September 30, 2011

“Xena” and the Power of Repentance

Posted in Judaism, Pop Culture at 7:08 pm by chavalah

Xena: Warrior Princess as played by Lucy Lawless

When I arrived late to Rosh Hashanah (Day Two) services today, barely in time to hear Rabbi Steinlauf’s new year’s sermon at Adas Israel, I didn’t think that I’d be moved to write my monthly blog entry on “Xena: Warrior Princess.”  …even if I did stay up too late last night, re-watching old episodes. 😛

I’ve been joking that missing Rosh Hashanah (Day One) services yesterday would be my last sin before Yom Kippur.  It helps keep some of the guilt at bay.  Instead of attending High Holidays I went to my new job and my new school program.  In a lot of ways I feel prepped for Rosh Hashanah this year.  My life is full of motifs of new beginnings (see above) and new endings.  Right now I’m struggling with the loss of a community that sustained me for six years, and the changing relationships with my friends within that group.  I’m also still in the year of mourning for my grandmother, Fraida bat Reuven, who died last March, may her memory be for a blessing.  Rosh Hashanah teaches me to remember the old, but to embrace the new.  It’s a message of faith that is somewhat alien to me, but that I want to aspire to.

Yom Kippur asks me to take a critical look at my past and to atone for my sins, something with which I have a little more affinity.  But the message is that through repentance, you can come out clean on the other side.

“Xena: Warrior Princess” revolves around a focal character who longs to repent for a long and bloody history as a warlord.  She accomplishes this through what Jews might call teshuvah, or action.  She retains her fighting ways, but she puts them to use in defending the innocent.

In the beginning she doesn’t have much faith that she’ll be forgiven.  She’s cynical, and she does these things basically because she sees them as the right thing to do. It is when she finds community, through quirky characters like Hercules, Salmoneos, Atolycus, Joxer the Mighty and most especially Gabrielle, her erstwhile friend turned besheret, or soul mate, that she regains hope for her soul.  This is the way it is in Judaism as well.  We have no Catholic confessionals from which to confess our sins alone and in private.  Jews atone as a group, called by the shofar to stand with each other and to take responsibility for one another.

At the end of the series Xena is literally able to transcend to a new plane of consciousness, which I suppose, on a less fantastical level, is the purpose of the High Holy Days.  Who will be written  off and who will be inscribed in the Book of Life?, we ask.  Who will fall prey to their past mistakes and who will learn from them and be lifted up to something better?  Like with Xena, who spent at least half of her life instilling terror across the world, it is never too late to atone.

Stay tuned next time for the Jewish/sci-fi cross-over when I discuss “Farscape”’s John Crichton’s quest for home and how it relates to the Passover story! 😉  L’shanah tovah—happy new year to all of my Jewish family, and may we all be inscribed in the Book of Life.

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