Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Heroes among us

Parshat Pinchas tells of the heroic deed of Pinchas, who jumped up with spear in his hand to save the Jewish people from a plague of immorality. When the moment called for bold action, Pinchas was ready and willing to step forward.

Later in the parsha, God announces who will become the successor to Moses as leader of the Jewish people. Surprisingly, it is not the heroic Pinchas. Nor is it another great hero, Calev, who bravely stood up to protest, when the spies recommended not to enter the Land of Israel.

Instead, Joshua was chosen to succeed Moses. Why?

The Talmud explains that the greatness of Joshua was that he stayed by Moses' side - day-in, day-out. No, Joshua didn't perform any incredible heroics that earned him front-page headlines. But in his own quiet and consistent way, Joshua made it his priority to draw close to God, absorb Jewish wisdom, and do whatever he could to help others do the same. In fact, the Talmud says that Joshua came to the synagogue early each morning - to help set up the chairs!

Think about it: These humble acts of dedication are what God values most, even more than dramatic demonstrations of bravery and heroics. Teachers, public servants, dedicated parents - these are the true Jewish heroes of yesterday and today.

Laura Lilien of Canaan Online is the artist behind this stone depiction of the 12 tribes. Laura was inspired by the energy of nature and the simplicity of Canaanite and Phoenician cultures.

And Happy Birthday to the United States of America... and a big hug to all its heroes past, present and future! If you are looking at some pretty subtle patriotic jewelry look here at what Sarit Wolfus sent me this week.

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