From Jediism to Judaism: Star Wars as Jewish Allegory
A look at some of the Jewish elements – coincidental or otherwise – of Star Wars.
A long time ago in a place far, far away…
It is a period of civil war. A new government has declared the practice of the old faith a crime punishable by death, disbanding an ancient order of sages and sending many into exile. Rebel fighters, striking from a hidden base, have won their first major victory against the evil Empire, stirring a spirit of defiance among the populace. Outarmed and vastly outnumbered, the ragtag band of rebels – aided by an all-powerful, all-permeating Force that binds together all life in the universe – remain the only hope for restoring peace and freedom to their people.
It’s one of the greatest epics known to mankind. No, not Star Wars. The above synopsis is actually the story of Hanukkah, the eight-day Jewish festival that commemorates a miraculous victory of Israelite insurgents against the tyrannical Seleucid Empire roughly 2,200 years ago.
With Star Wars Episode VII set to premiere in just a few short weeks, I got to thinking about how certain aspects of the Star Wars universe are eerily similar to the history, beliefs, and teachings of the Jews. Now George Lucas did not set out to create a fantasy universe full of Jewish references, but the connections are nevertheless there. So let’s put the “Han” back in Hanukkah (Harrison Ford, by the way, technically a member of the tribe) and look at some of the Jewish elements – coincidental or otherwise – of Star Wars.
A Galaxy of Hebrew Names
The heroes of the Star Wars series are members of a “rebel alliance,” basically Maccabees in outer space. It’s right there in the name: Jedi. The Hebrew letter yud is often anglicized as a “J,” and syllables occasionally get dropped in translation. Hence, a Biblical name like “Yehoshua” makes its way into English as “Joshua.” It’s not much of a stretch to see how “Jedi” can be derived the original Hebrew word for Jew, “Yehudi.”
Remember Luke Skywalker’s Jedirebbe, Grand Master Yoda? Is it just me, or is his peculiar syntax reminiscent of someone whose first language is Yiddish (“Yodish”)? More to the point, his name sounds a lot like “yada,” the Hebrew word meaning “to know.”1
And how about those Skywalkers? Luke Skywalker might sound like a gentile name, but that name was clearly chosen to alliterate with his twin sister Leia (Leah). Also keep in mind that their parents were an interfaith couple. The
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