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Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review Feb. 27, 2008 / 21 Adar I 5768

If you could have any superpower, which would you choose?

By Rabbi Yonason Goldson


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The responsibility to be great


http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Once upon a time society provided endless examples of universally admired figures. With almost no thought at all, as a teacher, I could pluck the names of statesmen, sports stars, or philanthropists out of the air to illustrate the value of a good reputation and popular respect.


But the list has continued to shrink. Dishonesty, incompetence, abuse of power, perverse lifestyles, and undisguised greed have left the world of celebrity bereft of genuine heroes. And the latest shroud to obscure the constellation of stars has come in the form of baseball's steroid scandals — most notably the discrediting of the sport's erstwhile fair-haired boy, Roger Clemens.


Although the Rocket remains innocent until proven guilty, the court of public opinion has very nearly passed judgment on one of baseball's most successful pitchers. If events continue to unfold as they have, the asterisk that will attach itself to Mr. Clemen's career stats will eclipse virtually all he has accomplished. He will be remembered, together with Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire, as a fallen hero who stole the respect of his admirers before falling forever under a shadow of disrepute.


The steroid scandal took on a new significance for me after I was asked a seemingly unrelated question by an "interviewer" from the school paper: If you could have any superpower, which would you choose?


I didn't have an answer then. I don't have one now, either.


However, with a little research I discovered that nearly the entire pantheon of superheroes — Superman, Batman, Spiderman, Captain America, and the Green Lantern — were created by Jewish writers and artists beginning in the 1930s. For the not-yet assimilated Jew trying to find his place in secular society, the invincible alter ego of the mild-mannered misfit was the perfect symbol of cultural ambivalence.


Although we dare not diminish the luminaries of Jewish tradition by mistaking them for cartoon characters, there is a critical point in common between the heroes of Jewish tradition and the heroes of comic book fantasy: all recognized that their unique talents and abilities obligated them in service beyond individual self-interest.


The heroes of the Bible did not seek greatness. Moses tried to argue his way out of the yoke of national leadership. The prophet Jeremiah protested that he was too young and inexperienced to rebuke his fellow Jews. Samson's divine mission was prophesied before his birth. Yet each of them rose to the responsibility imposed upon him by the power with which he was endowed by his Creator.


How reassuring, therefore, to discover in our distinctly unheroic generation that perhaps some heroes yet remain who are worthy of our respect. When implicated (so far without evidence) in the steroid scandal, St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols had this to say:


"I don't have to prove myself. Since 2001, I've been proving myself with the numbers. I've been proving myself every year. How much better can I get? Only G-d knows how much better [I can] get. But do I need to cheat in this game to get better?


"Baseball is just a hobby, man," Mr. Pujols said. "G-d has blessed me. And I fear G-d too much for me to do a stupid thing. I fear Him. If I do some stupid things to help me out, to hit .400 or three-something or hit 30 home runs, He's going to take that away from me."


It's refreshing to hear a contemporary superstar credit the Almighty and not himself for his accomplishments and recognize the abuse of natural ability as a betrayal of trust. And his message is equally relevant even for those of us not endowed with extraordinary physical or mental talent. For within the recesses of each individual soul lies a potential for greatness that no one else on earth is able to fulfill.


The great Chassidic master Rebbe Zisha was once asked whether, if he had the choice, he would switch places the patriarch Abraham. Rebbe Zisha offered two reasons why he would not. First, doing so would not benefit the Almighty at all: there would still be one Abraham and one Zisha. Second, and more important, Rebbe Zisha explained that he was not worried that the Heavenly Court might ask him, on the day of his arrival in the next world, why he had not attained the spiritual level of Abraham.


"I have an excellent answer ready for them," Rebbe Zisha said. "I will say that, since I was not created with the potential of Abraham, I cannot be expected to have reached the level of Abraham.


"However," continued Rebbe Zisha, "there is one question of which I am afraid. When they ask me, 'Zisha, explain why you did not reach the level of Zisha,' what will I be able to reply?"


How sad for those who seek any means to be more than what they are. It is by striving to become all that we are meant to be that every one of us can achieve true greatness.

JewishWorldReview.com regularly publishes uplifting articles. Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.


JWR contributor Rabbi Yonason Goldson writes, lectures, and teaches at Block Yeshiva High School in St. Louis. Comment by clicking here.






© 2008, Rabbi Yonason Goldson