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, December 4, 2016


Tol’dot (Gen. 25:19-28:9)/ Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
Translation from http://www.reformjudaism.org/learning/torah-study/toldot/english-translation



       Twins! Jacob and Esau, tied together by the bonds of family, drift farther and farther apart with each passing day.
       Favored too much by one parent or the other, their father Jacob has but one blessing to give. The older son, Esau, is meant to the birthright, but the younger twin, Jacob, is swelling with envy.
       As both brothers commit terrible acts towards one another, both must deal with the repercussions of betraying their family...

Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

       War! The Republic is crumbling under attacks by the ruthless Sith Lord, Count Dooku. There are heroes on both sides. Evil is everywhere. 
       In a stunning move, the fiendish droid leader, General Grievous, has swept into the Republic capital and kidnapped Chancellor Palpatine, leader of the Galactic Senate. 
       As the Separatist Droid Army attempts to flee the besieged capital with their valuable hostage, two Jedi Knights lead a desperate mission to rescue the captive Chancellor....

The Torah is filled with family drama, especially in Genesis, and this portion is no exception. Front and center this week is the birth of and the lifelong intense rivalry between twin brothers Jacob and Esau. Most families fight at least some time, but the hatred that grows in Esau for his family tremendous, albeit perhaps justified. The first steps towards this hatred begin with the twins’ parent Isaac and Rebekah. They committed the greatest sin of any parent, picking a favorite child and making it very evident. Isaac favored his more brooding and masculine son, Esau, while Rebekah favored her more emotional and womanly son, Jacob. Envying the love for Esau he never received, one day Esau came to Jacob in a demeaning and emasculating desperation where he needed to ask Jacob for food he had cooked. In exchange for that food, Jacob demanded Esau’s birthright as the older of the twins and obliging, the two were set on a dark course.

Jedi are not meant to have familial attachments. Families bring with them thy baggage of love, and love leads to fear of losing that family. Fear, of course, is a harbinger of the Dark Side, the antitheses of the Jedi way. Family is the very reason the Jedi Council was so hesitant to train a young Anakin. He was already nine years old by the time the Jedi found him, and with a living mother, it would be nearly impossible to detach Anakin from the emotions he feels towards her. The same reasoning is why Jedi are not supposed to have amorous relationships, or really any semblance of intimacy even with other Jedi. But, as a consistent reader knows by now, Anakin feels he is above the rules of the Jedi and that he can do his job unaffected by the unapproved relationships he has with his mother and his wife Padmé. If only Anakin knew how utterly wrong he really was.

There are two kinds of family: the kind you are born with and the kind you grow into. The kind you are born with you have no choice in starting with and virtually no way to end the relationship. The kind you grow into you never have to join in the first place, and can abandon at any time. Of course, that may be hyperbole on both ends, but in all, that is generally the case. No matter how much hatred exists between Jacob, Esau, Isaac, or Rebekah, they cannot shed themselves of the relationship that automatically exists between them, for better or worse. There is no reasonable expectation for Anakin to have shed his love for his mother, and not even the Jedi Council demanded that of him. His relationship with Padmé however, was a relationship he chose to engage and could have ended when he was told to after their work together was through. Of course, it is difficult to expect a human being to rid themselves of emotions, but it is part of what he was meant to be trained to do as a Jedi.

Family is exactly why Anakin does fall down the path of the Dark Side. Upon losing his mother, Anakin is introduced to the feeling of the death of somebody he loves, a feeling Jedi are meant never to cope with. All his training to detach him from emotion never taught him how to cope with emotion when it was too over-saturating to suppress. When he becomes fearful of Padmé’s possible demise, it triggers within him a natural desire to fight being forced to cope with those emotions, especially after having experienced them before, with every tool at his disposal, including the Dark Side. Jedi do not have families because the fear of losing loved ones is a direct path towards the Dark Side.

For mortal beings like Jacob and his family with no abilities to, or grandeurs of manipulating the natural world through the Force, the fear of losing family still plays itself out similarly. But when the circumstances of that loss are neither final nor met with the same fear as Anakin, the consequences are radically different. Jacob has no fear of losing his brother over swindling him out of his birthright. Neither does Esau have any fear of losing his family over marrying outside of his mother’s family, as she made exceptionally clear to be her desire for her children. Would the loss of these family members be immediate and permanent, perhaps Jacob and Esau may have acted differently. But to them, the risk of being shunned by their family was severely underweighted by what each desired in exchange, recognition, and spite respectively. For these twins, family simply did not hold the weight necessary to keep their evil intentions at bay.
                        "I hate you! I hate you!"                                      "You were my brother Anakin. I loved you."

Another story of family comes at the end of Revenge of the Sith in perhaps the most devastating scene in the film, if not the series. “You were my brother Anakin. I loved you,” were the last words Obi-Wan spoke to Anakin before his immolation. These words came only after Anakin bellowed “I hate you” repeatedly from the bottom of his twisted, addled heart. We know that Obi-Wan is an atypical Jedi who has dabbled in unsanctioned relationships in the past, but does he truly love Anakin and see him as a brother? There may be no way to ever know, at least not unless new material about his character is released. But given his cool detachment from emotional envelopment in the turning and assumed death of his padawan, it is hard to imagine he is nearly as emotionally distressed as Anakin is by the end of the film.

So far, all we have are stories of how love for family betrayed. And throughout both Star Wars and the Torah, there are dozens of tragic stories of the failures of love for family. But just as there are tragedies in these texts, there are also triumphs that come from family. Jacob and Esau will go on to make amends in spite of all their hatred. Anakin’s love for his son Luke will go on to be the force that returns him to the Light Side in Return of the Jedi. Family is only so surrounded by such negative stories because it is so potent. Nothing can influence you more than those who are the closest to you. Those who know you the most intimately, whether you let them in yourself or they have just always been, will be the most capable of hurting or healing you because they know exactly the ways to do so. And when family causes pain, it causes the worst pain any person can cause. Yet, when family causes joy or blessing, those too are the greatest of their kind.

So how can we work towards having family affect us positively and not negatively? Of course, there are the small factors like picking our battles and being supportive whenever possible, and so on. In all though, when people are so deeply invested in one another, every action or inaction they take will have profound effects. I am firmly against the common mantra “you’ve only got one family so you might as well love them” because it is simply not true for too many people. For some, their family has truly wronged them in ways that are irredeemable. For others, their family feels the same way of them. Others still have more than one sense of family, or none at all. The dynamics of any given family will never look exactly the same as the next family. All that is constant between them is the magnitude with which that dynamic affects its members. So then, may we all come to recognize the affects family has on ourselves, whether positive or negative, so that we may use those emotions for good and not for evil.

Next time:

The lineup:
Television Tuesdays - Ancient Myths
Literature Thursdays - Holy Scriptures
Film Sundays - Weekly Torah Portion

The Death Star is the size of a moon, and that is what the heroes of Rogue One will be up against in just twelve more days. Continuing our build up toward the new film, this Television Tuesday will feature The Clone Wars Season 1 Episode 1 (S1E1): Ambush and the Greek Myth of Daedalus and Icarus read through the theme of "Size."

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