Holy Star Wars!

Holy Star Wars!

After almost a month of sacred readings of Star Wars, I have been thinking a lot about how to ensure that my writings are as accessible to a...

Sunday, October 30, 2016


B’reishit (Genesis 1:1-6:8)/ Episode IV: A New Hope


“So God Eternal formed the wild animals and the birds of the sky out of the soil, and brought the man to see what he would call each one; and whatever the man called it, that became the creature’s name,” (Gen 2:19). God gave humanity the naming rights to the creatures God had only just created. Unlike your average inventor or discoverer, God relinquished control over not only what these creations would be called, but how they would be used. God also decrees, “be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and tame it; hold sway over the fish of the sea and the birds of the sky, and over every animal that creeps on the the earth,” (Gen. 1:28). And from then on, humans were set on a course, with full biblically legal justification and the permission of God, to discover every living being, name and sort them, and through this, control them.

I love Crispy Rice. Anybody who has spent a summer with me has heard me go on about how this generic-brand rice cereal is far superior to its name-brand counterpart, Rice Krispies. The very best part of this cereal brand, besides its taste, is that it costs less than the name-brand version. They have the same ingredients as one another. The only visible difference is the name itself, and it is that name that makes Rice Krispies cost more than Crispy Rice. It is the same case for everything, from pharmaceuticals to toilet paper to purses. Name brand companies dominate the markets and as such, set the prices that if you want their supposedly superior product, you must pay. I am here to tell you that Crispy Rice taste better than Rice Krispies (which taste perfectly fine too) and why this matters.

The Empire has spent the years since the destruction of the Jedi Order disseminating propaganda around the galaxy to convince its populous that the Force is is something of myth and that the stories of Jedi with spectacular powers are nothing more than just stories meant to attack the legitimacy of the Empire. At its hight, the Jedi Order numbered only in the ten-thousands. While this may sound like a lot, we have to assume there are trillions if not quadrillions of galactic citizens, with thousands of sentiently inhabited planets. Only so many individuals or planets themselves ever would encounter a Jedi in their lifetime, especially before the Clone Wars, because it was a Jedi’s job specifically not to interfere in the lives of others, but merely to facilitate peaceful solutions to conflict. The extent of the use of the Force before the Clone Wars was likely at a tame minimum in public, and even during the war, it is likely that very few non-combatants would ever witness the extent of their power. This is why when Darth Vader Force Chokes a subordinate in the beginning of A New Hope, the sheer awe at the power he holds is enough to establish control over everyone in that room. Vader is one of the only Force users in the galaxy at this point, and while most galactic citizens do not necessarily believe in the Force, anybody who is subject to it is instantly rendered under his control.

Everybody, that is, except for Grand Moff Wilhuff Tarkin. Tarkin's given title of Grand Moff not only grants him innate control over the operations of the Death Star, but his knowledge of the inner-workings of the Empire prevent him from succumbing to Vader’s control. As Grand Moff, Tarkin is the ultimate administrator in the Empirical bureaucracy. A Moff is the imperial title given to planetary sector governors and a Grand Moff, such as Tarkin, is the title given to an oversector governor, a bureaucrat in charge of multiple planetary sectors. This title and charge gave Tarkin ultimate control over all Death Star construction and mobilization operations and as such, Tarkin did not necessarily need to take orders from Darth Vader, who himself held no real rank in the Empire other than apprentice to Lord Sidius. This relationship is the other reason Vader held no control over Tarkin. Tarkin saw through the Imperial facade. He was a friend and student of Palpatine even before his assertion to Supreme Chancellor of the Galactic Senate. In fact, Wilhuff may be one of the only surviving former associates of the Emperor’s besides Vader from before his transformation. Most of the Imperial subordinates likely have never had anything close to an interaction with the Emperor. They may likely fear him, but that fear would pale in comparison to the direct fear Darth Vader would place on the many more galactic citizens he interacts with and controls. Tarkin, as a soldier in the Clone Wars who interacted heavily with Jedi and the Force, knows that there is a power beyond Vader and that the true control is held by Palpatine. Beyond this, Tarkin also knows the true identity of Vader to be Anakin Skywalker, which serves as just an extra protection against the intimidation Vader otherwise can exhibit through his faceless menacing.

