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"The Hero We Need Today"

Rabbi Steinsaltz teaches:

The hero we need today is not the one described in Pirkei Avot (5:20) as “heroic as a lion.”

In fact, the lion is a very lazy animal that spends most of its time doing absolutely nothing. It does, however, have the ability to reach high speeds in a fraction of a second and harness tremendous force in order to accomplish something quick and spectacular.

The “heroic lion” kind of hero has great powers, but they are neither constant nor stable; rather, they are revealed all at once, in one sudden and dramatic outburst.

The hero whose heroism is not discernible is the greater hero.

It is the storeowner who wakes up in the morning and opens her shop, even though there was a terrorist attack next door the day before.

It is the man who walks with his backpack on his shoulder, and continues walking, even after he has been attacked;

the person whose house is destroyed, yet he rebuilds;

the individual whose plants are uprooted, yet he replants;

the woman whose children are murdered, yet she gives birth once again.

This heroism is not suitable for movies or the theater. Nor is it the kind of heroism that is limited to the prominent and the powerful.

It is within reach, also, of the simple and the small. It is the heroism of “when I fall, I shall arise” (Micah 7:8), of “a just man falls seven times, and rises up again” (Proverbs 24:16).

from the essay “A New Kind of Heroism” September 5, 2002