Profiles in Courage – BTs and the Trait of G’vurah

Rabbi Dovid Schwartz zt”l

In their Yeshivas and Batei Ya’akov our FFB children benefit from the study and inspiration-by-osmosis of the classic Mussar literature. In the tables of contents of these works one will find a profusion of fine and noble middos = character traits. There’s alacrity, humility, love, mercy, magnanimity and fear of heaven, et al. on the menu. But there is one trait that is conspicuously absent. While it may not have been expunged from the actual literature the midah of G’vura(=might) and personal courage has been deemphasized in the culture and in the curricula. I have theories as to why this is so but that would be a subject for another post.

For now, suffice it to say we associate “being macho” with some of the more unseemly diffusions of the dominant culture that we broke with when we began our return to Torah and Mitzvahs and that we continue to strive mightily to avoid being influenced by. *2

Many of us operate under the conviction that courage and strength are somehow un-Jewish characteristics. Every stereotype contains a kernel of truth and the Woody Allenesque weak Jewish Nebbishes of the popular imagination were not spontaneously generated in a cultural vacuum. Sure, we are proud of the military prowess of the IDF and may even take some “guilty pleasure” in reading the Holocaust literature that deals with the exploits of the forest partisans and the insurgents of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. Yet we view these as the exceptions that prove the rule of the historical Jewish personality makeup that is mild, non-violent, non-confrontational, deferential, and passive to a fault.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Our sages, OB”M, in Pirkei Avos teach us: “Who is mighty? He who vanquishes his evil inclination. As it is written: ‘And one who dominates his own spirit (is mightier) than the champion who captures a city.’” In other words, self control and vanquishing one’s Yetzer HaRah =inclination to evil is identical in kind but superior in degree to the strength, the personal courage, and the steely nerves of the victorious battlefield general. It requires more courage G’vurah- to vanquish the Yetzer HaRah than to finally conquer the besieged city.

It is peculiar that in contemporary Torah Observant Jewish culture the midah of G’vurah should have been so marginalized seeing as it is, as per the Shulchan Aruch, square one of Judaism:

“One should be misgaber*as a Lion in order to rise in the morning for the service of their Creator”

-Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 1:1

IMO BTs are uniquely positioned to raise the consciousness of Jewish Society at large to the indispensable centrality of the Midas haG’vurah and to infuse the cowardly “lions” with new strength. For while the trait of g’vurah is something that all Jews aspire to, it is a trait that the BT excels at and identifies with. Rishonim explain that the famous dictum of Chazal : “in the spiritual station where Ba’alei T’shuva stand even the Tzadikim who never sinned cannot stand” is predicated on the Ba’al T’shuva’s relative superiority in the middah of G’vurah. Having tasted the forbidden to the point that all sense of taboo has disappeared (don’t get offended… as per Chazal this happens after two repetitions!) the level of G’vurah required for the BT to resist future seduction of his/her Yetzer haRah is greater than the level required by the Tzadik to resist an equivalent temptation.

We all know people who possessed the inner strength, the awesome g’vurah, to turn their backs on lucrative careers, break off relationships with significant others, render some or much of their higher education irrelevant, and/or willingly begin to re-educate themselves at an advanced age at institutions where, despite being highly accomplished, they would have to begin anew literally from the ABCs. Many of us even see these people when we gaze at our reflections in the mirror.

Those FFB’s who had the benefit of a Torah enriched early childhood education can hardly fathom and never replicate the courage and strength of the BT. But they can certainly draw lessons in G’vurah… “Profiles in Courage” from them.

There is a most beautiful tradition rooted in the works of the classical Kabbalists to utilize the days of Sefiras HaOmer for Tikun haMiddos = the refinement of character traits in preparation for receiving the Torah on Shavuos. There is a veritable rainbow of goodness to behold when perusing the siddur’s listing of these middos: yet tonight the color most vivid in the middos rainbow is that of g’vurah = personal courage and strength.

