A Brief Overview of the Star Wars Saga
(Please note that this contains spoilers for the entire series.)
In the Star Wars universe there is a power called the Force. The Force is an energy field created by all living things. It binds the galaxy together. Star Wars takes place in a futuristic universe where various planets and moons are inhabited by a multitude of races and creatures. These people have chosen to become members of the Republic. Protectors of the Republic and peace/ order are called the Jedi and serve as Jedi Knights. They are the forces for good. Those who want to seize power for themselves/ create an empire are known as the Sith. They are the forces for chaos.
Once upon a time there was a young Jedi named Anakin Skywalker. He had incredible power; it was unsurpassed. There was a prophecy that was understood to be about him where he was the Chosen one who would bring balance to the Force. His mentor, Obi Wan Kenobi, did his best to train him. One of the rules of being a Jedi Knight is that one is not permitted an excess of emotion and therefore one is not permitted to romantically love and form personal attachments. However, Anakin does fall in love with a woman called Padme. The two marry secretly. Padme becomes pregnant and Anakin becomes afraid that she will die in childbirth. He becomes obsessed with the idea of gaining enough power to control death. Sith Lords offer him this opportunity and he makes a deal with them, eventually becoming the fearsome Darth Vader.
Unbeknownst to Anakin, Padme gives birth to twins named Luke and Leia Skywalker. They are raised separately to prevent Darth Vader or others from finding them. They are not told who their father is. Through a complicated series of events, they eventually join forces to overthrow Darth Vader. Leia is romantically involved with a dashing pilot named Han Solo. Luke is the one who trains as a Jedi Knight and eventually is able to rid the world of Darth Vader's evil.
In The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi, the remnants of Darth Vader's empire have risen once more to try to overthrow the Republic. The forces for good, which include Leia Skywalker, band together against the forces for evil. Mysteriously, Luke Skywalker (the last Jedi) has disappeared and other Jedi have not been trained. During these films, we encounter a powerful Sith lord named Kylo Ren. It becomes clear that Kylo Ren is actually a child of Leia Skywalker and Han Solo, and that his name was once Ben. At the same time, a woman called Rey demonstrates that she is powerful in the Force and has the ability to become a Jedi. She desperately searches for Luke, who she believes can train her to use her powers.
How did Ben become Kylo Ren? It's partially due to a tragic mistake his mentor, Luke, made. Ben had been sent to Luke to be trained as a Jedi. But then, something happened...
Luke's Confession to Rey
“I saw darkness and sensed it building in him [Ben Solo]. I’d seen it in moments during his training. One time I looked inside and it was beyond what I ever imagined. Snoke had already turned his heart. He [Ben] would bring destruction and pain and death and the end of everything I loved because of what he would become. And in the briefest moment of pure instinct I thought I could stop it.”
-Luke Skywalker talking to Rey about Ben Solo (now known as Kylo Ren)
What happens next? Three Points of View
Luke goes to the place where Ben is sleeping. We see him standing over him.
What Luke tells Rey initially: "and then I saw Ben. My nephew...with that mighty Skywalker blood. In my hubris I thought I could train him, that I could pass on my strength. Han wasn't fond of it, but Leia trusted me with her son. I took him and a dozen students and began a training temple. By the time I realized I was no match for the darkness rising in him...it was too late.
Rey: What happened?
Luke: I went to confront him [Ben] and he turned on me. He must have thought I was dead. By the time I came to the temple was burning. He had vanished with a handful of my students and slaughtered the rest. Leia blamed Snoke but it was me. I failed."
Ben's perspective: "He had sensed my power. As he senses yours [Rey's]. And he feared it. [The scene zooms in on a crazed Luke standing over Ben, his green lightsaber glittering. It looks like he is about to strike so Ben defends himself.]
What Luke admits later: "I had sensed it building in him. I'd seen it in moments during his training. [Luke turns on his lightsaber and it glitters green. He looks conflicted, standing over Ben.] But then I looked inside...and it was beyond what I ever imagined. Snoke had already turned his heart. He would bring destruction, and pain,and death...and the end of everything I loved because of what he would become. And for the briefest moment of pure instinct... I thought I could stop it. It passed like a fleeting shadow. And I was left with shame. And its consequence. And the last thing I saw were the eyes of a frightened boy whose master had failed him." [Ben wakes up and sees Luke looking at the lightsaber, sick at heart, but interprets it as an attack that is about to take place. He thinks his uncle is about to kill him. Ben calls his lightsaber and blocks. Luke shouts "Ben, no!"]
