Our culture is filled with fictional superheroes. The fictional episodes of “Batman”, “Superman” “Wonder Woman” etc, fill the hearts and minds of our children with dreams of conquest, super-human heroics and other fictional ideas. In addition to the above, our culture idolizes our local sports-teams, the athletes and other celebrities. Many children proudly wear their favorite athlete’s jerseys and wear their sneakers and look at them as role models for themselves.
I have often wondered about the deep attraction, affection and connection that the youth have to fictional characters. What is it that makes these characters so popular, and have such an impact on the lives of our children? I have come to the conclusion that deep-down we all want a world where good overpowers evil and that the good team wins. In addition, these fictional episodes allow people an escape from their daily struggles and personal issues.
Yet, it is all fiction. Thus it is not real and can’t possibly have much positive effect and change on our lives. This does not mean that we should not introduce our children to superheroes, rather those superheroes should be real people that are deserving of that title. The Jewish history is filled with such superheroes; we just need to connect our children to their true heritage.
The Jewish holiday season is behind us and we are back to our regular routine, if there is still any concept of “routine” in our Covid-centered era. We have completed the annual reading of the Torah, and danced, on “Simchas Torah” and the Jewish people have begun reading the Torah again, starting with Breishis-Genesis. To many people, the book of Genesis, which centers on famous bible-stories of our Patriarchs and Matriarchs, are considered easy and light reading. It is when we get to the detailed laws in Exodus and Leviticus that things get difficult.
The truth is that this faulty mindset prevents the person from accessing true life lessons in their daily life. For have you ever wondered why G-d almighty recorded the Bible-stories in the Torah for all eternity? If the Torah is about the way a Jew should serve his creator, what rationale would there be to “waste” so much space on the life-stories of our Patriarchs and Matriarchs?
Rather the Torah is the book of life. It is the greatest gift that the Jewish people, and humanity as a whole, has ever received. It is the divine book of lessons for our daily life. History has shown that life-lessons are learned from people and not books. When we see — or hear stories of — living examples of devotion, goodness and kindness, we get inspired to better ourselves. The statements, or lectures, that scream at us to be good and kind do not have that type of effect. Thus, some of the deepest lessons of how we should conduct our lives and serve our creator are specifically found in the Bible-stories. These stories, and lessons transmitted, must be thoroughly analyzed, studied and internalized.
When our children begin to view our Patriarchs and Matriarchs as their superheroes, it will also change the way they view themselves. If their direct ancestors were superheroes, that means that blood of superheroes flows in their veins. The child begins to realize that he is blessed with special power that he/she was not aware of before. In the teachings of the Kabalah, the concept of the Jewish “Neshama-Soul” is discussed at length. The soul, as a part of the divine, is found inside of each and every Jew. This special soul, as part of the infinite divine, has limitless spiritual energy and power which allows each Jewish person to go beyond their natural limitations. This will give them the ability to be successful is all aspects of their lives.
It also is the reason that a Jew can never truly separate themselves from G-d Almighty. This has shown itself time and time again throughout our history. The now-famous words “I am Jewish” uttered by Daniel Pearl (may Hashem avenge his blood) before being brutally murdered by ISIS touched the hearts and souls of millions of Jews of all backgrounds. It is our essence as it is who we really are. We can’t be disconnected from Hashem, because we have a spark of the divine inside each and every one of us. It can be covered and hidden, but the Jewish flame is always burning inside us.
By learning about our righteous ancestors with our children, we are giving them the keys to unlock the superhero power that is within each and every one of them. They do not need to look outside, or elsewhere, for superheroes - rather reveal the “Neshama-Soul” which is already inside them.
Ready to be a super-Hero?
You can email Rabbi Gerson Avtzon at firstname.lastname@example.org