Over the past half century the Kiruv revolution has empowered the mighty and encouraged the courageous. It behooves us to offer thanksgiving and praise to the Kel Gibor = the Almighty G-d, who taught us His Torah from “the mouth of His might” and who continues to manifest the divine attribute of g’vurah by stemming and reversing the hemorrhaging of our people in fulfillment of His promise “Ki lo yamush m’pi zarakha v’zerah zarakha mey’atah v’ad olam” = “And the Torah will not withdraw from the mouths of your children or their children now and forever.” But we mustn’t forget that imitation is the sincerest form of praise. As such we ought to search for ways and means to grow even stronger and more courageous ourselves and, leading by example, empower the weak and encourage the frightened. In a paradoxical duty of Oz-like chesed it’s “on us” to grant courage to HaShem’s cowardly lions.


* (reflexive conjugation of the word gavar- verb form of g’vurah and all the strength and fearlessness that it implies)

*2 When I speak of G’vurah I don’t mean Jewish street gangs or even JDL like neighborhood patrols. Nor is this limited to more Torah observant Jews enlisting in the IDF. I’m talking about an emphasis on g’vurah that will replace a “passing-of-the-buck”, dodging of responsibility with a buck-stops-here assuming of responsibility. G’vurah that leads to greater emotional and financial independence, a willingness to move away from the frummest population centers to places where Yiddishkeit will not be as convenient, or to make aliyah in spite of the daunting challenges. I’d love to see more nerve to confront social problems instead of the terror that denies them, communal courage and self-confidence that would ameliorate (to a degree, not a reckless one) the current fear-of-contamination informed snootiness and exclusivity that one finds at all too many Yeshivas. I’d love to see more of the individual self-confidence and courage that is required both for a lifetime of spiritual growth and for the serenity and mental-hygiene that comes from realizing it’s OK to be me (so long as it’s within Torah parameters)

Originally Published in May 2007

49 comments on “Profiles in Courage – BTs and the Trait of G’vurah

  1. Very possibly. When there is a vacuum all kinds of lifeless things begin to grow.

    The number one lesson of the mishnah in Pirkri Avos is that THE gibor (the definite article) is the one who has gained self-mastery/ control. Surrendering to anger and frustrtion and lashing out can itself be a sign of great weakness.

    Build me a son whose heart will be clear,
    Whose goals will be high;
    A son who will master himself before he seeks to master other men;
    One who will reach into the future;
    Yet never forget the past.

    From “A Soldiers Prayer” by General Douglas MacArthur

  2. RDS asked,
    “Was there anything I proposed in the post or comment thread that you would consider an inappropriate application of gevurah?”

    No. I think you’re on the right track.

    The only thing that bothered me about the article was the implication that we had wimped out as a group in recent years. This is the same period that rowdiness/disrespect has broken out in some of our schools, that we have had occasional problems with bonfires in trash cans, rioting, and rock-throwing, and so on. Do you think a proper emphasis on gevurah would prevent these distortions of gevurah?

  3. Was there anything I proposed in the post or comment thread that you would consider an inappropriate application of gevurah?

  4. Since I first used the term “junior Esav” above, let me explain what I meant by it:

    It IS a Jew who apes Esav’s unsavory behavior patterns. It’s NOT a Jew who shows the attribute of gevurah as appropriate.

    For example—Self-defense falls under “gevurah as appropriate”. Boastfulness, bullying the weak, and regarding all law as something to work around, fall under “Esav’s unsavory behavior patterns”.

    Here’s a more stealthy form of Esav-like personality from an old TV show:

  5. I really see absolutely no reason to start comparing your fellow Jews to “a junior Esav.”

    One of the points of the post was that as a society we seem to want to avoid ANY manifestation of Gevurah becuase we identify ALL forms of gevurah with Esav AKA “Goyishkeit” with a capital “G”.

    As is the cae with any midah the challenge is to do a little “borer” on it, to clarify the good and seperate it from the bad. This is why there is one word for “charachter traits” and “weights and measures” in Lashon Kodesh.

  6. Bob–
    I had a feeling you wouldn’t. I was mostly hoping that other readers would realize that JDL has its benefits.

    I really see absolutely no reason to start comparing your fellow Jews to “a junior Esav.” I’ve had plenty of bad experiences with certain groups, but I do my best both in life and on this blog to focus on the good I’ve seen and to stay civil. I wish you would see fit to do the same.

  7. Back to the main topic (I think):

    It’s prudent to learn self defense and marskmanship. It’s not prudent to make like a junior Esav.

