Between You and Me

There is a tendency to bewail the fact that today’s children have no heroes. Or, if they do, their heroes are only the celebrities who have achieved notoriety rather than worthiness.

The coming of Passover reminds me that apparently Judaism does not believe in heroes. We see that Moses is not mentioned in the Haggadah. We also ought to note that while Judah the Maccabee, like Moses, delivered our people, and rescued us against enormous odds, Judah is similarly uncelebrated in Jewish literature. The Talmud makes no reference to him or to his remarkable defeat of the powerful Syrian-Greek Empire.

I think there is an additional factor to explain this scruple on the part of our sages. They not only feared the idolizing of a hero because it might detract from G-d. They equally refused to indulge in or to encourage hero worship because it could diminish the individual’s confidence in him/her/self.

Remember, there is no more beautiful or profound Jewish ideal than that which proclaims the dignity,uniqueness and worth of every human being. Reincarnation, for example, never gained acceptance in Judaism because it lessened the eternal singularity of every sublime soul.

The elevation of a hero to the status of superhuman being could imply that an ordinary person is not as worthy as a hero. Furthermore, it might encourage surrender to the hero of our responsibility for the well being of the society in which we live. Every one of us, in some way, is a hero.

The rabbis suggested if we didn’t have a Moses, another Israelite would have emerged at that time to be our Moses. History, our tradition concludes, does not depend on heroes for its redemption. It is up to you and me.

At the Seder, it might be appropriate to spend a few moments in discussion about Judaism’s aversion for heroes. We elevate no one above the humanity of all of us. Each of us has faults. Nevertheless, we each are capable of growth, of becoming more than any of us think we can be. Each of our lives is infinitely precious.

The Seder celebrates power of mind, spirit, and conscience possessed by everyone at the Seder table. We were redeemed from bondage to freedom because God breathed into the soul of every human form a special, unique worthiness. At the Seder, we rejoice over the liberation of life’s promise that is generated in us by our own effort.