web analytics
April 25, 2015 / 6 Iyar, 5775
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post


Why Batman Matters

Front-Page-082412

It’s important to acknowledge this right from the beginning: I love Batman. In fact, no one loves him more than I do. He and I have a history that goes back over four decades.

Since receiving semicha from Yeshivat Rabbeinu Yitzchak Elchanan twenty years ago, I have been involved in various aspects of education – everything from teaching in yeshivot and seminaries in Israel to doing outreach work on college campuses to teaching police officers (Jews and non-Jews alike) about stress management using techniques ultimately derived from the Torah literature.

Different contexts, different audiences, different levels of Torah observance, different ages and backgrounds.

But there’s been one constant throughout (besides my wife’s support and patience) in my teaching style: my love for Batman and my use of the Batman mythology to illustrate and motivate many – perhaps most – of the Torah Truths I teach.

Increasingly, however, I barely recognize the character in the comics and movies they keep calling “Batman.” The Batman I know and love, the Batman who inspires me, represents steadfast commitment to principle, nobility of character, and altruistic benevolence. Long before the tragic shootings at the premiere of the newest Batman movie, “The Dark Knight Rises,” in Aurora, Colorado, I had experienced discomfort with the depiction of Batman in various media because it represents a falsification of his character.

That shouldn’t be too surprising to anyone who knows anything about Batman and his portrayal over the past couple of decades or if you know anything about human nature and the culture in which we live – a culture whose values and mindset are reflected in and expressed through its pop culture.

Since the mid-1980s there’s been a tug of war between two groups of comic book creators – a struggle for the very soul of the Batman character. Consider it a battle between the traditionalists and the reformers.

A brief introduction to the character for those not familiar with Batman:

Born to a life of wealth and leisure, eight-year-old Bruce Wayne was walking home from an evening at the movies with his wealthy philanthropist parents, Dr. Thomas and Martha Wayne, when the three were confronted by a gun-wielding hoodlum who stepped out of the shadows and demanded Martha’s jewelry. A brief struggle ensued, after which the criminal shot and killed both Thomas and Martha right before young Bruce’s eyes.

In an instant, the world the little boy had known was gone forever. Traumatized by his parents’ deaths, Bruce swore at their graveside to avenge their murders by dedicating the rest of his life to fighting crime. Propelled by his oath, Bruce devoted every waking moment of his formative years to developing his mind and body to unparalleled perfection. Reasoning that criminals are a superstitious, cowardly lot, Bruce used the fear-inspiring image of a bat to design a costume that would strike fear into the hearts of evildoers.

By day, Bruce Wayne maintains an image of a bored, idle man of leisure. But that persona is little more than a mask for Bruce’s alter ego – Batman.

One of the comic book writers of the new school of thought describes the character thus:

“Batman…was the externalization of a psychologically dysfunctional man who worked out his rage and abandonment issues by becoming scary, in the process avenging his parents and bringing criminals to justice.”

That’s dark stuff. And definitely not the Batman I fell in love with as a child.

I don’t mean to suggest that the Batman I love is the campy hero of the 1960s TV show (though that was my first introduction to the character). In fact, there is a serious alternative to the “psychologically dysfunctional man” that writer described.

No, the Batman I love isn’t the dark, dysfunctional, broken, angry, principle-less character many comic book creators like to portray in these dark, dysfunctional, broken, angry, principle-less times in which we live. Their Batman vents “his rage and abandonment issues by becoming scary” and beating people up; fortunately, his actions are socially acceptable because the people he beats up are criminals.

The Batman I love – and whose example I invoke in my teaching – is the hero who responded to and triumphed over an experience of unspeakable tragedy and loss in childhood by creating a life of meaning and heroism through his relentless efforts to spare others the pain and loss he had experienced firsthand and knows so well. As a child of a Holocaust survivor who spent her childhood years fighting for survival and went on to create a family and life filled with meaning, compassion for others, and dedication to justice, it is a model with which I am very familiar.

About the Author: Rabbi Cary Friedman is the associate editor of OU Press and a consultant to the law enforcement community on matters of police stress. The author of five books, including “Wisdom from the Batcave: How to Live a Super Heroic Life,” and a popular scholar in residence, he formerly served as executive director of the Duke University Jewish Learning Experience; a chaplain at the federal prison in Butner, North Carolina (where he studied Torah with Jonathan Pollard weekly for four years); and a congregational rabbi. He can be reached at ravcary@aol.com.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “Why Batman Matters”

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
"Killing Jews is worship that draws us closer to Allah." That's his Jihad. What's yours? - An ad campaign sponsored by  the American Freedom Defense Initiative.
MTA Hopes to Change Rule, Ban ‘Killing Jews’ Anti-Jihad Ad
Latest Indepth Stories
israeli-american flags

All GOP candidates will continue seeking – and praying – for Jewish money with greater success.

New immigrants from USA and Canada arriving at Ben Gurion Airport.

The one reason to make Aliyah outweighs all the arguments not to move to Israel.

Keeping-Jerusalem

“We returned to this Land not in order to be murdered, or uprooted. We came here to be replanted!”

Ambassador Danny Ayalon

I don’t fear for the future of our people because I believe Yeshiva University has created an “Iron Dome” of Jewish leadership

Poland’s great Jewish cities where Jewish life had once flourished and thrived, were now desolate

Chief rabbi, Rav Dovid Lau, stated that the Torah community’s turnout in the WZO election is vital.

Iran has at its core the same ideology as that of ISIS but, inaccurately, is thought a lesser threat

An early Yom Ha’atzmaut gathering for Israel’s 67th birthday with Pres. Rivlin of Israel and guests

Israel’s Memorial Day shouldn’t be a day of mourning, it’s a day to honor, not another Holocaust Day

God’s 3 part promise for Israel: to the Avot; a plentiful land; the eventual return home by all Jews

A committed Religious Zionist, he was a sought-after adviser on Zionist affairs around the world.

More important, Mr. Obama is simply acceding to Iran’s position on the timing of the lifting of sanctions.

“Texans share a lot of the same attitude as Israelis, that we say what we think and we think what we say, and that makes it much easier to communicate,” he says.

The fight against terror is a case in point…. The establishment of a collective forum for dialogue in the Persian Gulf region…is long overdue….

More Articles from Rabbi Cary Friedman
Front-Page-082412

It’s important to acknowledge this right from the beginning: I love Batman. In fact, no one loves him more than I do. He and I have a history that goes back over four decades.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/front-page/why-batman-matters/2012/08/22/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: