May the Force be with you

By Rabbi Greg Alexander

Star Wars Seder!? I know you will read this in June and wonder why Rabbi Greg is talking about Pesach, and there are two reasons for this.  Firstly, I am writing it on the 5th of May and Pesach is still fresh on my taste buds and, more importantly, on my mind.

Secondly, yesterday was a “yontiv” (known to only a few Jews) that is observed all over the world. It’s the day when Star Wars fans wish each other “May the 4th be with you”. It’s a bit of nerdy sci-fi fun, but what made it more profound to me this year was reading an article written by my colleague, Rabbi Micah Streifer, entitled “The Four Children of Star Wars.”  

He begins by comparing the values, plot and characters of Star Wars to those of Judaism and suggests that “Star Wars is very Jewish.” He points out that Jedi sounds like Yehudi, that Darth Vader is a model of teshuvah and that the struggle between the Dark Side and the Light is very much like that between the Yetzer ha-Ra and the Yetzer ha-Tov.

The main thrust of the article is his proposal for four Star Wars characters to represent the four children in the Haggadah. He has Princess Leia as the Wise Child; Kylo Ren as the Wicked; Finn as the Simple Child (he clarifies that this is Finn when he was still a Stormtrooper); and Rey as the Child Who does not know to ask – again explaining that this was Rey growing up unaware of her Force powers before she is discovered and trained under her teacher, Leia.  

It doesn’t matter whether you are a Star Wars fan or not, as I am not going to debate the merits of his choices. I am going to suggest a fifth child that we need at our seders and in our lives at this time. This child is the one who is able to hold conflict and ambiguity, who wants to see the grey, not just the dark and light side. This child is needed at our seders and in our heads as we battle to find Truth in a world that has questioned all truths and proofs and rules.  

I do believe that the answers to life’s greatest questions can be found. We can study, davven and meditate and come to a sense of clarity and peace eventually, but the path towards that peace might not be a simple or straight one. Whether that is South African or Israeli politics, end-of-life decisions, gender, biomedical ethics, or whether Rey, Anakin or Luke were the more powerful Jedi, what is needed is a desire to hold nuance, a curiosity to keep learning, ears that are switched on to listening and the patience to sit, sit, sit before taking decisive action.

And who would I suggest as a Star Wars character for the Child who Holds Nuance?  Hillel. What, he wasn’t in the Star Wars Universe? I think Lucas Films will need to bring him in – watch this space.  In the meantime, May the Force be with you.

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