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Superman, Christopher Reeve and … Passover!

Published on Tuesday June 1st, 2021

Millions of admirers have known him as the legendary "Iron Man", able to uproot cliffs and lift buildings, but one day Christopher Reeve woke up and found that he was not even able to chase away a fly. What could he do now?

For millions of fans, the American movie star Christopher Reeve is "Superman", the legendary hero of planet Krypton, who fought against villains and saved the world from various disasters that threatened it. As part of his role as a movie star, Reeve was super powerful, he lifted buildings, saved planes, uprooted mountains, stopped bullets, and in an unforgettable scene, reversed the entire earth globe in order to annihilate the evil plan of his enemy.

But one day, Christopher Reeve got injured in a horse-riding accident, leaving him a quadriplegic, paralyzed from the shoulders down. The all-powerful "man of steel" who, the day before, still aroused the admiration of millions of spectators, realized with a shock that he could not even move a finger. The artificial-eyed hero, who rubbed shoulders with criminals and crooks, was no longer able to chase an annoying fly from his forehead.

In an interview he gave to the press, Reeve said that after opening his eyes after the accident and finding out the physical condition he was in, his initial reaction consisted in wanting to commit suicide. "I thought that in such circumstances life was not worth living. From a man full of energy and initiative, I had become in an instant a prisoner locked up in my body. I could not accept the idea that my life would look like this from now and forever."

But the paralysis that affected Reeve also prevented him from committing suicide. Despite himself, he was forced to live, and the more time passed, the more he thought of the positive things he could do, regardless of his terrible paralysis. Reeve decided to channel his personal history, reputation, and accumulated prestige as an actor and director, to advance research in the field of spinal injury. He had the privilege of living another nine years in which he raised millions of dollars, which undoubtedly favored the discovery of advanced treatments for people suffering from spinal injuries. Some claim that it was precisely at that time, after the terrible horse-riding accident, that the real Superman was born ...

Each year, getting closer to Passover holiday reminds me of Christopher Reeve's story.

Passover is the holiday of freedom – but what kind of freedom is it about? What are its components? Does freedom mean the unrestricted possibility to do "everything I want to"? Can freedom be measured with external parameters, and our freedom and limit opposing concepts? Is it really possible to decide from the outside if someone is a slave or a free person?

Passover teaches us that freedom is ultimately an internal affair. Sometimes someone may seem free, free from all constraints, but be in fact a slave, a prisoner of his own existence. He can be a slave to his overwhelming impulses, enslaved to various addictions, bad habits, bad personality traits. He thinks he is free, but this illusion only accentuates the tragedy in which he lives. On the other hand, a man can be extremely limited, be a quadriplegic, have his whole body paralyzed like Christopher Reeve, and still be free to choose to do the best he can in the situation he is in.

The Torah teaches a man to yearn for true freedom. Not a superficial freedom, which is the mask of deep internal slavery, but profound freedom that frees the soul within man to let it fulfill its spiritual potential and reach extremely high levels.

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