Was Luke right? Sensing what Ben would become, was his desire to eradicate the incumbent threat not only appropriate, but moral?
There are three Jewish narratives that speak to this.
1. A narrative that concerns Abraham and Hagar's son, Ishmael
2. A narrative that pertains an innocent baby named Micah, saved by Moses
3. A confrontation between a king of Judah, Hezekiah, and a prophet, Isaiah
(If we have time, I will explain why the text dealing with The Wayward Child/ בן סורר ומורה does not apply in the scenario presented above).
Narrative 1: Abraham, Hagar and Ishmael
Questions to Consider
1. Who cries initially?
2. Whose voice does it say God heeds?
3. Why do you think God heeds that individual's voice?
4. What do you think is the reason for the addition of the seemingly extra words באשר הוא שם (where he is) in verse 17?
Questions to Consider
1. Why do the angels argue that Ishmael deserves death?
2. What is God's response?
3. How might we apply God's response to our scenario with Luke and Ben (Kylo Ren)? What ought Luke to have done based on these sources?
4. Where in the future do the Ishmaelites actually cause the Israelites to die of thirst? (Please see below).
Narrative 2: Micah and Moses
A little bit of background- Moses and Aaron are sent by God to ask Pharaoh to send out the Israelites to worship at a mountain in the wilderness for three days. Pharaoh assumes that if the people have enough spirit to make this request, they have too much time on their hands. Therefore, he takes away the straw the Egyptians had originally been issuing them to form the bricks. At the same time, all of the Israelites must still meet their original quota of bricks. The Israelites complain bitterly and Moses turns to God.
Questions to Consider
1. Who is Micah?
2. What fate is Micah spared from (and who saves him from it)?
3. Who exactly is it that determines that Micah will be evil? (THIS IS SIGNIFICANT)
4. How can we apply this source to our scenario with Luke and Ben? Was Luke justified based on these sources?
5. What does Micah end up doing/ what sins does he commit?
Food for Thought: How might what God told Moses about Micah have impacted the way in which Moses interacted with Micah?
Narrative 3: A Confrontation Between Hezekiah and Isaiah
Questions to Consider
1. Why did King Hezekiah fall ill?
2. What was the prophet Isaiah's response to the points Hezekiah raised about what he had seen via the Divine spirit?
3. Who were King Menasseh's parents? COMPARE THIS TO BEN SOLO.
4. Why do you think King Menasseh might not have been able to come to God/ accept him when his parents were as illustrious as the incredibly wise and good King Hezekiah and the daughter of the prophet?
5. What finally inspires King Menasseh to change? How might we relate this back to Kylo Ren?
6. Based on all of this, was Luke correct in his assessment of Ben and his desire to eradicate him? What do the sources suggest?
Rey's Accusation against Luke
Is it true?
Did you do it?
Did you create Kylo Ren?
Tell me the truth.
You failed him by thinking his choice was made.
There is still conflict in him.
If he turned from the Dark Side, that could shift the tide.
This could be how we win.
Why בן סורר ומורה is Different
It does not apply to Kylo Ren.
Excerpt from "Bad Boys" by Rabbi Moshe Heigh (link for full article)
There is a remark of the Iyun Yaacov on Rosh Hashana 16B. We said that the heavenly court punishes based on the present, but the human Sanhedrin is commanded to eliminate the ben sorer umoreh because of the future. Iyun Yaacov suggests a reason for this. In Heaven, they know exactly when the individual will sin. As a result, Hashem has “no need” to kill someone ahead of time. The heavenly court can wait until the precise moment necessary to rid the world of the danger. Why kill him earlier if he can be taken care of later? This was the case with Yishmael, where it was up to Hashem whether to provide water or not. On the other hand, human judges are limited in their abilities. The Torah’s policy, expressed in the context of ben sorer umoreh, is that the Sanhedrin has to act when given the legal opportunity to do so. Since the boy has already begun behaving in an abominable fashion, AND THERE IS AMPLE EVIDENCE right now that he will continue this way and get worse, he must be dealt with properly. Maybe later, he will assault people, murder them for their money, and no witnesses will be present! A human Sanhedrin cannot say, “Don’t worry, all you potential victims out there. We will know exactly when to execute this fellow, and we’ll certainly be provided with sufficient, legal evidence at the time.” The Torah tells us that this attitude is unacceptable. Let him die relatively guiltless, rather than as a hardened criminal. Perhaps the chance to rid society of this dangerous person will not arise again. Therefore, says the Iyun Yaacov, the Torah commands us to do away with this threat now, since there IS testimony to his crimes of the present. They themselves do not warrant a death penalty, but the Torah knows that they will result in more serious crimes. Thus, there is a requirement to judge him now, because of his future.
