seen on the sign of our local unitarian church

Without justice, courage is weak.

–Ben Franklin

Poor Richard’s Almanack 1734

Not sure I agree.  In fact, I would say it’s the opposite today because justice is too cheap.  People who feel justified use this as an excuse for actions, but it isn’t often justice.  It’s their skewed vision of justice only.   I think that courage is best defined as what we get from our side of the fence; our should-be go-to place for statements of ethics and values, Pirkei Avot.

So Ben Zoma would say:

ד,א בן זומא אומר, איזה הוא חכם–הלמד מכל אדם, שנאמר “מכל מלמדיי, השכלתי” (תהילים קיט,צט).  איזה הוא גיבור–הכובש את יצרו, שנאמר “טוב ארך אפיים, מגיבור” (משלי טז,לב).  איזה הוא עשיר–השמח בחלקו, שנאמר “יגיע כפיך, כי תאכל; אשריך, וטוב לך” (תהילים קכח,ב):  “אשריך”, בעולם הזה; “וטוב לך”, לעולם הבא.  איזה הוא מכובד–המכבד את הברייות, שנאמר “כי מכבדיי אכבד ובוזיי ייקלו” (שמואל א ב,ל).

Who is a wise man? He who learns from every man. As is stated (Psalms 119:99): “From all my teachers I have grown wise”;

Who is a Hero? He who controls his impulses. As is stated (Proverbs 16:32), “Better one who is slow to anger than one with might, one who rules his spirit than the captor of a city.”;

Who is a rich man? He who is happy with his portion. As is stated (Psalms 128:2): “If you eat of toil of your hands, fortunate are you, and good is to you”; “fortunate are you” in this world, “and good is to you” in the World to Come;

Who is an honorable man? He who honors his fellow man; As is stated (I Samuel 2:30): “For to those who honor me, I accord honor; those who scorn me shall be demeaned;”.

—Pirkei Avot, Chapter 4a

Should we look for real heroes, with real senses of courage and of justice?  Of course we should.  And I found an amazing example of one via the internet (I guess could say that the word in Hebrew should be “kol Yisrael arevim zeh lazeh“, but I guess it’s a little clumsy).  I quote a little for you to tempt you to read the whole thing here:

Then came the highlight of the evening, 27 year old S’derot resident Avichai Seli. A true Gibor in his own right.

First, an explanation: There is an annual international Tanach Contest held in Jerusalem each year called the “Chidon HaTanach“. It’s a competition for high school students sponsored by the Israeli government, held each year on…you guessed it: Yom Ha’azmaut, Israeli Independence Day.

Avichai won the Chidon HaTanach when he was in 12th grade. Cool, right? He’s also deaf. Oh, and blind.

I am sure that you’ll quickly agree with me that his story is incredibly inspiring.

Makes me want to learn more Torah.

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