Monday, March 26, 2018

The Four Children of Metropolis

Four times the Torah tells us to teach our children about the redemption from Egypt, and from this comes a midrash that there must be four types of children who each learn in a different way. That midrash has become part of the Haggadah; every year we talk about these four types of children: the Wise One, the Wicked One, the Simple One and The One Who Does Not Know How to Ask.

Today that sounds like an internet quiz: “Answer these four questions and we can tell you which child from the Haggadah you are!”

Pop culture can give us new ways to connect to our tradition. The main characters in Superman, when taken together, can give us new insight into the four types of learners that our midrash teaches about.

The Wise One
Lois Lane is the wise child. She is an investigative reporter, whose job requires a depth of knowledge and ability beyond the average citizen… but which also requires her to constantly ask questions in hopes of finding deeper meaning. Lois wants more – she actively seeks out knowledge, and she wants to share it with others. She knows so much about the world; what can we tell Lois that will add to her understanding of the Passover story?

The Wicked One
Lex Luthor is one of the smartest people in Metropolis, but as with any villain he makes everything about himself. “What does this have to do with me? Why should I care?” He fears what Superman brings to the world, and sees himself as better than everyone else. What can we tell Lex to help him understand that he is a part of the story, but not its center? How do we help him connect to something bigger than himself?

The Simple One
Superman is a stranger among us. No matter how much he learns about Earth and the humans who inhabit it, he always struggles to understand the strange world he landed in as a baby. He wants to understand what it is to be human, and how he can be a part of our story, but he doesn’t always see how he fits. How can we tell him our story in such a way that he will understand, and find his place within it?

The One Who Doesn’t Know How to Ask
Jimmy Olsen is always just trying to keep up. When something happens he’s right by Lois’s side with his camera, ready to point it at whatever’s happening to capture it, but he doesn’t understand what it all means. He’s easily distracted, and a bit of a goofball. He is willing, but needs our guidance. How we do we give him the tools to engage with the story? How do we help him to learn how to use his voice to ask questions and seek answers?

There are, of course, many other people living in Metropolis. Who would you pick as each of the four children?

[Written with my wife, Rabbi Shawna Brynjegard-Bialik]

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Do Not Stand Idly By

Wonder Woman + Barbara Kruger = "Do Not Stand Idly By"

Leviticus 19:16 tells us, "Do not stand idly by while your neighbor's blood is shed." We can't continue to look away – to do nothing while children are being killed by gun violence.

I'm not going to outline all of the reasons to support sensible gun laws and regulation – if you're with me, you get it – and if you're not, I'm not sure my blog is going to change your mind. But I can't do nothing – and so I've made this poster. The image is from Sensation Comics #1 (January 1942, drawn by Harry G. Peter), and the design is an homage to Barbara Kruger.

I've done this in a few different sizes and have PDFs available here for you to download and print and share and make into posters and whatever you want to do with it – just get the message out there. Want to use it in your school protest? Walkout? At a family picnic? At Passover seder? Go for it.