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February 25, 2011  RSS feed
Rabbinically Speaking

Text: T T T

May the Force be with you

By RABBI JOEL SIMON Congregation Schaarai Zedek

While there were many diverse commercials during this year’s Super Bowl, one seemed to stand out in the opinion of many of those with whom I’ve spoken (and I’m not talking about anyone licking anyone else’s fingers...) There was one commercial for Volkswagen in which a young child wearing a Darth Vader costume was doing everything he could to find “the force” within him. He tried to telepathically start the toaster and the washing machine, he tried to give energy to a lazy dog, and he even tried to bring his sister’s doll to life, but it was all to no avail, as none of his attempts were successful.

That is until the boy moved to the driveway to direct his powers toward his father’s car. We see the father, in an attempt to humor the boy, remotely start the car from inside the house. The boy thought that it was his special powers that had finally worked, and even from behind the Darth Vader mask we knew that the look on his face was precious!

What was it that was so spot on about this ad? Sure it attracted the strong love many of us have for the film, and any time you have a miniature Darth Vader it’s going to be adorable, but there was something else. The commercial captured the power of belief.

Regardless of what started the car, for that moment, our miniature Darth Vader believed that a miracle had occurred. Some might have been bothered at giving the child false hope – after all, he didn’t really start the car. We all possess this natural desire for truth, for knowing exactly what happened, but sometimes believing in the unbelievable is not the worst thing in the world.

The History Channel is not part of my usual television rotation, but I am approached by several people whenever there’s a new program with new sources explaining or refuting the crossing of the Red Sea.

Do I think it’s true? Do I think it happened? Was it 60 people, 600 people, or 600,000 people? Was it the perfect storm at the perfect time that caused the waters to part? Was it a land bridge at low tide? The answer is, I don’t know.

Regardless of what the Midrash says, the fact is that I was not there, at least not in my immediate memory. But like the father in the commercial, I do believe that there is magic to believing. Believing in the miracle of the Red Sea does not have to mean knowing that it happened.

Many of us have had times in our lives when we’ve wondered if we’ve witnessed a miracle. It can be as small as a phone call from a loved one in the immediate moment that we were thinking of calling them or as big as the unexpected healing of someone who was ill. We wonder is this simply the natural occurrence of the world, or is it something greater? Unlike the Red Sea, these are events that we are experiencing, but like the Red Sea, knowing exactly why or how they happened doesn’t have to be a prerequisite to believing.

I’m not one who often looks for meaningful messages in commercials, but I do believe that all of us could use a little more of Darth Vader Jr.’s “force” of belief. It doesn’t mean having to throw reason and rational thought out the window, but rather keeping open the door of possibility. May we all find moments when we let a little bit of childhood innocence back into our lives, and may the force be with you!

Rabbinically Speaking is published as a public service by the Jewish Press in cooperation with the Tampa Rabbinical Association which assigns the column on a rotating basis.

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