Like Tarkin sees through Vader, I see through Kellogg’s. We both know that the powers that attempt to control us do not have to. We have more autonomy than these powers want us to think and when armed with the right knowledge and the right courage, we can make the decisions we want to make with regards to which cereal to purchase or whom to place our awe in. Because Tarkin does not fear Vader, he can make the executive decisions he knows to be the best courses of action. Because I do not fall victim to Rice Krispies’ market domination, I can make the choice that benefits my wallet and my pallet.

When God gave humanity the naming rights to God’s creations, there was a symbolic transfer of power from God to us regarding how we might utilize this control. Extrapolate with me that when God instructed us to name the creatures of the Earth, we did not simply stop at distinguishing ruminantia from suinae (kosher mammals from pigs), we proceeded to place labels on the human beings who exhibited different traits from ourselves. It started with men and women, seeming innocent enough. It moved on to distinguishing Jews from Pagans. But over time it devolved into separating whites from blacks, straits from gays, abled from disabled, young from old, even Democrat and Republican, or European and Asian, and so on and so on. The labels seemed convenient and accurate the the hegemons that invented them, but it is these very labels that give establish control and dominance and put those very hegemons in power. When white humans separated themselves from black humans by naming each so, they forever established the connotation, even if entirely unintentional then (which it was not) or now (which it still does), that one was the dominant and the other the subordinate. It is this unfortunate consequence of naming that puts us in the such horribly divisive world we live in.

Armed with this knowledge, we are responsible for dismantling these labels. This is absolutely not to say that we should be “color blind” or anything of the sort, because it is far too late for that. The reality we have created with our naming powers has given an inherent privilege to some that others have to fight constantly for or against. Even within a single individual, they may have one label that gives them dominance and another that forces submission. We have to be entirely cognizant that this is the reality we live it. And with that, we have to strive towards crafting our language of naming going forward around unitary titles that do not divide our species.

There will always be those with the appearance of control and those with the appearance of being controlled. But like Grand Moff Tarkin we have to take notice of where the true control lies so that like in the example of Crispy Rice, we can recognize that the control is actually in our own hands. Looking past corporate marketing to find a cheaper and tastier cereal is one thing. Understanding the hundreds of years of history that go into the names we have bestowed upon fellow humans and finding ways to mend the damage this has done is an entirely more difficult task. If we are the namers in a relationship, we cannot possibly understand for ourselves the existence of the named. And as the named, there is so much reason to believe that control is eternal. My challenge to us all is to be aware of the names we both give and are given and to use this knowledge and awareness to at the very least, begin to change the nature of control in our interpersonal relationships so that they do not exist along the lines of titles or fear, but that they exist because of respect and admiration, and that they be as reciprocal as possible as often as possible.

Thursday, October 27, 2016


B’reishit (Genesis 1:1-6:8)/ Episode I: The Phantom Menace
Translation from http://www.reformjudaism.org/learning/torah-study/breishit/english-translation


In the beginning. The beginning of the Torah, the beginning of the world, and the beginning of the Star Wars story as told thus far. Beginnings are the best times to set new goals, to fixate visions, and to just start fresh. With beginnings though, come expectations. Expectations are an inevitable byproduct of the anticipation, excitement, or even dread that come with beginnings. Starting the Torah again comes with heavy expectations. When you read through the entire Torah every single year, it is easy to fall into the expectation trap, closing your mind to the unexpected. The way you have always interpreted the Torah or a piece of Torah may well be the way you continue to interpret this time around.

In this week’s parsha, B’reishit, we find several instances of expectation. The first instance begins as God instructs Adam and Eve that they may eat any fruit they so choose, except for the fruit of the Tree of All Knowledge. God expects that Adam and Eve will heed these instructions. Whether it is because God simply expects God’s creation to revere God’s every word, or because God simply does not see any reason not to trust Adam or Eve, God was steadfast in the expectation that they would obey. It is perhaps because of this expectation, this self-imposed barrier to a plurality of possibilities, that a serpent is able to convince Eve to eat the fruit anyway. There are of course countless explanations that could be given for why this series of events played out like it did, but one I would like to suggest is that God was simply blinded by expectation and as such, did not set up additional safeguards against eating the fruit, or more deeply instilling in Adam and Even not to be tempted by snakes. And the serpent? The serpent expected that God would not in fact kill Eve for eating that fruit. And Eve expected that the serpent would not lie to her and thus expected the same.

