Jewish Superhero Carrie Fisher Dies During Hanukkah. Oy vey, what a year. I admit it – one of my first thoughts was can’t 2016 just be over already? My second thought was, “What about the next Star Wars movie.” Lets dispense with the second thought first. They already filmed episode 8, so we’ll see the General again. But seriously, someone died, and I’m worried about a movie? We think all kinds of things. The reason why I know about Carrie Fisher is because of Star Wars. So I guess it shouldn’t be surprising that I have that kind of mental association.
I feel like I’m channeling the Jewish Forward, calling out Carrie Fisher as Jewish in the headline. Her father was Jewish, and so according to the ruling of the Union of Reform Judaism, she is Jewish from her father’s side. Others would say she isn’t Jewish because her mother wasn’t. I won’t get into that debate here. I consider her a Jewish Superhero because of the way she lived her life. She was an outspoken advocate for the mentally ill. Fisher told the truth, and her openness and example helped combat the stigma that goes with mental illness and addiction recovery. The Vilna Gaon, a famous Lithuanian Rabbi of the 19th century, taught that the greater the person, the greater the evil inclination. She was a larger than life character, whose great appetites and passions were her greatest strengths and weaknesses.
I find it particularly poignant that Fisher died during Hanukkah. An upcoming documentary about Fisher and her mother Debbie Reynolds is called “Bright Lights.” Many describe her as fearless, and unflinchingly honest about her own shortcomings. While I doubt Fisher ever heard of Mussar, I think she would have loved it. Those of us who practice Mussar are trained to be open about our journey, honest about our shortcomings, while at the same time working every day to make small improvements. Here are a few soul traits that I see in Ms. Fisher’s life
One soul trait I think about in particular is Humility – Carrie Fisher occupied a lot of space. She was famous from the time she was born. She worked hard, and applied her talents to be a successful actress and a great writer. In an era were people are famous for being famous, she delivered value added content to the world. Moreover, she used her fame as a platform for social good. I particularly admire the way she took on Twitter trolls commenting on how poorly she had aged in Episode Seven. To paraphrase- “I was 19 when Star Wars was filmed. Of course I look older. Get a life.”
I also think about Enthusiasm, because Carrie Fisher was one to take action. Enthusiasm is about taking action, and it seems like she was proactive about taking on the world. Which brings me back to where I started this post.
My first reaction to Fisher’s death was “can’t 2016 be over already?” So many famous people died. I’ve had serious illness in my family. And I am in the majority of Americans who voted for one candidate, but will see the candidate who got fewer votes go on to be the president. It was distressing. But to wish 2016 away is off base. If we could somehow magically jump ahead to January 1st, 2017, we’d never get those last few days back.As I’ll write in my New Years post, 2016 was also a year of wonder. Who knows what great things will happen over the next few days. Not the least of which will be my birthday. You don’t want the world to skip past my birthday, do you?
There is always light – sometimes we have to work just a bit harder to find it. Carrie Fisher’s career started with a movie we now call A New Hope. It was a time of darkness, yet a small group of good people called upon a mystical Force to help right the course of history. Kind of like a story from a few thousand years ago, when a small group of Jews called the Maccabees used their Faith as a rallying cry to defeat a vastly superior occupying army. Today we celebrate the Hanukkah miracles.
Hanukkah means dedication. I don’t think it is an accident that the last night of Hanukkah begins on December 31st. To what will you dedicate yourself in 2017? Lets use the next few days to contemplate and prepare ourselves.
Comment below and I’ll use your feedback in my New Years post.
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Image credit: By Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ, United States of America (Carrie Fisher) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons