Jewish Value of the Week: Courage — Ometz Lev
Ometz means “strength” and lev means “heart.” Heart is more of an internal quality, thus ometz lev is less about acts than it is about who we are in our heart. Part of courage has to do with not being afraid of others, and using our strength to pull others up, not push or keep them down. Being part of community is also a source of strength. Courage helps us face difficulties, danger or pain by controlling the situation as best as we can. We can build courage by identifying things that frighten or challenge us, and figuring out ways to solve the problems or cope with the situations. Judaism teaches us that belief in God will help us when we are fearful: Though I walk through a valley of deepest darkness, I fear no harm, for You are with me.” Psalms 23:4
Family Talk Time
- All of us are afraid at times. How do we handle our fear?
- Is fear ever a good thing? Can you think of a fear that turned out to be a good thing?
- Think of a time when you did something that you were afraid to do. How did it make you feel?
The story of Moses splitting the Red Sea has a wonderful midrash about a man named Nachshon. Moses lifted his staff and the sea did not split, but Nachshon believed and went forward into the water. As he went deeper and deeper, people cried to him, but he said that he believed and was not afraid. When the water was up to his neck, the sea split and the people were able to cross. Think of a “Nachshon Moment” in your life? Were you ever willing to go forward because you believed you were doing the right thing?
Story for Shabbat: Cheating the Inquisitor
— from ‘Brainteasers From Jewish Folklore’ by Rosalind Chaney Kaye
A murder in Spain had not been solved. The Grand Inquisitor angry,.He decided to accuse the Jews of the crime, and the rabbi was brought to stand trial.
“We’ll leave the matter up to God,” announced the inquisitor. “I’ll put two pieces of paper in a box, one with the word, ‘guilty’ on it, one with the word, ‘innocent.’ Whichever the rabbi picks will tell us the truth.”
Of course the crafty inquisitor, knowing that no one would dare question him, wrote guilty on both pieces of paper! The rabbi suspected just a trick.
The rabbi selected one paper, quickly stuffed it into his mouth, and swallowed it. Then he asked the inquisitor to read the paper that was still in the box. Naturally, it said guilty. “Then the one I ate must have said innocent,” the rabbi exclaimed. The much astonished inquisitor had to let the rabbi go free.
Laura Seymour is director of camping services and Jewish life and learning at the Jewish Community Center of Dallas.