Of course, God could also have expected from the very beginning that Adam or Eve would succumb to the allure of the fruit of the Tree of All Knowledge and eat it in spite of God’s warnings. It could have been God’s intention all along. Whether we choose to believe the first interpretation or the second, or both, or neither, expectations are a powerful, dangerous inevitability we have to consciously fight.

When Star Wars was set to begin a new prequel trilogy, expectations were wild. As the films came out and the were blasted by fans and critics alike, new expectations were born for any viewer who has not yet seen these films and is aware of the widespread and popular distain towards them. Viewers not only expect to hate the films, but it is a popularly held expectation that if you make a crack about the prequel movies or Jar Jar Binks, one of the most, if not the most, divisive characters in Star Wars, that everyone else will follow suite with jabs and jeers of their own.

Qui-Gon Ginn, Master Jedi and main character of this week’s film literally bets his and everyone under his protection’s lives on an expectation. Upon meeting a young Anakin Skywalker and sensing within him a great connection to the Force, Qui-Gon solidifies an expectation that his gamble will be successful. He goes on later to approve Queen Amidala of the Naboo’s battle plans because he expects that they can and will be successful. While the Jedi Master may be able to sense the future and set his expectations as such, in neither scenario does Qui-Gon know with certainty the process it will take to reach his expectations, nor the the consequences of the particular actions along the way, but nonetheless he holds those expectations strong.

In the film and in the Torah, understanding the notion of expectations has a bit of a challenge. The Force, being something that we cannot and may never fully understand, plays an integral role in the decision making processes and actions of the characters. The very same could be said about God. The “will of the Force” is as common a phrase in Star Wars as “God’s will” is to the Torah. We cannot know for certain what is truly predetermined by “the will.” or is the direct results of individual actions. There is no need to settle the argument of free will or determination here because, with regards to expectations, either could apply. If we subscribe to the notion of free will, we can read events in the Torah or Star Wars as direct results of other actions. God or the Force may or may not be involved in the exact result of those actions, but there is no determined end that all results must inevitably lead to. Thus, we are free to set expectations for what in particular the end result of an action or series of actions will be. Should we subscribe to determinism, it would mean to believe that God or the Force or nature itself has set a specific and unchangeable inevitable end result to an action or set of actions. In such a model, whether we are privy to that inevitable end or not, we will still set up expectations about how we or others may react to the end result and all along the way.

So what does this all mean? Well on one level, it means that no matter how we choose to interpret any given text, we can still find ways to apply our themes. Free will and determinism believers alike, and generally just any way readers choose to intemperate texts, you can find ample examples of expectation, hope, humility, or any theme in any text. On a deeper level, this reality means that we all hold expectations, and now that we can recognize that, we can be careful how we craft these expectations and how we let them affect us. Whether we naturally tend towards setting immediate or long-term expectations, it is important to be cognizant of them. Expectations are not inherently bad, but they often can cloud our perceptions of reality and lead us to negative places. It is easy to become slaves to our expectations, becoming unwilling or unable to see alternate possibilities and then enduring the emotional consequences of expectations being fulfilled or not. By consciously assuring our expectations never get in the way of our actions or our emotions, we can be more in control of our lives.

