The Celebrate Israel Festival on May 31 at Pier 94, slated to be the largest gathering to date of Israeli-Americans in New York.
When you’re the rabbi of Pratt Institute, America’s most prestigious art school, and you want to gain some street-credibility with your students (and faculty!) it helps to have a secret identity as a comic book aficionado.
However, since the release of my book, Up, Up and Oy Vey!: How Jewish History, Culture and Values Shaped the Comic Book Superhero, my secret identity has been revealed. Now everyone affectionately calls me “the comic book rabbi,” the one-stop resource for all Jewperhero information.
So when I was asked for a superhero shpiel on Passover, one story immediately came to mind.
In a Superman story titled “Miracle Monday” (Superman #400, 1984) the citizens of sixtieth-century earth celebrate a festival of the same name:
“Across the galaxy tonight, wherever the human race has made its home, families gather for the Miracle Monday dinner – a celebration of our freedom!”
It’s a meal commemorating the legend of Superman, the hero who brought freedom to the oppressed and has now retreated into solitude. The narrator of the story writes that it is “a night of the year that is different from all other nights.”
Sound familiar? Clear parallels are drawn between Miracle Monday and the Passover seder, right down to the empty place setting reserved for Superman, calling to mind the traditional Cup of Elijah. Phrases such as “Let all who are hungry come and eat!” echo phrases from the Passover Haggadah.
Yes, even in fiction, we Jews are still worrying about when we get to eat. But the story has deeper undertones. After all, Elliot S. Maggin, the writer of this particular issue, is Jewish. One presumes that the many Passover seders he’s attended helped influence this Superman story. Maybe one in particular…
In an article titled “Remembering Julius Schwartz,” Maggin recounts a seder he spent with the legendary editor of Superman and Batman and creator of the Justice League of America.
Maggin describes the seder as “the annual ritual dinner where you tell long stories about freedom and adventuring before you eat.” He recounts a fascinating encounter with his mentor:
“Julie had not been to a seder in a number of years…. There’s a crucial point at the beginning of the seder ceremony when the youngest person at the table reads a short but rather difficult paragraph in Hebrew called the Four Questions.…It fell to my youngest sister Robin to read the questions, and she never particularly enjoyed the role…
“‘I haven’t been to Hebrew school since 1928,’ Julie barked. ‘And watch this.’ He read the Four Questions in perfect Hebrew, beginning to end, without tripping over a syllable. So it was that the oldest person at the table asked the Four Questions this time. My father was thrilled – it brought us an entire whining-session closer to the food.”
Maggin’s fictional story “Miracle Monday” has a happy ending: the sincerity of remembrance moves Superman to return to his beloved adopted home planet of earth once again.
It is comforting to note that many other Jewish comic book writers and artists have tapped into their religion when looking for inspirational sagas and archetypes. Let’s not forget that Superman was originally created by two Jews from Cleveland (but that’s another story).
That’s why, as the comic book rabbi, I’m frequently asked the rather bizarre question: “Is Superman Jewish?” On one level, the answer is simple: “No, he’s a fictional alien.” However, when we look at the state of our world, we can understand the desire to create and admire heroes (but with superhuman powers for good.)
As we recount the story of Passover yet again, we recall the inspiring story of our ancestors to remind ourselves that we are now a free people who hope for ultimate redemption. The Jewish people have been known throughout history as “the people of the book.” This Passover, let’s try (at least for a while) to put our faith and trust into something more tangible than fiction.
About the Author: Rabbi Simcha Weinstein, an internationally known best-selling author whose first book, "Up, Up and Oy Vey!" received the Benjamin Franklin Award, has been profiled in leading publications including The New York Times, The Miami Herald and The London Guardian. He was recently voted New York’s Hippest Rabbi by PBS Channel 13. He chairs the Religious Affairs Committee at Pratt Institute. His forthcoming book is “The Case for Children: Why Parenthood Makes Your World Better.”
If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.
Comments are closed.
Many books have supported the preferability- not to be confused with desirability- of the status quo
Consider the Pope’s desperation, reading daily reports of the slaughter of Christians by Muslims
The contrast between a Dem pretending to love Israel & a Dem who truly loves Israel is CRYSTAL CLEAR
U.S and European demands for the creation of a Palestinian State in the West Bank is world hypocrisy.
We take a whole person approach, giving our people assistance with whatever they need.
During my spiritual journey I discovered G-d spoke to man only once, to the Jewish people at Sinai
20 years after the great Ethiopian aliyah, we must treat them like everyone else; no better or worse
Connecting Bamidbar&Shavuot is simple-A world without Torah is midbar; with Torah a blessed paradise
Many Black protesters compared Baltimore’s unrest to the Palestinian penchant of terrorism & rioting
She credited success to “mini” decisions-Small choices building on each other leading to big changes
Shavuot 1915, 200000 Jews were expelled; amongst the largest single expulsions since Roman times
Realizing there was no US military threat, Iran resumed, expanded & accelerated its nuclear program
“Enlightened Jews” who refuse to show chareidim the tolerance they insist we give to Arabs sicken me
Somewhat surprisingly, the Vatican’s unwelcome gesture was diametrically at odds with what President Obama signaled in an interview with the news outlet Al Arabiya.
With the newest Superman film, “Man of Steel,” set for release next week, it seems only fitting to look back at the two men who created the world’s most famous superhero.
My wife was called for jury duty when she was pregnant with our fourth child. Since her due date was looming, her doctor wrote a letter to the court, asking for an exemption. When I went to the courthouse office to deliver the letter, I was taken aback by how long the line was.
It’s being called a game changer. Everybody seems to be talking about the recently released Jewish Community Study of New York and its surprising findings regarding New York’s changing Jewish demography.
In March 1941 – nine months before the attack on Pearl Harbor impelled America to enter the Second World War – one colorful American hero already had joined the battle: Captain America.
As an Englishman living in New York, I’ve become rather ambivalent toward the Royal Family over the years. The latest scandal rocking Buckingham Palace hasn’t changed my attitude.
Throughout our history, the survival of the Jewish people has depended upon the courage of Jewish women. With their unassuming femininity and modest morality – not to mention their wills of steel – they have led us by the power of their personal example for thousands of years.
For days after the Al Smith Memorial Dinner, held in mid-October at the Waldorf Astoria, the media buzzed with clips of presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama delivering hilarious routines that put many professional comedians to shame.
The release of the new Batman movie, “The Dark Knight,” will inevitably be overshadowed by the untimely death of one of its stars, Health Ledger, who played the Joker. The talented young actor (who actually lived a few blocks from me) had devoted himself to creating an original, multifaceted portrayal of the iconic character, arguably the most compelling villain in the Batman canon.
Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/why-is-this-night-different/2007/04/02/
Scan this QR code to visit this page online: