Plutos got heart its a Jewish kind of place

Doing its own orbital hora out there 3 billion miles from Earth, the dwarf planet Pluto is a very Jewish place. Not that Chabad plans on opening a shul there anytime soon, but considering its size, journey and status, Pluto has a lot in common with the Jewish people.

First, there was the humiliation. Some people are always trying to cut us down to size, and could you blame me for feeling bad in 2006 when Pluto, the planet of my youth, was downsized to a mere dwarf planet?

Like some Spanish king, the scientific authorities suddenly changed the rules, passed a decree and excluded Pluto from the solar system. How could we not help but identify?

Pluto and the Jews have much in common.

In truth, we are a small people (unless you don’t like us, and then we loom very large, like an object seen in a powerful telescope). But we have not let our size alter our course of trying to repair and improve things when we can.

Then, there is Pluto’s path through space. Like Jews, Pluto follows a different path, out of whack with the ecliptic, or plane of travel, of the bigger planets.

Pluto, in its 248 Earth-year orbit around the sun, travels in an elliptical orbit, about 17 degrees off the plane of the rest of the planets. Many Jews, as a tiny minority, tend to feel a bit off the ecliptic too.

Now, the New Horizons spacecraft has phoned home with new pictures after a flyby of my favorite “planet.” And we can see, like Israel after the Six-Day War, how something small can assume a place of respect outside of the usual orbits.

Sure, Pluto is small. Scientists have now found it to be only 1,473 miles in diameter. (In comparison, the moon’s diameter is 2,159 miles.) But it has heart, and a big one. In fact, in the new photos, a bright feature on the surface called the “heart” is estimated to be 1,000 miles wide. “Three billion miles away, Pluto has sent a ‘love note’ back to Earth,” began a news story on the NASA website.

Jews, of course, have a lot of heart too. We help build hospitals, and museums, and many of us are teachers and healers and social workers, but sometimes we feel that even with a heart 1,000 miles wide, some would still not see it.

From the Pluto flyby, we can see that what we once only knew as a featureless, gray blob actually has a landscape of varied geography, with an abundance of icy mountains as high as 11,000 feet, and surprisingly, considering Pluto’s age of over 4.5 billion years, no craters. It’s learned how to survive — a skill we all can appreciate.

Back on Earth, where our mission seems to be more abut throwing rocks at each other, it’s good to know, especially for Jews who around the world are experiencing increases in anti-Semitism, that perceptions can change.

What was for generations seen as a distant, cold, out-of-step rock can now be seen as a place drawn closer, with features like our own home, and a heart, even if it just reminds us that we all have one. 

Edmon J. Rodman
is a columnist who writes on Jewish life from Los Angeles. For more Rodman, visit his blog “Guide for the Jewplexed” at

Edmon Rodman
Edmon J. Rodman

Edmon J. Rodman writes about Jewish life from his home in Los Angeles and is the author of the weekly Guide for the Jewplexed on Contact him at [email protected].