The sort of expectations viewers of Phantom Menace hold of the film and its characters and of how others will feel about them too are dangerous and detrimental to both the viewer and those they are interacting with while exerting those expectations. They not only set the viewer up for judging the film differently and more negatively than they otherwise might have, but the expectation of how others will act means they are forcing their negativity onto other’s perceptions and enjoyment. The same is true of God expecting Adam, Eve, or the serpent will act in certain ways. It only served to effect Adam and Eve negatively. The determinist track that assumes God had that plan all along or that Qui-Gon knew Anakin and Amidala would be successful amass enormous risk. Adam and Eve saw their nakedness, which could be argued set humans down a dangerous path, and countless Naboo and Gungan lives were lost in defending the planet. No matter what kind of expectations we have, we must observe and think about them in order to make sure they are not endangering ourselves or others. Expectations can be exciting and positive, but we simply cannot go about assuming that they always will be or that we understand the repercussions of our expectations.

Monday, October 24, 2016


Haazinu (Deuteronomy 32:1-52)/ Episode VI: Return of the Jedi
Translation from http://www.reformjudaism.org/learning/torah-study/haazinu/english-translation


Another week, another horrifying account of God’s wrathful assault on those who stray from God, doing wrong or not abiding by the laws God set before them. If you were subject to lecture after brash lecture about how you and your ancestors were traitors and what will happen if you ever return to those ways, you may consider yourself to be in an abusive relationship with your lecturer. Abuse is serious. As defined by stoprelationshipabuse.org, “Relationship abuse is a pattern of abusive and coercive behaviors used to maintain power and control over a former or current intimate partner.” The immediate and natural first response to this accusation would be outright denial. “There is no way that the Israelites were in an abusive relationship with God.” Well, that is the same natural, initial reaction in most abusive relationships. Victims may well not be aware of the nature of their circumstances.

Now, I am not claiming that we worship an abusive God, or even that the relationship I described is the true interpretation of Torah we all should ascribe to. But, in reading this week’s Torah portion and watching this week’s film through the particular theme of “returning,” this potential interpretation popped out to me as somebody who wants very much to increase public understanding of the issue in ways that those who have not experienced it may be able to understand or relate.

Abusive relationships revolve around this notion of returning; returning to particular behaviors and returning to the same emotional states in the relationship. Going from “I love you,” to “you are worthless,” to “I’m sorry, I really love you and I promise to change,” to “you are worthless and need to change,” back to “I’m sorry, please come back, I need you,” and so on and so on. That is the cycle of abuse. The perpetual return to safety and security after being repeatedly sent to despair and devastation. It is continuously returning to your abuser after brief periods of liberation. Throughout Deuteronomy and again in this parsha, we see God dictating to the Israelites that they are God’s chosen people, but if they stray from God, there will be destructive repercussions. Then God will go on to explain that God’s love for God’s people is everlasting and that they should return to God, and if they do, the Israelites will prosper again. That is, unless the Israelites mess up again in which case, God will spite them and the cycle begins again.

Return of the Jedi features several kinds of returns. The first scenes feature the franchise’s return to one of its most famous locations, the desert planet Tatooine. Upon this return, viewers are faced with one of the most vile, despicable creatures in the galaxy, Jabba the Hutt. A slaver among many other things, Jabba is a glaring example of how not to treat people. The women that serve in his court against their will are sexually exploited and objectified as Jabba, and possibly the film’s viewers themselves use these women for visual pleasure. Not all abuse is so glaring and obvious though. The most obvious instance of returning in the film is the titular return of the Jedi.

Is the return of the Jedi a good thing though? Recall as discussed over the past two weeks, that the Jedi Order was destroyed because they had become too tactile and were no longer able to empathize with galactic citizens. Their refusal to recognize that emotion is a natural connection between beings and that while there are immense benefits in their line of work to hiding them from others and detaching themselves emotionally from others, there can only be negative consequences for hiding and detaching from themselves. If the Jedi Order were to return and continue operating under the same failed philosophy, failure again is what should be entirely expected. The casual observer is led on to believe that the return of the Jedi is something to be celebrated and deemed a victory, but that is exactly the way cycles of abuse work.

