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M. Evan Wolkenstein

Yoda Was My First Rabbi

The wise and powerful master of the Force raises his hand, focuses, and commands the tree trunk to lift into the air, the waters of the river to flow backwards, the stones to shift as if weightless. And because of who I am, even though the force master here is Rabbi Eliezer and the story takes place in the Talmud, there’s a soundtrack: John William’s ethereal Yoda’s Theme.

I’m a Jewish educator. My students read from the book of Exodus, Judges, Samuel I. We also watch Black Mirror, The Matrix, and obviously, Star Wars. I’m a child of the 70’s and 80s. My first cinematic thrills were X-Wings and At-Ats. I forward pieces like Who Said It: Yoda or Jewish Sage to my rabbinic friends. I barely skimmed “From Jediism to Judaism” because yes, I already know that Yoda’s name is a permutation of the Hebrew “Yada”—he knew, and that Yoda’s statement, “You must pass on what you have learned” is prefigured by the Rabbinic line “All your children shall be taught about the Force, and great shall be the peace of your children.” Okay, so I took some liberties with translation. I’m allowed to: I’m a Torah nerd. But long before that, I was a Star Wars nerd.

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