God and a Galaxy Far, Far Away

The new 'Star Wars' movie leaves Anakin Skywalker on the dark side, but for the boys and me it's a theological teaching moment.

Steven Waldman pulled his kids from Hebrew school and is trying to teach them Judaism himself. This is his "homeschooling diary."

Judaism vs. Jediism

Sunday was the big day. Perhaps the most important day in eight-year-old Gordon's life. The day for which he's been mentally preparing for many months. The day he got to see "Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith."


I had intended to spend Sunday's Hebrew school trip to

Toomey's Diner

on the subject of envy. Joe had just had his eleventh birthday party and was working through some materialism issues.

But as it became clear how important "Star Wars" was in Gordon's cosmology, I felt it would be useful to compare and contrast.

"Is the Force like God?"

"No," said Gordon clearly. "The force is like the source of energy. So saying 'may the Force be with you' is like saying 'break a leg' but in a really serious way."

"What are the differences between Jedi faith and Judaism?"

They both involve supernatural theatrics. "Judaism has some magic to it," Gor explained, citing Moses parting the Red Sea and creating blood in the Nile by sticking in his staff. "Jedi has a little more magic. You can make stuff fly toward you."

The differences between the two traditions were far more numerous, the boys argued. "The Force does just whatever the Jedi does," Gordon said. "It doesn't have a mind of its own. It's sort of like a slave."

Joe agreed. "In the Bible stories, God does things. In "Star Wars," the Force doesn't have a brain. Other people USE the force. It's not good or evil. In the Bible, God only does things for good."

Gordon disagreed with the last point. "Not always. What about Jericho?" He was noting that God caused the walls of Jericho to fall down, killing thousands of innocent people.

Despite the moments of divine amorality, we agreed that by and large Yahweh was more likely to live and rule by an ethical code than was the Force.

Then we talked about the afterlife. The boys liked the Jewish conception-which theoretically allows for all people to live in the spirit world-more than the Jedi view, which seems to provide an afterlife only for that small number of people with Jedi powers. Jediism is far more elitist, we agreed, than Judaism.

The Golden Commandment?

My older son, Joe, has taken an interest in the Middle Ages (knights, castles, plagues, catapults, war elephants etc). So I figured I'd exploit that interest to teach Jewish history. We discussed Maimonides, the great 12th-century Jewish sage who, among other things codified the 613 Commandments said to be in the Torah.

"What was wrong with the Ten Commandments?" Joe asked. Good question. As a Reform Jew, I didn't quite know how to handle that, because we never really studied the other 603, and, upon recent inspection, I don't much like some of them ("to slay the inhabitants of a city that has become idolatrous and burn that city."(Deut. 13:16-17)

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