As we are about to begin another cycle of the Torah, returning to the beginning and embarking on a year long journey to understand its meaning, let us strive to break the cycles that hinder us, bring us down, or tear us apart. This starts with the unbelievably difficult task of recognizing what those cycles are, whether they are abuse, bad habits, or just thought processes. Only with humility can we recognize the cycles we are trapped in and begin to seek the help we need from ourselves or from others. When we make our returns to God, as Hazing explains we eventually will, may we find that the God we have returned to is not the abusive God described before, but is a God of endless love and compassion that will care for us no matter how far we stray. When we return to Deuteronomy again next year, may we not be damaged by the words God speaks to the Israelites, because we know that the cycle of love and devastation described is not a cycle we are bound to. But also, when we return next year to Deuteronomy, may the pain serve as a reminder of what could be if we allow ourselves to become shackled to the cycles in our lives and not not ever strive to be free of them.

Thursday, October 6, 2016


Vayeilech (Deuteronomy 31:1-30)/ Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back


Chewbacca is one of only just a few of his kind, the Wookies, not held a slave to the Galactic Empire. A weight like this could excuse any mortal creature for living a solitary, distressed life. Chewie though takes a page from last week’s lesson in hope. This humble creature instead of pity, binds himself to those in his life and maintains an unwavering commitment to them. This commitment goes beyond just to his oldest friend Han Solo, who recent literature explains he feels he owes more than just friendship to, but to Luke, Leia, and even C-3PO, as a particularly tender scene, and really the entire limb-losing debacle on Cloud City, beautifuly illustrate. When Han goes out into the frigid night on Hoth in search of a missing Luke, there is a particular moment that expresses perhaps the most powerful instance of humility in the entire film. Upon the closing of the shield doors to the Rebel base which completely locked his two dear friends out in the frozen wilderness for the duration of the night, Chewbacca lets his head fall in a deep, expressive sorry and anxiety. Chewbacca humbles himself to his emotions and allows them not only to be felt, but to be shared with those around him.

Moses has been told repeatedly by God for some time now that his life will be coming to an end before the Israelites arrive in the Promised Land, and that this time is nearing. The greatest piece of humility in this portion is an admission that Moses expressed to all of his people. In just the second verse of the parsha, Moses concedes “I can no longer be active.” Like Chewbacca, Moses in this moment admits mortality. Moses could have simply said that he is nearing the end of his life, as he has done many time already, and left its implications to be interpreted. He could have gone quietly away and made no attempt to express anything regarding the pending transfer of leadership. He even could have ensured the Jewish people that his leadership will carry with them even in his death as a figurative comfort to his people. Instead, Moses specifically choses to state his position in reality. He humanizes himself. As the leader of his people especially, the weight of Moses’s public acceptance of fate serves to model that it is perfectly okay to share how you feel.

The essence of humility is opening yourself to others and allowing them to know your emotions. There is no expectation they understand, reciprocate, or even necessarily acknowledge your emotion, merely that they are aware you are expressing them. Showing your emotions can leave you vulnerable in a way that may at first seem like a discomfort, but more importantly, it will leave you relieved and allow you to be more aware of your emotional state. This exercise is not restricted to negative feelings, for showing your excitement may be just as challenging as sorrow in some instances. To live more free, we all need the humility to share how we feel at any given time.

The Force is a mysterious power that we still learn more about all the time. One thing for certain is that for Force sensitive beings, their emotions are deeply connected to either the Force itself or their ability to connect with it, or both. It is said that the Dark Side of the Force, which we are led to believe is inherently evil,  is fueled by negative emotions, and all the opposites for the Light Side. In Christie Golden’s canon book Dark Disciple, Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi is described as “adept at concealing his emotions in the Force,” (23). Myriad interpretations could follow this line, but the one I prescribe to is that a Jedi, or a user of the Light Side of the Force, is not designed to be an emotionless being, as many of the Jedi we know, particularly during the Prequel era, would have us understand. Rather, Jedi have lost their emotional humility. They foolishly believe that the best use of their emotions is to conceal them in the Force and never express them aloud. They contradict themselves by requiring compassion in order to defend people, but fear that emotions lead to the Dark Side of the Force. What truly leads to the Dark Side is not emotion itself, but an unwillingness or inability to recognize and accept emotion.

