It’s hard to believe that it’s been 40 years since I went with my father to the Americana Movie Theater in Southfield, Michigan, in order to see the first Star Wars movie. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. The newest movie, “The Last Jedi” was originally supposed to be released on the actual anniversary – May 26th – but we will have to wait until December to see it.
So, what is it about these movies that gets me – and presumably others! – so excited? If I had to answer that question in two words, I would have to say, “The Force.”
For those who don’t remember all the details, The Force is the collective power of sub-atomic particles in the bloodstream of a being, which transforms that individual from a typical being into a Jedi Knight capable of tremendous mental and physical acts. Just having the subatomic particles is not enough, though. One must learn how to harness the power within one’s body.
The truth is that this is not very different from the Jewish view of humanity. We believe that each of us has the spark of the divine within us. We are created b’tzelem Elohim – in the Divine image. The challenge to us is to learn how to use that spark – how to be divine.
We can choose to interact with people, animals and things in a positive way – the divine way. Or we can choose to interact in a harmful way. Our tradition has given us a guide by which to harness the power of that divine spark; we call it the Torah.
Now, that is not all that Star Wars and Judaism have in common. In Star Wars lore, there is a pithy little saying – you might even call it a blessing or a charge – that Jedi knights say to one another for good luck: “MAY THE FORCE BE WITH YOU.”
In this week’s Torah portion, Naso, we read the Biblical equivalent of that phrase. It’s not quite as short. It’s not quite as catchy. But I daresay it is more meaningful and more powerful.
God gave Moshe three verses or fifteen short words called “The Priestly Benediction,” which he in turn passed to his brother Aharon. Through these words, we are assured that God is with us no matter what.
In English, “May Adonai bless you and keep you; may Adonai show you favor and be gracious to you; may Adonai show you kindness and bless you with peace.”
At key moments in our lives – births, b’nai mitzvah, graduations, weddings – we invoke these words acknowledging God’s presence in our lives and hoping that we will continue to feel that presence. After all, that presence, that spark, that force is present in all of us. We just need to learn more about it.