This was one of the best pieces of dialogue I have yet heard on a television show; it's a conversation between Jack and Renee on the television show "24," the Season 7 series finale.
Jack: I can’t tell you what to do. I’ve been wrestling with this all my life. When I see fifteen people held hostage on a bus, everything else goes out the window, and I’ll do whatever it takes to save them and I mean whatever it takes. You know, maybe I thought, if I save them, I can save myself.
Renee: Do you regret anything that you did today?
Jack: No. But then again, I don’t work for the FBI.
Renee: I don’t understand.
Jack: You took an oath. You made a promise to uphold the law. You cross that line, it always starts off with a small step. Before you know it, you’re running as fast as you can in the wrong direction just to justify why you started in the first place. These laws were written by much smarter men than me. And in the end, I know that these laws have to be more important than the fifteen people on the bus, I know that’s right. In my mind, I know that’s right. But I just don’t think my heart could ever have lived with that. I guess the only advice I can give you is [intake of breath] try to make choices that you can live with.
Renee: I don’t know what to say.
Jack: [sad, meaningful look] Don’t say anything at all.
While this is beautiful in and of itself, as it shows the way that Jack wrestles with himself and with existing outside the law, I think this dialogue is a beautiful metaphor for many of us, whether as human beings or Jews. So much of Judaism consists of wrestling with oneself, with what one believes to be true as opposed to what one feels to be true. Of course, in this particular episode, where Jack is positioned against the President, who makes the painful choice to try her daughter in accordance with the law as opposed to protecting her from its full force, we see a different kind of heroism as well. The President sacrifices her marriage and family in order to try Olivia as opposed to destroying the incriminating recording; to do otherwise would be the worst sort of hypocrisy.
"But I just don't think my heart could ever have lived with that."
I think, many times, this is the struggle between the religious and non-religious Jew. The religious Jew is like the President, giving up her family, taking her daughter to be judged for murder as opposed to giving in to the human urge to protect her. Jack, on the other end of the spectrum, put the entire FBI operation into jeopardy when it came to him to protect his daughter, Kim. Granted, Kim did not kill anybody, and therefore was innocent, as opposed to Olivia, but this demonstrates their two different techniques and methods. I think, at least sometimes, those who choose to become non-religious do it because their heart can't live with being religious, in accordance with a law which seems cruel per our human standards.
And as for me? I see both Jack's side and the President's side, and I think there is heroism incumbent in both choices. Jack's heroism involves action where he is actually allowed to get the bad guys, while the President suffers privately, trying her daughter because it is right, and not because she morally disagrees with her (after all Jonas Hodges deserved death). I respect both sides and I always have. At times I find myself very torn; there is a lot that "my heart cannot live with" in Orthodox Judaism. And yet, I have never been as rash, hot-headed and action-oriented as Jack. Sometimes I break the rules, but most of the time I am like the President; it is a quieter kind of pain. I think a lot of our religiosity comes down to that- how much of us is made up of Jack, and how much of President Allison Taylor. There are those of us who work outside the law, but it is only our love that makes us do so, and then there are those of us who are bound and resigned to the law, although it tears us apart.