Joseph and Anakin, children of grace
Long ago, in a galaxy far away…. The glue has once again been provided to connect the generations with one another. The themes are as eternal as they were before; the myths are as powerful as ever. The child within the oldest of us is awakened, and the wisdom of the ages enters the heart of our youngest.
These moving narratives are treasured by us, in part, because they imaginatively capture the metaphors that give expression to our truths. The battle between forces of light and dark, the struggle between our innate inclinations (the yetzer ha-tov and the yetzer ha-ra), the propensities we carry towards hope and despair—these most basic conflicts play out in the scroll and on the screen before our eyes in living color.
I admit that I am slow to admit that anything is coincidence. It is a gift that the newest installation of the Star Wars saga hits the silver screen as we are immersed in studying the portions of the Torah retelling the story of Joseph and his family. I can’t help but see the parallels between the narratives of Anakin Skywalker and Joseph.
Both boys discover at a young age that they have abilities that distinguish them from others. Both sense that they are destined for something greater than their stations in life. Both are sold into servitude. Both will ultimately rise up to be second in command of their respective empires. Both live with the loss of a mother and with separation from family.
Their paths, however, diverge due to the ways in which they confront their respective circumstances. Driven by the anger generated by his sense of loss and by the fear of losing those he holds dear, Anakin is drawn to the Dark Side. Joseph, on the other hand, recognizes that his gifts are but an instrument of God, to be used for the furthering of the Divine Will (also known as the Force?). He is moved beyond his selfishness and ego by his faith in the goodness of God and his trust in the desire of others to redeem themselves through righteousness.
Ultimately, Anakin redeems himself. It is a sign for all future generations that they, too, can overcome the Dark Side to choose a path of grace. Is it coincidence that the name “Anakin” can be translated to “child of grace”? (Okay, I made that up, using the Hebrew root for “Ana,” or Hannah, meaning “grace,” and the Germanic origin of “kin,” meaning “give birth to.” Thus, child of grace!) Joseph redeems himself as well, and teaches his brothers and all future generations that they can redeem themselves through acts of faith. The seemingly endless battle between good and evil is perpetuated by those who give in to anger, fear and loss. While I won’t see the new movie until next week, I am fairly certain that the narrative will remind us, during these troubling times, that our actions cannot be dictated by fear, and that our actions of faith and trust may sometimes give way to betrayal, but ultimately are the only way to forge a path towards redemption.
May the Force be with us,
Rabbi Craig Scheff