Tuesday, March 7, 2017

"I Tried to Write a Drash On Harry Potter": Harry Potter and the Sacred Text

I struggled with how to approach this topic because in my mind, Harry Potter and the Torah are both sacred books, but I know that many people would disagree with me putting a book series, supposedly intended for children, on the same plane as a set of texts that is approximately 2000 years old. As such, I will start with this disclaimer: I am a deeply religious person; however, I do not believe that God Godself wrote the Five Books of Moses. I agree with the majority of biblical scholars that the Torah is a conglomeration of literary works by different human authors over a period of time.

This being said, I was inspired by a recent episode of Harry Potter and the Sacred Text to approach a chapter of Harry Potter like I would approach a parsha (section) in the Torah (Old Testament): as if I was going to write a speech, a drash looking more carefully into a piece of text, on it, so I went step by step.

To start, I had my friend choose a random chapter from one of the books for me, just as if I was given whichever parsha was on the calendar for this week. We came up with Book Five, Chapter 17. Then, I proceeded to read the chapter and write down quotes that resonated with me and find themes that I thought I could talk about. Then, I waited for inspiration, as I do most weeks that I write a D'var Torah, and I came up with a few themes and quotes and then began to write.

A lot of Book 5 is about secrets. There are secrets related to the prophecy, secret Defense Against the Dark Arts groups and many more, and while this chapter is mostly about the founding of Dumbledore's Army and the dangers of Umbridge finding out about it, but I want to focus on two moments that aren't directly related to this topic. The first is when Neville got angry at Malfoy because he brought up the topic of St. Mungo's. It is a secret at this point that Neville's parents are in St. Mungo's after being driven to insanity by Bellatrix Lestrange. Neville holds this darkness inside because he is ashamed of them. This secret is kept because of shame. Mental illness really isn't talked about in the Wizarding World, and I personally don't think that it's talked about enough in our own society. Neville's parents didn't do anything wrong. In fact, they were actually doing something heroic  when they were attacked. In addition, while not in this chapter, Harry's PTSD is present in most of Book 5. While this may be obvious to some, it is not talked about nearly enough. It is harmful to those of us struggling with mental illness for it not to be talked about. And that's what I think we should take away from this parsha, oh wait, chapter.

Honestly, I think that sacred text is about learning from the text. Additionally, faith, rigor, and community are what make a text sacred (thank you Harry Potter and the Sacred Text), which will be addressed more specifically in my next blog post.

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