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.