The Jewish James Bond

Photo Credit-Mark Wildes
Photo Credit-Mark Wildes

Daniel Craig’s last appearance as James Bond can be seen beginning this Friday in theaters in “No Time To Die.” Whether it’s Daniel Craig, Sean Connery, or Roger Moore, one thing I’ve always liked about the 007 films is the opening sequence where we see an eye and Bond shoots it.  I’m not a fan of violence, or how women are often depicted in these films, but there is something powerful about focusing on a problem and attacking it head-on without hesitation or procrastination.

Unless you’re a police officer, fireman, physician, or 007 you will not likely be called upon to save another person’s life, but how often does a friend, colleague or a stranger on the street need our help, but we’re just too consumed with our own issues to respond? There’s something very heroic about saving someone else’s life in a moment of great drama. It’s the stuff of movies, but the truth is anyone can be a James Bond for someone else by simply being there for a friend or for someone in need.

Jewish tradition teaches that one should never pass up a chance to do a mitzvah. It’s the reason, for example, why we don’t invite people to a Bris celebration, but instead merely inform our friends and relatives of the event. This is because we don’t want to put the invitee in the position of having to “pass over a mitzvah” if, for whatever legitimate reason, they can’t make it.  We don’t let spiritual opportunities pass us by but rather we are called to step forward to act: “In a place where there are no men, be a man.” – goes the famous rabbinic adage (Ethics of our Fathers 2:6). If you’re in the position to help someone, don’t hesitate, step forward and do your part. If your friend just lost their job, help them network for a new one. If a colleague contracted Covid (even after being doubly vaccinated), show you care by sending her a meal.  Don’t let the mitzvah pass you by! And if your friend is alone on a Friday night, invite them to join you for Shabbat Dinner.  (I have a great place you can bring them).

Finally, to truly apply “In a place where there are no men, be a man” – stand up for Israel. I recently saw a post where someone spoke up in Israel’s defense and other people who might have been fearful to do so, joined in after that person made the strong statement. We may think of this as something small, but this too is heroic. This is why on Shabbat evening October 22, MJE will welcome Mexican-born Israeli activist Adela Cojab – to speak about her successful fight against BDS on a college campus.

You don’t need to be on a Hollywood movie set to make a difference. We get that chance every day on campus or on social media. Or when it comes to our family, we can be a hero by being there for our parents, a hero to our friends by setting them up on a date, and a hero to our fellow Jew by introducing them to Jewish life and our vibrant community.

In some of the Bond films, the drama builds when 007 has to dismantle a bomb.  Such is life. There are potentially explosive things we all need to diffuse. We get overwhelmed by the pressure of the everyday grind – our jobs, meeting someone, staying ahead of the curve. But within that day-to-day pressure, we’re presented with opportunities to be a hero. You don’t have to don a tuxedo, jump out of an airplane or ski the alps while fighting off the bad guys. You just have to seize those opportunities and act with a sense of purpose for someone in need and take an active part in building the Jewish community.
Shaken, not stirred.

Thanks to Alan Zeitlin and Rabbi Ezra Cohen for their contribution to this blog.

About the Author
Rabbi Mark Wildes, known as The Urban Millennials' Rabbi, founded Manhattan Jewish Experience (MJE) in 1998. Since then, he has become one of America’s most inspirational and dynamic Jewish educators. Rabbi Wildes holds a BA in Psychology from Yeshiva University, a JD from the Cardozo School of Law, a Masters in International Affairs from Columbia University and was ordained from Yeshiva University. Rabbi Mark & his wife Jill and their children Yosef, Ezra, Judah and Avigayil live on the Upper West Side where they maintain a warm and welcoming home for all.
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