George Lucas has rereleased the original Star Wars trilogy several times over the years. And in 1997 he started to make changes, most infamous of which is known as Greedo Shoots First.
You see in all versions of the film, Han Solo is at the famous Cantina bar in Mos Eisley, when he is confronted (at gun point) by the bounty hunter Greedo. As Han tries to talk his way out of his abduction, he slowly reaches for his gun. In the original cut, Han, with the quick draw, pulls out his gun, fires, leaves Greedo dead, and casually walks out of the Cantina. However, George Lucas digitally changed the film in 1997 so now Greedo fires his blaster at Han Solo first, misses, and Han shoots subsequently. Watch below if you want to see for yourself.
Now I know it looks like they shot at the same time in the second version. That’s from the 2004 version where Lucas changed it even more. Needless to say, the change has sparked hot debate among Star Wars fans everywhere. “Han was so much cooler in the original.” “No! That makes Han a cold blooded killer.” “Lucas is just trying to make Star Wars more kid-friendly” and so on. And we can debate about what makes good film all day long, but we’re here to learn…
Which version of the movie would the Torah say is right?
So this week’s parsha, deviates from the narrative of the Jewish people and starts listing several laws (halacha) concerning monetary compensation. Among said halacha is the following:
If a thief is found [caught] while breaking in, and is struck and killed, there is no liability for his blood. If the sun shone on him, there is liability for his blood. Shemos 22:1-2
So if a thief breaks into your house, you have the right to kill him (unless the sun is shining on him? We’ll get to that later.) This is where we get the concept of self defense. Rashi derives from this passage the Torah is teaching that if you know someone is coming to kill you, you should get up early and kill him first! Now I’m sure you’re thinking….
But Ben, the guy is breaking into your house, there’s no evidence he had an intent to kill you. Killing him would be a disproportionate response!
Now we go back to that second line, If the sun shone on him there is liability for his blood. Are we going by vampire rules here? What’s with the sun shinning? Rashi says that this is nothing more than an analogy and we’re talking about clarity vs doubt. If it is 100% clear that the intruder has no intention of killing you, you do not have the right to kill him. But it’s almost impossible to know that (unless, say it’s your father robbing you.)
By breaking into your house, the intruder has made the decision to put himself into a situation where if he gets caught, he’s going to fight like hell to get out of said situation. When you spot him, there’s a reasonable chance “fight like hell” could lead to him killing you. Because of that possibility one has to prepare for the worst case scenario (as if he will kill you). Hence you have the right to defend yourself even if the intruder hasn’t explicitly threatened you.
Back to the important matter, Star Wars.
So did Greedo put himself into that classification of decision that the intruder breaking into the house is in? Well, as you can clearly see from the video above, Greedo’s gun is out and pointed squarely at Han’s chest. Now Greedo is a bounty hunter. The gun is an extension of his job and he may be within his rights to pull said gun on a criminal (or someone owing money to whoever hired said bounty hunter). So Greedo’s not guilty yet. There might still be “liability for his blood.” That’s assuming that Greedo is working for legitimate law enforcement or that Han’s crime deserved the death penalty. But since we will come to know that is not the case, we could argue from this point Han is justified in killing Greedo.
Han tries to plead his case to Greedo, saying he has the money for Jabba. But then Greedo extorts Han saying, “then give it to me and I might forget I found you.” Now Greedo has crossed the line into armed robbery. At this point Han definitely has the right to kill Greedo. (I’ll point out that after this line is when Han reaches for his gun.)
But Greedo doesn’t stop there. He says Jabba will take Han’s ship, the Millennium Falcon. Han declares, “over my dead body.” And Greedo responds, “That’s the idea. I’ve been looking forward to this for a long time.” Now we are 100% sure of Greedo’s intention to kill Han and there’s no doubt of Han’s justification. The original version of the film is the winner!
They say the answer to everything can be found in the Torah. And though I’ve still got quite a few unanswered questions, I have to admit that having a Torah perspective does give a clarity for moral dilemmas and other cinematic controversies.
May the Source be with you.
(Does that motto sound forced to anyone else?)