The Disappointing Jedi
Why do the Jedi masters avoid taking responsibility to save the universe?
I don’t want to offend anyone, but I was disappointed with the new Star Wars film (no real spoilers ahead).
What disappointed me most was the repeat escapism of the master-Jedi. The Jedi Knight is supposed to be the embodiment of the Force. The Jedi is supposed to be the guardian of all that is good in the Universe. Instead what we see in each representative of the Jedi Master is an individual who is not a guardian of anything other than himself.
Back in 1977, the very first Jedi master we were introduced to was Obi-Wan Kenobi, a recluse living out in the desert. Luke refers to him as a “strange old hermit”. He is known to Luke as Ben Kenobi and when they meet he tells Luke that he hasn’t gone by his Jedi name in a long time, not since before Luke was born. The next Jedi master is the famous Yoda. This super-Jedi is found living on a swamp-ridden planet in a system far removed. And in this latest installment we find Luke in hiding with no one knowing his whereabouts.
All three Jedi masters are living a quiet existence while evil wreaks havoc. They each choose to do nothing.
All three Jedi masters are living a quiet existence while evil wreaks havoc on the Universe. They each choose to do nothing. It is only when some seemingly less qualified person urges, actually forces them do they get involved.
If this is the ultimate manifestation of the Force then it is antithetical of what Judaism says it means to be the defenders of good. To defend good means we must take responsibility and do something. We do not glorify the guru sitting idly on top of a mountain. While he may be filled with insights on how to live a lofty life, he lacks the crucial ingredient necessary to be called a wise person. He lacks the implementation of that wisdom.
A wise person understands that if we can do something to improve a bad situation, we must act on it. As Voltaire (and Spiderman) said, “With great power comes great responsibility.” A Jedi should certainly have this clarity. And just because the task is immense and fraught with challenges and sometimes extreme tragedies does not allow us to quit. True, each of the three Jedi were hit with disappointment that many indeed would find overwhelming and perhaps crushing. But we are talking about Jedi Knights. We are talking about those unique individuals that we are to look to for inspiration. It is precisely those characters in film that don’t quit, that don’t give in to disappointment that lift the rest of us. That’s why Rocky was and is such an endearing character because he always goes the distance. He doesn’t quit. That is what a true Jedi is, a person who says it is my responsibility and I will never quit. That is how Abraham looked at the world and how we are supposed to aspire to be.
It may be true that Luke was being hunted by the Empire and that is why he needed to go into hiding. Yet he could have and should have taking at least one student with him. One of the greatest Jewish leaders ever was Rabbi Akiva. He started his true “Jedi” quest late in life at the age of 40. He amassed a following of 24,000 students. As the result of a tragic situation every last one of them died. Everything he built was destroyed. He is now 64 years old. That could easily break anyone. What does he do? Start over! He gets five students and builds from them. Those five students go on to be the pillars of Jewish wisdom. The majority of what we know today is the result of the teachings of those five students.
My rabbi, Rav Noah Weinberg, of blessed memory, built five organizations to help the Jewish people and each one failed. Did he quit? No. Starting with just a few students he opened Aish HaTorah and built one of the largest networks dedicated to helping the Jewish people.
The world is not as innocent as it was. There is true evil in the world. It isn't enough if we just refrain from doing evil ourselves, we need to actively create good and combat the existing evil. George Lucas’ Force is morally empty if at its pinnacle it encourages retreat and submission. Instead we should seek to become true masters of a force that has the power to change the world. That force is from the Source of all power and it is strong in each one of us.
May The Source Be With You!