d never gives you a test you cannot handle!)
- There are no coincidences (a prominent line from the movie). (The Almighty interacts with history and with each individual's life; there is meaning in everything that happens; one SHOULD ask "Why is this happening to me?" But, he should ask out of wanting to understand ... not ask out of indignation and anger!)
By the way, my friend and colleague, Rabbi Shraga Simmons, who wrote the piece last week about the Colorado shooting, has written an interesting piece, Star Wars -- A Jewish Perspective, which can be found on the web at http://www.aish.edu/issues/starwars.htm . Lastly, I wonder what Charlton Heston thinks of George Lucas' reprise and update of Ben Hur's chariot race ... As it says in Ecclesiates, "There is nothing new under the sun."
Portion of the Week
Aharon is commanded in the lighting of the Menorah, the Levites purify themselves for service in the Tabernacle (they trained from age 25-30 and served from age 30-50), The first Pesach is celebrated since leaving Egypt. The Almighty instructs the Jewish people to journey into the desert whenever the ever-present cloud lifts from above the Tabernacle and to camp where it rests. Moshe is instructed to make two silver trumpets to be sounded before battle or to proclaim a Yom Tov.
The people journey to the wilderness of Paran during which time they rebelled twice against the Almighty's leadership. The second time they complain about the boring taste of the maneh and the lack of meat in the desert. The Almighty sends a massive quantity of quail and those who had rebelled died.
Moshe asks his father-in-law, Yitro (Jethro) to travel with them in the desert, but he returns to Midian. (It has been said that the difference between in-laws and outlaws, that at least out-laws are wanted ... Of course, in this case the father-in-law was wanted.)
Miriam, Moshe's sister, speaks lashon hora (defaming words) about Moshe. She is struck with Tzora'as (the mystical skin disease which indicated that a person spoke improperly about another person) and is exiled from the camp for one week.
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
When we open the Ark and take the Torah out, everyone recites a verse from this week's Torah portion, "And it was when the Ark traveled, Moshe said, 'Arise Almighty and disperse Your enemies, and those who hate You will flee from You.' " Why is this verse recited then?
Rabbi Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld, a Torah illuminary, who lived in the Old City of Jerusalem until 1932, answered this question at the dedication of a Yeshiva. "Whenever someone wants to start some worthwhile Torah institution or project, there are always people who will try to stop him. Therefore, when we take out the Torah we ask that the Almighty should disperse the enemies of torah and prevent them from causing trouble."
Torah is the lifeblood of the Jewish people. Our enemies knew that if they could keep the Jewish people from learning Torah, the Jewish people could be swayed and conquered. Therefore, for the Jewish people to be strong and to continue, we must give our support for every effort to teach and spread Torah. Any Jewish leader who does not throw his support behind efforts to teach Torah and expand Torah schools for our children, sorely lacks the fundamental principle crucial to our survival!