Archive | July, 2007

Potter, Paltry?

31 Jul

“Put aside the paltry contents and the moral of the book,” Avraham Ravitz, a Member of Knesset from the United Torah Judaism, said in a statement.”But the intention by booksellers to hold this party while blatantly violating the Sabbath is doubly sinful,” he raged.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Book 7)I have a confession – I don’t read Harry Potter books (although my son Yoni is well into the seventh and final book in the series – “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows”).  I don’t dismiss the books because of their content, but simply because of their weight and length – those books are big and long! 

I am happy to follow the story via the movies (I know, I know, the books are much better!) Having just thoroughly enjoyed the fourth Harry Potter movie last night, I thought I would take a moment to consider what it is that draws me to the stories, and what it is that has lead certain Jews, like MK Ravitz, to speak out against them.

 I have to admit, the Friday night debut of the latest book was unfortunate for Jews who care about strict Shabbat observance.  My son had ordered the book ahead of time, and was perfectly happy to pick it up at the book store first thing Sunday morning.  It would have been nice to feel that we in the State of Israel could wait those few additonal hours.  However, given that the vast majority of the Jews who do live in the State of Israel today are not strictly observant of Shabbat, and many stores, restaurants, and attractions are open on Shabbat, then I don’t see why the MK’s needed to make any bigger a stink about this occasion. Seems like it was just an excuse to express further sinat chinam during the week right before Tisha B’av – but, that’s water under the bridge, and not really the issue I want to address.

Next week, in Parashat Re’eh, we will read of the warning: Beware of being lured into their ways.” (Deuteronomy 12:30) This prohibiton on mimicking the ways of the other nations has been extended throughout our history to disallow us from all sorts of behavior – be it our language, our dress, our music, our artwork, etc.  We have been determined not to follow in “their ways,” concerned that doing so will take us a step closer to becoming just like them – relinquishing our special ways and unique mission.

That’s fair – I understand that concern – I think most Jews can understand that. However, to say that the Harry Potter saga has paltry contents and lacks in terms of its overall message is to clearly disclose that one has no idea of what one is talking about!

Have you heard about the Harry Potter Alliance? (

The Harry Potter Alliance, founded by 28 year-old Anrdew Slack, is a mostly online social action group that urges Harry Potter fans to “to spread love, the greatest form of magic, and fight the Dark Arts in the real world, using Harry and Albus Dumbledore as inspiration.”

In the past, the group has tackled issues like global warming (“denying global warming is like denying Voldemort’s return”), the seal hunt in Canada (“we are responsible for the care of magical creatures”) and Wal-Mart’s practices, the latter through a YouTube video called “Harry Potter and the Dark Lord Waldemart.”

In fact, it has been suggested that the story of Harry Potter is the story of the Jewish people.  Rabbi Jack Abramowitz of the Orthodox Union wrote:

Harry is Jewish. His parents died so that he might survive and carry on their legacy. Voldemort isn’t an evil wizard, but he does represent the forces of evil. He is Egyptian slavery. He is the Syrian-Greeks. He is Haman. He is the Roman persecution. He is the Spanish Inquisition. He is pogroms and Crusades and the Holocaust and the Intifada. He thought he had destroyed the Potter family, but you know what? They survived in Harry, much the same way the Jewish people lives on in you.


Maybe if someone translates the series into Yiddish, changes Harry’s name to Hershel, and relocates the story to Brooklyn, then certain skeptics out there might be surprised to find out that Jewish inspiration can come from many different places.