“He’s the hero Gotham deserves,” says Police Lieutenant James Gordon of Batman at the end of the morally compelling “Batman: The Dark Knight“.
Shimshon, like the Dark Knight, is more antihero than hero. The hero the Jewish people deserve at this point in their history can perhaps best be summed up with the word ‘childish’. When he sees something he wants, he goes to Mom and Dad to demand they get it for him, giving only the explanation ‘because that’s what I want.” When he is defeated in his riddle game, because of his own inability to keep a secret, he throws a tantrum, and leaves in a huff. But when he calms down, he returns, demanding back the prize he had abandoned. When he doesn’t get what he wants, again, a violent tantrum. Like a child, his tantrums are completely out of proportion to the problems that cause them. “I’m so thirsty,” he cries out to God, “you might as well just kill me!”
Why do the Jews deserve this? The childish cycle of impulsive demands which require immediate gratification echoes their own childish relationship with God throughout the book of Shoftim. When things are bad, they cry. But when they’re good again, they don’t learn their lesson, quickly returning to the behaviors that brought on their troubles in the first place. When this pattern of behavior has become so entrenched that it trickles up to the leadership meant to guide us beyond it, we can know we’re nearing the tragic end.
This blog offers a short reflection on a chapter of Tanach, following the program of daily study of the 929 project. Learn more about the project at 929.org.il