Questions to Consider
1. What does it mean to be ACTIVE? What does it mean if something is DORMANT? (For clarity's sake, consider an active volcano to a dormant one.) Additionally, if someone thinks about doing something, is that the same as doing it?
2. What exactly must a Ben Sorer U'Moreh have done to merit possible execution?
3. What must the parents do in such a scenario?
4. Why did the rabbis legislate this concept out of existence?
5. Most importantly, look at what Luke says about Ben- "I had sensed darkness building within him. I had seen it in moments during his training." Did Ben actually, ACTIVELY, DO ANYTHING yet? (Now compare to the scenarios with Ishmael, Micah and Menasseh).
6. When is the first time Ben ACTIVELY does anything evil?
Kylo Ren vs. Luke (End Scenes)
[Kylo is on his ship when he sees Luke appear. He speaks to his commander].
Kylo Ren: I want every gun we have to fire on that man.
Kylo Ren: Do it.
Kylo Ren: More. MORE!
[They fire every gun they have.]
Commander: That's enough. That's enough! (Sarcastically} Do you think you got him? [pause] Now if we're ready to get moving..
[Luke is still standing.]
Kylo Ren: We can finish this.
Kylo Ren: Bring me down to him. Keep the door covered and don't advance till I say.
Commander: Supreme Leader- don't get distracted; our goal..
[Kylo chokes him.]
Commander: Right away, sir!
Kylo Ren (to Luke): Did you come back to say you forgive me? To save my soul?
[They circle one another]
Luke: I failed you, Ben. I'm sorry.
Kylo Ren: [angrily] I'm sure you are!
Questions to Consider
1. Why is Kylo Ren so angry with Luke?
2. What does this show about Kylo Ren's relationship to Luke (does it matter to him)?
3. If Kylo had been going to join the Dark Side all along, do you think he would react this way? Why yes/ no?
What does this mean for us as educators?
Excerpt from Abraham's Journey by Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, pages 98-99
It is not implausible to link the verb a-m-n to em, "mother," since she is the foremost teacher of and believer in the child. A mother will never despair of her child, nor will she spare any effort to further her child's welfare, even though she does not expect to live long enough to enjoy the fruits of her toil and sacrifice. She is the most unselfish being. Her faith in her child can never be shaken. She will patiently try to do some particular thing for her child over and over again, since failure, however disappointing, does not weaken her determination to bring out the best and finest in the child. The em is unconditionally committed to her child, in whose capabilities she has unrestricted trust.
To believe and to bring up are identical accomplishments. The believer must be able to engage in a great educational task, to pick up the debris of a shattered world and reconstitute a harmonious creation, to seize human talent and capability in an ongoing array of deeds, suffusing these powers with meaning and integrating them into a redeemed personality. The believer is committed to the reconstruction of human society and the catharsis of the individual. All this must happen in a natural, evolutionary way, through progressive action, while man, like an infant, learns to take his first ascending steps up the steep mountain of the Lord.
The element of faith is indispensable for any pedagogical endeavor. A teacher who lacks confidence that his pupil is able to grasp the ideas he passes on to him will never be successful. The teacher must also have faith that learning will have a moral impact upon the disciple. We believe that knowledge is redemptive and therapeutic performance. A pessimist must never do any teaching or be entrusted with the care of a child, since his efforts are doomed to failure from the very outset. All educational activities are identical with mothering, for what is mothering if not displaying unlimited faith in a child?
Excerpt from חובות התלמידים by Rabbi Kalonymous Kalman Shapira, page 7 (in the English translation)
The education of each and every child must therefore be different, depending on his nature, mind, character, and all his other unique qualities. The educator must become aware of these qualities; it will not suffice for him to know himself and his own mind alone, since everything depends on the student who is being educated. It is not enough to utilize his own mind and his own strength in activating, commanding, and instructing his students; he must grasp the student's mind and the student's strength, working and acting within the parameters of each child's abilities. What he commands and instructs one child should be different from what he commands and instructs the next child, whose nature, will, and personality are completely different from the first. And this is what King Solomon is hinting to us- "educate the child according to his path"- according to the particular path of each and every child.
Our goal here is not to teach the craft of pedagogy- how to utilize the student's mind in various ways, how to broaden his understanding and knowledge of the meaning of the Torah. For what we are seeking now is not the student's intellect alone: we are interested in the whole student. We wish to connect the Nefesh, Ruach and Neshamah of Jewish children to the God of Israel, so that they will emerge as Jews who revere the word of the Lord and direct all their desires toward Him.
Every father and every teacher knows that their children and students will not remain children forever, but will eventually grow in years and possibly in Torah knowledge and spiritual devotion. Yet there exist fathers and teachers who are concerned only with what they see right now. Since all they see right now are children the goal of their efforts is to educate their charges to become good children. They wish to infuse them with only a child's measure of Torah and awe of God. This they consider sufficient. But a teacher or parent who does this is sinning against God and against His people. Fathers and teachers must know that their task is to educate and uncover children of the Lord and giants of Israel. They must see the children sitting in front of them as great souls still immature; their task is to get them to grow and flourish. A teacher is a gardener in the garden of God, assigned to cultivate it and guard it from harm. Even if some of the children seem rebellious, or flawed in their character, the teacher must know that the nature of soul-seeds; of unripe angels, is to taste bitter as they are ripening and to be filled with nectar in their maturity. Neither the nature, nor any particular quality of a Jewish child, is absolutely evil. This is what the holy Baal Shem Tov and his disciples have taught us. What is necessary is just to know how to use these qualities and how to help them develop and grow. For example, a particular child may be very stubborn- which is a character flaw. His teacher may suffer greatly because of the child's stubborness. Yet if the teacher were to reflect, he would realize that when this child matures and receives as his own the yoke of Torah and of service to God, he will perform all his service of God with great stubbornness and self-sacrifice. He will not be frivolous or inclined to vacillate but will be the kind of Jew the Midrash described: In all matters of devotion, he will be as strong as the wall of a fortress.
Excerpt from "Niggun for Broken Hearts: A Shavuos Story" as written by Shimon Breitkopf and published in Mishpacha Magazine (link to full article)
"You see, there are two different types of Jews- 'Matan Torah Jews' and 'Megillas Rus Jews.' You know, a Matan Torah Jew lives on a very high level. He is a Jew who learns Torah day and night, who is attached to Hashem with all his heart. But in spite of all his greatness, he still can't bring Mashiach.
"Mashiach will come from a Megillas Rus Jew. Mashiach comes from Rus, because Rus taught the entire Jewish People that the greatest achievements come after a person has been pushed away, after he has been asked to leave. She taught us that if you come back after you've been driven away, after you've been shamed, and you still cling to the Torah, then your Torah will become the Torah of Mashiach.
"Your name is Dovid," he went on. "Dovid HaMelech also contended with shame and rejection. From the time he was born, he was denigrated and humiliated. But that made him a vessel for the most profound devotion that ever existed. You know, we all think that Shavuos is the holiday of the Jews who have a connection to Matan Torah, but I will tell you that it's really a Yom Tov for the Jews of Megillas Rus.
"You should know that when a person comes back after he has been driven away, he is a different person. He isn't coming back for external reasons. He comes back because his neshamah tells him to. That's the power of a Megillas Rus Jew."
-We must judge people as they are at that point in time (as we see by Ishmael). Only the Almighty can do otherwise (as we see by Micha).
-No matter what we think we might "know," our obligation is to do what we can to help nourish and nurture others (Hezekiah and his son Menasseh).
-It is entirely possible that the people we thought were irreedeemable may return (Menasseh).
-One should not educate or teach if they do not believe they can be effective.
-One must be careful not to judge others BEFORE THEY HAVE EVEN ACTED. Recognize that someone's nature or character flaw may become their greatest strength/ asset.
Luke & Leia's Last Encounter
Luke: I came to face him, Leia. And I can't save him.
Leia: I held out hope for so long...but I know my son is gone.
Luke: No one's ever really gone.