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Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Reclaiming Heroism In An Age Of Skepticism


Reclaiming Heroism In An Age Of Skepticism
by Rabbi Isaac Jeret
December 1, 2009
*Reprinted From The Palos Verdes News

Just the other day, I received a SPAM email from a company selling cell phones. Typically, I delete such emails immediately upon noticing them. This time, accidentally, I opened the email. Staring me in the face, glistening beautifully on my computer-screen, was a brand-new HTC HERO cell-phone. It was exquisite. Though I have absolutely no need for a new cell-phone, I found myself clicking on the various images of the phone, taking in the colorful display and a range of functionality that could lead one to believe that it might even fly. Finally, I looked again at the name of the phone. The HERO.

Many of us have long-lamented our society's coronation of sports icons as "heroes." True, children have always had imaginary heroes and, for boys in particular, they have often been famous and gifted athletes.

However, for several decades, many of us have retained our childhood identification with the sports-heroes that were created for us by the media or in our own minds far more seriously than we might have in past generations. Gone are the days of presidential heroes (thank you, Richard Nixon), or military heroes (thank you, Vietnam - however one chooses to assess that war), or historical heroes (thank you, unqualified Deconstructionism). Beleaguered by the moral and ethical failures of the heroes we were accustomed to and the arenas in which we were used to finding them, we turned to the sports-arena to find them or keep them.

Well, friends, we may now truly have entered the post-Michael-Jordan era; the age of the technological HERO! Our athletic heroes revealed for the steroid-relapses, criminal convictions, spousal abuses, and drug addictions, we need to find someone - or something - to look up to, to respect, and to reflect back to us the best of who we are while challenging us all to be the best that we can be. Welcome to the age of the HTC HERO!

The sad absurdity of it all is that, because we have been disappointed by betrayals of the public trust, we, the public, have elected simply to disappoint and betray ourselves by turning to sources of darkness rather than light - to the point of branding objects rather than people - as our heroes. Instead of fixing the problem, we've compounded it.

And yet, annually, the Jewish tradition reminds us, with Festival of Hanukkah and the Maccabbean Heroes that heroes do exist and that they must be appreciated and remembered if their lessons are to be learned and their character retained for future generations.

Real heroes exhibit courage. Yes, they feel fear, but they transcend their fear to meet the challenges and opportunities at hand. Real heroes champion and even fight for causes that benefit people beyond themselves. Real heroes learn from their mistakes and improve themselves; they aren't perfect, they are flawed, but they try their best to be as good as they can be. Real heroes aren't for every moment; what matters is that they show up when their rare or even lone moment arrives. Real heroes bring light unto darkness, they inspire others to do so alongside them, and their inspiration toward the better lasts as long as their lights continue to be lit by those who remember them and the good for which they stood.

May the Lights of Hanukkah burn as brightly as those of the Maccabees so many years ago and may the light of liberty and sincere tolerance that we can all bring together to our world with courage and conviction glisten timelessly, far beyond our computer screens and cell-phones, pointing us while summoning us toward an ever-better, and brighter, tomorrow.

*Rabbi Isaac Jeret is the spiritual leader of Congregation Ner Tamid, located at 5721 Crestridge Road in Rancho Palos Verdes. Learn more about the Congregation and its upcoming programming at www.nertamid.com or by calling (310) 377-6986.