  8. Chaim–There are other types of courage and strength being ignored, yes. But those aren’t the only ignored types of strength we should think about. There’s a lot to be said for physical strength, and for the ability to put in the necessary hishtadlut to protect oneself and one’s family.

    Bob Miller–You are wrong. Seriously, if you’re going to start with such a ridiculous assumption as “the JDL’s true positive accomplishments were zero,” you clearly aren’t willing to have a reasonable talk about the issue. My experience with JDL and Kach is limited, and I still know dozens of people who connected to Torah and to Israel (the land and the people) thanks to Rav Kahane and Kach. I also know people who were able to walk to school safely thanks to JDL, synagogues with windows that finally stayed intact thanks to JDL, etc. Are you and your family from a place where being Jewish is enough to get you soundly beaten? And if not, do you think your relative security might be distorting your thinking on this issue?

    Your last comment is highly disrespectful of the young people who protested in Gush Katif and Amona. Teenagers are generally speaking very passionate, and they do tend to be in the majority at such protests, but I don’t think it’s fair to say they were “conned.” They aren’t naive. Again, how would you feel if this were directed at you? Do you “con” your children into keeping kosher?
    Also, those protests were well attended,and often organized, by NU/NRP types. Not every protest against the beating and expulsion of Jews is a Kach thing.

  9. More on the Maccabees from an article on the Web:
    “The next widely publicized self-defense group patrolled the Crown Heights area of Brooklyn between 1964 and 1966. The group called itself the Maccabees, after a Jewish resistance group which fought to curb Syrian domination…Led by Rabbi Samuel A. Schrage, the Maccabees of the 1960s numbered 250 volunteer members and used radio car patrols to report crime and deter potential criminals (Brown, 1969: 201 -202).”

  10. To expand on the above. For all its fiery rhetoric, strutting, swagger, and boasting, the JDL’s true positive accomplishments were zero. Other organizations, such as the chassidic Maccabees patrol (Rabbi Schrage), in Brooklyn in the 1960’s did far more without the hoopla. JDL’s and Kach’s problem was not physicality itself but their constant striking of poses combined with disdain for the Gedolim, and unsound action plans.

    We see the remnants of their thinking today in the Israeli groups who con kids into bloody confrontations with police goons in order to radicalize them and their parents.

  11. Ora-

    I don’t think the post overtly criticized the JDL, I think the point was that there are other types of courage and strength that are being ignored.

  12. Ha ha yeah, JDL “loons” and their “hooliganism.”

    Easy for those who live in certain places to say. Not so easy for those of us who can only walk in the street at night due to the “hooligans” who put themselves at risk to protect us on a regular basis.

    Also, I’m more than a litte angry about your comment (#21), Bob. What is your point? You knew a JDL guy who was an aggressive driver, so…? Aggressive people will naturally be drawn to a group like JDL that involves physical strength, just like obsessive compulsive people might be drawn to a hareidi group that calls for control over every minute detail. That doesn’t mean that JDL/Kach is unnecessary aggressive in nature any more than it makes all hareidim OCD. I don’t think you’d like it if I made a similar observation (“I know this one hareidi guy who was really rude…” (if I wanted to make that observation, I could say “hundreds” instead of “one,” but see, I don’t think that’s relevant to the vast majority of hareidim)).

    Finally, I don’t get the automatic rush to distance oneself from physical bravery that I see here. Yes, spiritual bravery is great and ultimately more important. Still, we are two generations post-holocaust (if that), and there are still at the very least 100s of millions of people who think that Jews are an unnecessary pain in the world’s backside. Personally, I don’t get how someone can read about Holocause resistance and not think “huh, I wonder if I/ my spouse/ my kids would be capable of doing that.” And if the answer is “no,” as it would be for maybe 90% of the frum American-dwellers I know if they answered honestly, I don’t get why they wouldn’t think of doing something about that. And I don’t mean playing basketball in school, I mean something like (you might want to sit down…) learning to use a gun, or at the very least to throw a decent punch.

  13. “There is a veritable rainbow … yet tonight the color most vivid in the middos rainbow is that of g’vurah = personal courage and strength.”

    Now I get it. Just got back from Shul. Tonight’s sefira was “gevurah shebemalchus”.