One of many marks of a bad leader is one who does not prepare for a future where they no longer lead. A deep humility is necessary to both be effective in your time, and supportive of those who can be or will be your successor. Ideally, each new leader will have learned all they can from those who came before them, as well as their own experiences in order to be an even better leader for the sake of those they lead. Moses has humbly accepted that Joshua will be the next leader of the Jewish people and does all he can to prepare him. Unfortunately, in the end of this chapter, so near to the end of the Torah, Moses lacks the humility to trust in Joshua and his ability to lead. He lacks the humility to trust the Israelites to follow in the right path, perhaps because just earlier in the portion God expressed this same fear, and exclaims that when he is dead, he is confident everybody will forget what he has taught them and turn away from the God that freed them from Egypt and from the commandments instructed to them.

Moses’s lack of trust in his people and the Jedi’s lack of trust in their emotions are indicative of the same problem so many of us face: humility. Humility is the ability to reconcile our flaws by trusting in ourselves nonetheless. As leaders, there are countless moments where perhaps we could have led or taught better. As emotional beings there are countless moments where we could have acted differently and felt or used different emotions as a result. Crucial is not to allow these personal dissatisfactions mar our ability and willingness to continue to lead or continue to feel. The moment we allow disappointment to incapacitate our leadership is the moment we truly fail as leaders. It is not the moments where we retroactively wish we could do better that mark our success, but how it is we can learn from those moments for ourself and our posterity to succeed more in the future. The moment Jedi cease to express emotion is the moment they become out of touch with how they feel. We have to show emotion ourselves if we hope to understand emotion, for our own sakes and for the sake of holding compassion for others. Force users do not turn to the Dark Side when they express emotion, they turn to evil when they lack the humility to cope with emotion and are thus susceptible to emotional manipulation.

Another truth should also be examined as Moses in this parsha seems to contradict himself between his initial coming to terms with mortality and his harsh fear the Israelites will betray his legacy. While the aforementioned lack of humility remains true, he does maintain his humility in that Moses shares this fear at all. Had he not, he may well have taken action based on those emotions that nobody around him would be able to explain. Now that he has put forth his sentiment on the matter, he has opened room for discussion and to receiving help in assuaging these fears. This here is the wonder of critical reading. Two contradicting truths on the same subject can simultaneously lie within the same instance and still be equally as true.

May we all find the power and humility in ourselves to admit when we no longer have the strength. May we also have the power and humility to admit when we are more full of strength than we have ever felt. If being humble requires us not to brag, let us recognize that bragging is not about the words we use, but the intention behind them of artificially places ourselves above others through these words. Finally, may we have the power and humility to not only share our emotions in single and isolated moments, but as a lifelong practice and way of living.


Nitzavim (Deuteronomy 29:9–30:20)/ Episode IV: A New Hope


The Jedi had strayed too far from their purpose. Placing too much of their faith in science, losing touch with their ability to empathize with others, and leaping into a war, the Clone Wars, that forced them to become hypocrites to their own ways, the Jedi were virtually destroyed, and those not, scattered.

This parsha holds boundless insight into the idea of hope. It begins with a fond reminder that when God made a covenant with Abraham, it was a covenant with all of the Jewish people there ever would be. From there it delves into a discussion about idolatry. The Torah paints the hypothetical image of a fearful people, uncertain how they could possibly trust in a God that seemingly abandoned them and their ancestors to slavery in Egypt. And in this painful fear, they turn to idols for comfort, much as we all turn to the security of the mainstream when we are unable or unwilling to trust in our own paths. The story then rapidly turns into a warning. There is a promise of the devastation God will bestow upon the Jewish people should they succumb such a form of coping with their fears. A destruction so great it is compared to that of Sodom and Gomorrah. But even so, God does not lose hope that should the Jewish people force such a punishment that they will not eventually return to trusting in the God of their ancestors. Their land will be destroyed but the people themselves will be scattered; spared their lives but not their livelihoods. God holds out hope and promises that should the Jewish people return to God that God will return to them their Land and their good fortune and their good grace. The portion then ends with a proverbial piece of wisdom. Literally, it says that the Israelites have a choice between life and death, blessing and curse. That they have the choice to trust in God and prosper or to turn to false idols and suffer. What it means even further is that they can remain hopeful in the face of uncertainty and in their distinction from the other nations of the world, or they can choose fear and abandon themselves for a more simple life of following in the ways of those more numerous or more powerful around them.
The Jedi and their way of life were destroyed because they ceased to remain true to themselves. But in spite of the fear holding their scattered remnants, they eventually found hope. And in this newfound hope, the Jedi had the opportunity to return to themselves and begin to prosper again. Hope is a powerful tool that can bring about redemption in a way few other things can. Hope is one of those emotional states that inexplicably move people to places unexpected. There is one particular facet of the Jedi’s story of redemption that stands out the most: unity. The Torah is explicit that it requires everybody, for God made a covenant with not just Abraham but every Jew there ever would be, to return to God for God to allow the Jewish people to return to good fortune after turning to false idols. It is only together as a people they can make that happen. It is only together as as the Alliance to Restore the Republic that the Jedi can return to bring peace to the galaxy.

