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For the week ending 14 March 2020 / 18 Adar 5780

Jewish Superheroes

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Joey from LA asked:

Are there any teachings about “superheroes” in the Torah or in Jewish literature?

Dear Joey,

What a super-question!

Judaism doesn’t idolize movie stars and athletic achievers as “superheroes.” Rather, a person who stops to help someone needing help to cross a busy street is a superhero. A person who says a kind word to someone having a bad day is a superhero.

In this sense, I am certain that each of us knows a superhero. Hopefully, not far away. Hopefully, in one’s own home.

As you probably know, a number of personalities in the Torah were endowed with “super-powers.” Moses was on Mount Sinai to receive the Torah for forty days and forty nights — without food or water! And, of course, he played a key role in the ten plagues and the splitting of the Red Sea. Samson had superhuman strength. David slew Goliath.

King Solomon had super-intelligence. These special qualities were given to these people by God to enable them to further the eternal destiny of the Jewish People.

What about the rest of us?

Our Sages teach in Ethics of the Fathers that the Jewish definition of true strength is someone who overcomes his desire to do what is wrong. This is a message of immense value. “Super” anything can be implemented by utilizing the ethical, moral and legal teachings found in the Torah. Internalizing the wisdom of the Torah enhances and augments within us strengths that we never knew we had.

For example, our Sages teach that a person who is not blessed with a high IQ is not restricted in the ability to understand Torah. A person who has a true, pure love for Torah may be granted the ability to understand its depths, sometimes even beyond others who have been blessed with a much more natural intellect.

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