Off the Pulpit

A True Hero

In 1930 Winston Churchill asked, “Can a nation remain healthy, can all nations draw together, in a world whose brightest stars are film stars?” That question is far more cogent today than it was when Churchill first asked. We are a culture that lionizes people who create clever mini-videos or run faster than the person next to them. Skill is confused with character, and children revere people who, whatever their gifts, are not role models.

Athletes and singers exist in the Torah as well. There is a great physical prodigy the Torah, his name is Samson. But he becomes a hero only when his spiritual stature matches his strength. There is a woman whose singing draws an entire nation into song. Her name is Miriam, and her song exalts not appetite, but God.

The Rabbis advise us that a hero is one who can conquer himself. Heroism is shaped by accomplishment and moral force. Historian Daniel Boorstin writes: “The hero was distinguished by his achievement; the celebrity by his image or trademark. The hero created himself; the celebrity is created by the media. The hero was a big man; the celebrity is a big name.” To bring light and life to God’s world, to struggle for goodness, such things are the stuff of heroism.