Princess Leia Organa of Alderaan stared out a pentagonal window aboard a massive, grey interstellar vessel designed to appear like a moon amongst star systems as her home planet was obliterated by the green beam of an enemy she had fought for as long as she had been capable. An oppressive force she had no means of eradicating, it was her mission to do everything in her power to alleviate its effects on as many galactic citizens as she could. Working both within the Imperial Senate and without it, Leia knew the gravity of hope.

Leia watched as not only her family but her entire people and way of life were decimated. Despite the greatest tragedy one could possibly endure, Leia chooses life. She chooses hope.The princess does not bend to the will of the Empire, but rather she escapes their clutches and continues to grow the Rebellion. She chooses to stick with her path, even after seeing the ultimate consequences it may reap. For her choices, her people are not destroyed. The Rebel Alliance is able to continue to live on, tragedy after tragedy, just as the Jewish people can live on, tragedy after tragedy, so long as they continue on together as a people.

In our galaxy, we are presented with the same choice: fear or hope. We can look around us and see wanton injustice and choose to act like the rest around us, choosing not to act and simply go about our business. Or, we can choose the path commanded of us as Jews. We can take action, pursue justice, and go against the status quo. Just because we do not feel as though the struggles we see in our world look as desperate as the Galactic Civil War, does not by any means indicate that those afflicted by injustices do not feel a pain that holds the same intensity. Do not turn from the way of your people and let your land be destroyed. You may have the fortune of the promise to be scattered elsewhere and survive, but the destruction in your wake will remain. By the time the Jedi returned, planets were eradicated and billions of lives were changed forever. By the time you wake up and realize your mistakes, the damage will already be done. Choose hope. With unity, the world’s problems can be solved. It may take monumental efforts, but that does not mean not to try. If Princess Leia can watch her entire planet be destroyed and still choose to continue not only preaching her message but partaking in the fight herself, then surely this instruction is not too far beyond reach to fulfill. Choose life.

Balancing the Force and Torah

Each year we read through the Torah. For many Jews, we know its story better than any other. For many Jews, the Torah is not the text we find the most interest or connection to. Here, we have three purposes.

First, to transfer the analytic skills we use while reading Torah to another beloved set of stories: Star Wars. Each week we will delve into a particular story in the Star Wars Canon and investigate it through a particular thematic lens. With stories whose plots we know well, revisiting them with a particular purpose can allow us to gleam values from them unexpected.

Second, these type of analytical rereadings allow us to come away perhaps, with new perspectives and understandings of what the texts themselves might mean. In the Torah, we may come to terms through these themes with some of the more challenging sections of each parsha. In Star Wars, we may come away with a greater understanding of what bringing a "balance to the Force" means to us, as well as other philosophical and canonical queries the series endows us with.

Lastly, we seek to find connections, or a balance, if you will, between Star Wars and the Torah. Each week, we will investigate the weekly Torah portion through the same lens we did that week's piece of Star Wars. In doing so, we may be able to find connections between the two that allow us to not only understand each more deeply, but to extract incredibly valuable lessons and calls to action for our modern living.

Justice, Justice shall you pursue, and may the Force be with you in doing so. 

I deeply value your comments, suggestions, and input on each subject, so please feel free to provide it for myself and one another.