Herbert J. Cohen
Herbert J. Cohen

Kosher Movies: NoTime To Die

For the past several years, Daniel Craig has played James Bond. No Time to Die is his last outing as the great super spy, and the film has been anticipated for a long time since the COVID epidemic postponed its original release date for over a year. I am happy to report to James Bond fans that it was worth the wait.

Daniel Craig is not the conventional action hero. His craggy face reflects the solid demeanor of the ordinary man, and that may be why his run as James Bond has been so successful. Even though he possesses extraordinary skills, the average man can easily identify with him. He is not the Marvel superhero who has superhuman powers. He looks like us, and he is us as the hero.

What is the definition of a hero? The head of the British Secret Service says that a hero is someone who makes a positive difference in the world: “The function of man is to live, not to exist. The hero says, I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them. I shall use my time.” A hero sees beyond himself and wants to make a difference. Indeed, a hero’s action can determine his destiny and the destiny of the world, and this is what James Bond believes. He is an actor in the drama of civilization’s survival.

The plot, like most James Bond movies, involves a madman intent on destroying the world. The film opens with an assassination of the mother of young Madeleine Swann by Lyutsifer Safin. We see Madeleine many years later in Matera with James Bond who is still mourning the loss of Vesper Lynd, his last great love. When he visits her tomb to bid farewell to her for the final time in light of his new love for Madeleine, he is attacked by assassins and nearly killed. He escapes as usual, but feels that Madeleine has betrayed him because no one knew of his presence at Vesper’s tomb but her.

Five years later, we witness the kidnapping of scientist Valdo Obruchev from an MI6 laboratory. Obruchev has been working on “Project Heracles,” a biological weapon using nanobots to infect people like a virus upon touch. The nanobots are coded to an individual’s specific DNA, making it deadly to its targets but harmless to others. Bond is contacted by his old friend, CIA agent Felix Leiter, to help him track down Obruchev.

Eventually all roads lead Bond back to Madeleine to her childhood home in Norway where her mother was killed. It is here that Bond learns of the connection of Madeleine to the criminal organization Spectre, whose mastermind was Blofeld, a mad misanthrope hell-bent on destroying the world.

Blofeld, in fact, murdered the mother of Lyutsifer Safin, and now Safin wants revenge. Moreover, he now wants to implement his own plans for ruling the world, which involves killing millions of innocents. Needless to say, Bond comes to the rescue, placing the world’s survival over his own. It is a supremely selfless act in the face of overwhelming odds.

We cannot all be James Bond, but we can emulate his selfless ethos. Ruchama Feuerman, a Jewish educator, observes that we can be the ones that save the day, that stop the assailant, that dive into the waters to save the drowning man, and commandeer the plane from hijackers. We can all be brave and be the hero.

Feuerman mentions one way we can realize our hero potential: “Overcome obstacles. Persist, despite the odds stacked against you. How would you describe a tzaddik, a righteous person? King Solomon wrote in Proverbs (24:16), The tzaddik falls seven times and rises. The righteous person falls, but he gets up and tries again. And again. When others would throw up their hands, surrender, he or she keeps going.”

She then broadens her definition of a hero: “every time a mediocre student studies hard for a test, every time an athlete practices and struggles to improve his game, every time someone socially challenged tries to branch out and make new friends, that’s brave and heroic. Why? They’re refusing to lock themselves into a limited view of themselves. They’re willing to see greater possibility, their potential, even if means that they might fail. It takes courage and greatness to keep trying, to not surrender to the challenge or obstacle you face.”

Emuna Braverman, another Jewish educator, has a different, more nuanced take on what makes a hero: “Yes it’s heroic to rescue people from a burning building, to donate your kidney to a needy recipient, to shelter the homeless and teach the ignorant. But not all heroism occurs on such a grand scale. For some, getting out of bed each day requires heroic-sized willpower. For others, going consistently to a job they don’t love in order to support their family demonstrates bravery and determination.” Moreover, she states, “We can all be heroes. Every step of spiritual growth is part of the heroic struggle against darkness and evil. Our personal battle, our personal chance for glory. Let our children see that heroism is not a one-time stand; it’s a lifestyle.”

The lifestyle of James Bond is not “kosher” in any conventional sense, but his selflessness and persistence in the face of challenges to humanity’s survival is worthy of reflection.

About the Author
Originally from Mt. Vernon, New York, Herbert J. Cohen served in the pulpit rabbinate in Atlanta at the beginning of his career. After six years, he moved into the educational rabbinate and served for 23 years as Principal of Yeshiva High School of Atlanta. In 2010, he and his wife came on aliyah to Israel. His latest book, published by Urim Publishers, is "Kosher Movies: A Film Critic Discovers Life Lessons at the Cinema." He may be reached at rabbihjco@msn.com.
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