When the topic of Jewish Heroes and Jewish Values comes up for my 5th Grade Hebrew School class we try to define the word hero with a broad discussion on a 5th Grade level. We usually end up with the idea that someone who finds themselves in an unpleasant and often frightening situation can overcome their own fears of the unknown. In Hebrew we use “גובר” and “להתגבר” to express the idea of overcoming fear.
Now, a particular person I know has overcome a variety of fears so many times, that I want to declare that person a true hero with immense courage. That person does not wear a cape, nor does that person have the kind of sculpted body of the comic book heroes drawn by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee.
Imagine having to stand before a judge. The judge threatens to remove your child, your baby from your custody unless you come to some arrangement with the other parent. The other parent’s sudden and new interest is of no concern to this arbiter. There will be no Solomon’s Judgment here. Our hero begins almost eighteen years of arbitration and compromise for the sake of the child.
Our hero unexpectedly dies and is revived. Circumstances allowed for an immediate resuscitation, but the exact cause of death will never be determined. A life of living with an implanted cardiac device begins for our hero who must summon every ounce of courage to push the thought of that sudden death from their mind. All of our hero’s energy is channelled into simply living a normal life.
A day comes and this person is faced with yet another hurdle. A discomfort, a slight pain and a subsequent visit to a doctor, and then the devastating diagnosis: cancer. The fear of the unknown is once again palpable and no reassurances or words of comfort can remove that fear.
One consultation leads to another, and finally a doctor is chosen, the cancer is removed, and our hero is now “ברוך השם” (thank G-d) cancer free for several years.
A newly implanted cardiac device malfunctions and once again this person I know is faced with having to overcome circumstances beyond their control. A revolutionary new device is offered at one of the best hospitals in the USA. Our hero travels to Baltimore and despite warnings of a severe winter storm the surgery, the extraction of the malfunctioning device and the implanting of the new one proceeds according to schedule.
As I look back over the many years that I have known this person, I am in awe of the seemingly infinite and boundless heroism this person has within them. It makes me realize that I have been living in the presence of true grit. My hero will soon celebrate a milestone birthday and I am humbled and privileged that I can share in that great joy.