Thursday, September 8, 2011

Shanah Tova, Super Jews!

I hate seeing summer fade to fall. The days grow shorter, the temperature drops and blockbuster superhero movies vanish from the Cineplex in a, ahem, Flash.

Many people developed Superhero fatigue this summer, what with Thor, the Green Lantern, the X-Men and Captain America all battling for our movie-going bucks. But I have a 6-year-old son and a geek for a husband; so in my household there can never be too many square-jawed men saving the world in skin-tight outfits.

The other day, I was feeling glum about the changing of the movie seasons – fall always brings Serious Grownup Movies to the theatres (yawn), but Zev reminded me that I need not say goodbye to the Superboys of Summer. Just because Ryan Reynolds isn’t on every magazine cover in a glowing green bodysuit, doesn’t mean that superheroes can’t be seen all over the place. It just takes a little imagination. And a tallit.

“Look, Eema!” Zev shouted loudly as we passed a group of black-hatted Orthodox Jews walking down the streets with their overlong tallits blowing in the wind like capes. “They look like Super Jews!”

The gaggle of Orthodox men inspired Zev to design the perfect Super Jew. Some would argue that Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster already designed the perfect Super Jew when they came up with Superman in the 1930s. But Zev’s mind is faster than a speeding bullet, and I wasn’t about to slow him down:

“Their tallits are capes,” he began.

“Naturally,” I said.

“And those little curls,” he continued.

“You mean peyos?” I said.

“Yeah, the peyos can deflect lasers. Oh! And they can shoot lasers out of their tefillin!”

If the men in black hats could hear Zev, they certainly didn’t let on. What else would a Super Jew look like? I asked.

“He’d wear all Blue and White, like the Israeli flag, and he could have spikes on his head like Darth Maul. Except, the spikes would be in the shape of a Mogen David,” he said. (I know, I know. The world doesn’t need more horned-Jew imagery, and yes, Darth Maul is a Sith, not a Superhero. But I wasn’t going to quibble because, seriously, how cool is a Mogen David-headed Darth Maul?)

Eventually Zev moved on to some other pressing topic. But I ruminated on Super Jew for a while. If we distill our reasons for engaging in our religion (and, let’s face it, for most of us, this is the only time of year in which we do engage), it is to – kinda sorta – tap into our inner superheroes.

We may not don cod pieces for Yom Kippur, but for many of us this is the only time of year we put on a kippah – an article of clothing that draws as much attention as a facemask with bat ears. And why do we do it? Because it feels right. Because we want to do better and make the world a little better.

Taking the analogy further, it’s easy to see the Torah as headquarters, the thing we turn to to remind ourselves that we have a purpose on this planet. The minyan is our Justice League. And the shofar is, of course, our Bat-signal.

Every year we promise to be nicer to people. To worry less about the things that don’t matter and rail against the things that do. This year, with Zev’s brilliant imagery in mind, how great would it be if we got closer to attaining those goals?

No we can’t shoot lasers out of our tefillins. And, no, our tallits can’t help us fly. But imagine if we tried to model ourselves on the tights-clad saviors we watched all summer long. Imagine if we all vowed to spend less time acting as our mild-mannered alter egos and more time really being heroic, trying to do right in the world in whatever ways we could.

In the next few weeks, our communities will be teaming with suited men and women sporting billowing tallises and embarking on heroic quests to do good, seek justice and make amends with their fellow men.

What’s that, up in the sky? It’s a bird! It’s a plane! Actually, I have no idea what it is, but down here, at shul, I hope to see a legion of Super Jews.