True Heroes

Tonight is the first night of Chanukah.  I don’t know about you, but all week my thoughts have been turned to the image of the heroic champion striding across the field of battle defeating all.  The victories over the many, coming it were, one after another, is a true miracle. The years of struggle and dedication to one sacred cause are inspiring. The name will be celebrated and remembered ledor va-dor – from one generation to the other.  I am speaking, of course, about …… Tiger Woods.   Yet, once again, one of our culture’s heroes has fallen.  Those who looked to Tiger as a role model have had their illusions shattered.  If you want a role model, better to look toward figures in our own tradition.  This week we read about Joseph, a young man sold into slavery, who is put in charge of the estate of a man named Potiphar.  Potifar’s wife takes a liking to young Joseph, and attempts to seduce him.  The easy thing for Joseph to have done would have been to give in to her demands. Yet Joseph resists.       Indeed, Joseph is held up by the Talmud as the paradigm of the man who struggles with his own desires in the face of Potiphar's wife's daily temptations – and succeeds in controlling his passions.    Or, consider the Maccabees.  They lived in a generation where they saw their fellow Jews seduced by an alien culture – the culture of the Greek Seleucids.  As Rabbi Yitz Greenberg describes it, “Like country people who come to the big city and are horrified by its fleshpots and sinfulness, so the Maccabees were outraged and offended by the nakedness, the 'bohemian', avant-garde air of Hellenism."  Like Joseph, the Maccabees, took a stand against practices and values that threatened to destroy the ethical code embodied in the Torah.    We live in a society which puts before us constant temptations for transgression.  When we see our cultural heroes succumb to that temptation, it might weaken our own resolve to live morally.  Everybody cheats in business, we might think, everybody cheats in marriage, greed and avarice are rampant, drug and alcohol abuse widespread.  With the recent convictions of Bernie Madoff and Shalom Rubashkin, we have yet another reminder that Jews are not exempt from immoral and unethical behavior.  On this Shabbat as we learn from our heroic ancestors Joseph and the Maccabees that there is another way.  We can resist the darkness that beckons us and turn to the light of the Torah and her values in order to guide our way.   Shabbat Shalom and Hag Urim Sameach