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Star Wars Revisited    

Star Wars Revisited

How can a person be righteous one day, then do a complete turnaround the next day, only to become the nation's leading villain? Look for the root blemish...


I know it's already ancient history to most of the filmgoers out there, but one of the last films I watched before I went 'cold turkey' on all that Hollywood rubbish was the very last in the second 'Star Wars' trilogy. You know which one I'm talking about, the one where Darth Vader 'went evil' and instantaneously switched from being a good Jedi Knight, fighting for purity and truth, to a mass-murdering, red-eyed super-baddy.
That last film really bothered me: how could someone who really knew what was 'good' and what was 'bad' switch sides so easily, to the point that within 24 hours of the 'change', he was mass-murdering small Jedi knights in waiting? In case you think this plot-line is just yet another Hollywood fantasy, pretty much the very same thing happened with our very own Sage, Elisha ben Abuya, otherwise known as Acher, literally the "other one", the one who joined the dark side.
One day, Acher was hanging out with his contemporary Rabbi Akiva, and teaching Torah to some very 'big shots', including the famed Rabbi Meir (Baal Haness), who is now buried in Tiberius, where he's visited by hundreds of thousands of pilgrims a year.
The next day, Acher had 'gone bad', and there are even stories of him going into cheders and killing some of the small children who were learning torah there. (I don't know if George Lucas ever learned Gemara, but somewhere down the line, all this Torah stuff found its way into Star Wars…)
Acher used to ride his horse, the equivalent of a 1300 cc Harley Davidson in today's parlance, right up to the door of the synagogue where his former student, Rabbi Meir, was teaching Torah on Shabbat. And this was a time when nearly everyone was still trying to keep Shabbat, so it was doubly and triply shocking.
Then he and Rabbi Meir would go for a walk, ostensibly to talk Torah, while Rabbi Meir tried his best to find the words to bring Acher back into the camp of believers - but all to no avail. Acher had heard a heavenly voice, a bat kol, telling him that everyone was welcome to repent and come back to G-d - except him. He'd gone too far. There was no place for someone as bad as Acher in heaven.
Of course, this was a test. Acher's biggest problem is that he never learnt Torah or lived a Torah lifestyle for its own sake. Right from the start, he'd been after all the honor and privileges of being a 'sage', and all the 'advantages' of being religious, like multiple blessings, a long life, and healthy, long-lived children. When he saw that being religious was no guarantee of the easy life, it created a severe crack in his emuna, or faith, which very quickly widened out to Grand Canyon proportions.
The way to fix it was simple: Acher was given a test, to come back to serving Hashem in the full knowledge that he was doing it only for its own sake. Apparently, he wasn't going to get any heavenly reward for his piety, and he himself had already realized that the rewards for being 'frum' in this world weren't guaranteed, either.
Acher failed.
Acher believed his evil inclination, that told him that he was too far gone ever to come back to Hashem. But that was a big, fat, whopping lie. G-d wanted him back; G-d was waiting for him with open arms; G-d would have given him the most amazing reward if Acher had only found the courage to face up to all his 'evil', to accept it, and to bring it back to G-d, regardless of the consequences.
Back to Star Wars: most of those six movies revolved around a father who had gone bad (Darth Vader…) and a son, who was desperately trying to bring his parent, and the world, back to 'good', in the face of some very stiff opposition from the Evil Emperor.
Part of Darth Vader's bitterness stemmed from all the horrible things that had happened to him in his youth: he'd lost his family; he'd lost one of his arms in a fight etc etc. As seems to happen an awful lot in the world, his son, Luke Skywalker, grew up in a very similar way to his parent: he was also an orphan; he also lost an arm in a fight (when Darth Vader cut it off…); and he found out that his dad was the arch-symbol of evil in the world. Talk about a shocking revelation…
Darth Vader was sure that his son was going to 'go bad' the way he'd done, as a result of all the suffering and hardship that he also endured. But he didn't. Luke listened to the voice of his (dead) (rabbinic) mentor, Obe One Kenobe (aka, the man with the beard), tapped into 'The Force', (probably by reading a Garden of Emuna) and took Darth Vader on.
By the end, not only had Luke Skywalker beaten the Evil Emperor, he also helped his dad to make sincere teshuva, and to regret all the nasty things he'd been doing for years.
Each of us can draw their own conclusions. For me, it's clear that even if your dad is Darth Vader, there's still hope for him to come back to the side of 'good'. G-d wants everyone back. Even Elisha ben Abuya; even Anakin Skywalker; even parents that are so nasty and horrible, they spend most of their lives cooking up new schemes to kill and maim their own children, (at least, spiritually…)
We all have to find our own dead bearded man, to help us connect to the 'Force'; we all need to practice connecting to the 'Force' in our off-duty times, before we're thrown into the fight of our lives, or a duel to the death with the forces of darkness; and we all need to remember that even the baddest of bad guys can come back to Hashem, especially if their kids don't give up on them, and continue to hold out for the Evil Empire to crack, and for good to triumph in the world.
May the Force be with you…(and also, with me!)
* * *
Check out Rivka Levy's new book The Happy Workshop based on the teachings of Rabbi Shalom Arush

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  2 Talkbacks for this article    See all talkbacks  
  Cool article
Louey Simon5/13/2013 2:54:26 AM
  Finding the Good
Francis5/12/2013 5:06:02 AM

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