Who is the hero?

When my husband asked his students in high school who is the person that they can describe as a hero, most of the answers were males like Samson, Judah the Maccabean, David, Hercules and more. However, when we speak about heroism do we always need to think about males, usually dressed with army clothes, or can we speak and think about other heroes?

Surprisingly, the idea of heroism wasn’t always limited to the male that won in the war from the days of the Sages. A famous quote from those days says:

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“Ben Zomah said: who is the hero of heroes? The one that can restrain himself… and some said: the one who make his hater to his lover” (Avot de-Rabbi Natan [version A] 23)

“בן זומא אומר: … איזהו גיבור שבגיבורים? זהו הכובש את יצרו…ויש אומרים: מי שעושה שונאו אוהבו.”

The one that can control himself and the one that can cause his hater to be his lover are two more types of heroes.

Who is a hero?

Both are fighting against the first interpretation that a hero must be or should be an army leader. Another beautiful Midrash describes the hero as the one who help his friend not to fall to a pit, and he fell you must help him to go outside from the pit. According to this Midrash a hero is the one who will try to save people from dangerous things as we can think in our mind about fireman-Kabbai-כַּבַּאי or a policeman-Shoter-שׁוֹטֵר (still it would be someone with uniform!).

For these sources above I would like to add the words of the great, but controversial, philosopher Yesha’ayaho Leiboboits, who said about heroism these words:

” לא מצינו …שהגבורה הצבאית היא נחלתם של טובים ומעולים דווקא; היא מצויה באותה מידה גם בנחותים וירודים. משמע: קל לאדם הממוצע לעמוד בגבורה בניסיון של סיכון חייו בקרב מלעמוד בחיי יום-יום  בנסיון העמידה נגד פיתויי יצר הקניין או יצר השלטון או היצר המיני וכד’… אם אדם הוא “גיבור” במובן הצבאי (“חייל מעולה”), אין בכך ערובה להיותו אדם מעולה – לא בחינת חכם ונבון ולא בחינת ישר והגון. לעומת זה, אדם שעמד בגבורה נגד דחפים הנובעים מקנאה, משנאה, מתאווה ומכבוד – חזקתו שהוא מבני-מעלה המועטים.”

“We didn’t find that a military heroism is the possession of good and excellent people. We can find it also in inferior people. That means that for the average man it’s easy to be a hero when his life is in danger than to stand every day against temptations of property, the temptation of ruling over or the sexual urges. If a man is hero in the army (a great soldier) it doesn’t mean that he would be a great man neither wise, honest and descent. On the other hand, a man that was hero against impulses that derive from jealousy, hatred, lust and honor – he is one of a kind”

I wonder what a hero for you is. I would be really happy to hear your comments and thoughts. You can listen to this great song that discusses the heroism of Israel and it’s called- who will tell the courage of Israel?


Happy Chanukah,




Courage- Gevurah-גְּבוּרָה


Restrained-Me’upaq- מְאֻפָּק

Philosopher- Hogeh-הוֹגֶה


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