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What do Queen Esther and Spider-Man Have in Common?

What do Queen Esther and Spider-Man have in common, you may be wondering (or maybe you aren’t wondering, but I am!).  In this month when we celebrate the craziest Jewish holiday, Purim, it’s a good time to be thinking about superheroes and how they use their superpowers for good in the world.

In the delightful new Academy Award winning Spider-Man movie, Spider-Man:  Into the Spiderverse, there’s an inventive new plot where there are multiple universes in which different Spider-Men exist.  A charming new, young, African American Latino Spider-Man is introduced, and appears alongside the original Spider-Man, Peter B. Parker.  The Spider-Man comic, created by the Jewish writer, Stan Lee, has had enduring power, perhaps because it tells the story of a normal, everyday guy who gets bitten by a spider and is transformed into someone with superpowers.  Thrust into challenging and life-threatening situations, Spider-Man must grow into his new powers and use them to save the world, time and again.

In this new movie, Peter Parker has a split-second flashback to his younger life, where we see him standing under a Huppah with his bride Mary-Jane, breaking a glass.  If you blink, you miss it.  But if you catch it, you suddenly realize the amazing truth that Spider-Man is JEWISH!  Let’s just take a moment to kvell.
Our Purim Megillah tells the story of another Jewish superhero.  Esther, a young woman who starts out with only natural beauty as her superpower, is chosen by the king to be his new wife after he dismisses Vashti.  Esther’s Jewish identity is well hidden under the radar and even when Haman threatens to kill all the Jews, she’s reluctant to reveal her identity.  It’s only after her uncle, Achashverosh, goads her by saying: “Do not imagine that you, of all the Jews, will escape with your life by being in the king’s palace.  On the contrary, if you keep silent in this crisis, relief and deliverance will come to the Jews from another quarter, while you and your father’s house will perish.  And who knows, maybe you have attained to royal position for just such a crisis.”
Like Peter Parker, Queen Esther realizes that her new status requires her to take risks to save herself and others – risks she may have never wanted or chosen to take.  But once she is convinced, Queen Esther rises to greatness and gambles her life by revealing her true Jewish identity to the mercurial king.  In so doing, she not only saves her life, but the life of her entire people.

Now we that know what Queen Esther and Spider-Man have in common, the question for us is what do we have in common with these superheroes?  The truth is that all of us have hidden powers we may rarely tap into – the power to defend someone who is being marginalized or ridiculed, the power to let people you care about know how much they matter to you, the power to share your talents, wealth or time with those in need.  We will probably never be bitten by a radioactive spider or marry into royalty, but we might nevertheless let our Jewish soul be our superpower for doing good in the world.

Join us on Wednesday, March 20th for our Poppins Palooza!  Who knows, maybe Mary Poppins will turn out to be Jewish, too!

Sat, September 30 2023 15 Tishrei 5784