  14. I think the article makes a relevant point. Some frum communities could gain courage to allow individuals to set their own path, within Torah guidelines. For instance, not every boy can learn full-time, and not every girl is set out for a life as a kollel wife (yet within some yeshivahs this lifestyle is so the norm that the individuals feel pressured to go along with it). BTs’ have already demonstrated their ability to separate from their mainstream. I thought this post made that point well.

  15. “Woody Allenesque weak Jewish Nebbishes of the popular imagination were not spontaneously generated in a cultural vacuum.”

    No doubt, Woody is the Rebbe of Nebbish (just ask American Apparel) but is he “weak?” And are his characters “passive to a fault?”

    I don’t think so. The characters he portrays, the everyman American uber-Ashkenazi male, though certainly always non-violent, are also quite hostile, even combative, and in some ways, quite manipulative, and sometimes daring. This was taken up even further by Larry David as well, though I am guessing you are not familiar with his amazing series, “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”

    I don’t think Jewish strength to challenge the status quo — which in this essay, is still normative western culture, or at least, perceived norms, to some degree–but throughout history, as far back as we can go. It is something we are quite known for, and not something we have ever been particularly liked for.

  16. We shouldn’t ask for nisyonos-tests but once confronted with them neither should we shrink from them.

    Every Nisoyin is also a growth opportunity. We have a finely honed sensitivity for the catastrophe of failure. Our antennae for the fantastic rewards /returns of actually passing tests are IMO not as well tuned. Hence we are living our lives running scared and mostly, as Abba Eban famously desribed the Palestenians, never missing and opportunity to miss an opportunity.

  17. In the amplification of the post you seem to identify G’vurah with willingness to take on prudent challenges — a less complacent insular life. How does this square with avoiding unneccessary risks? Perhaps the complexity of proper application is what leads to the deemphasis of this trait.

  18. SR wrote in comment #15-

    We don’t have this street presence for a couple of reasons, one we tend to be no lower than lower middle class. People in middle class have something to lose, so tend to shy away from confrontations unless directly threatened.

    I agree you more metaphorically than literally and therein IMO lies a great part of the problem. We imagine that we have a lot to lose but most of our being invested is about gashmiyus and ego, e.g. we may lose our “reputation”, we may lose a friend or two, we may lose our kosher creature comforts, we may blow a shidduch opportunity etc.

    This running-scared-I’m-too-invested mindset recasts the smallest bold move as mindless recklessness. In assessing risk/reward all risks are immediately deemed too great and any reward too small.

    The Kotzker Rebbe was “mehavel”=exposed the vanity of, Olam HaZeh=the here and now world and said: “The whole for 120 years of Olam HaZeh isn’t worth a single one of my krekhtzes=sighs”.

    Not coincidentally he was a bold innovator in Avodas HaShem and chips-fall-where-they-may truth seeker. I’d like to see renaissance of that attitude not of Kahanism.

  19. LOL! Physician heal thyself I guess. I was looking at myself in the mirror when I wrote the piece

    לֵב–יוֹדֵעַ, מָרַּת נַפְשׁוֹ
    The heart knoweth its own bitterness

    Mishlei 14:10

  20. No no no! I was afraid that MY comments would be taken for such a call, Rabbi Schwartz!

    Don’t let Bob push you around there, by the way. Stand up to him like a man!

  21. I must be a very poor writer indeed if my post is being understood as call for a return to JDL hooliganism.

    It is presisely the identification of g’vurah with these types of behavior that I think are the major cause for the entire middah being marginalized. Thats what I meant when I wrote:

    we associate “being macho” with some of the more unseemly diffusions of the dominant culture that we broke with when we began our return to Torah and Mitzvahs and that we continue to strive mightily to avoid being influenced by.

    I’m talking about an emphasis on g’vurah that will lead to more of a buck-stops-here sensibility than a passing-of-the-buck, a greater emotional and finacial independence, a greater willingness to move away from the frummest poulation centers to places where Yiddishkeit will not be as convenient, the courage to confront social problems instead of the terror that denies them, communal courage and self-confidence that would ameliorate (to a degree, not a reackless one) the current fear-of-contamination informed snobiness and exclusivity that one finds at all too many Yeshivas and the individual self-confidence and courage that is required both for continued lifetime growth and for the tranquility and mental-hygene that comes from realizing it’s OK to be me (so long as it’s within Torah parameters)

    Bob you correctly (SIGH) wrote Send this one back for mandatory revision. . I don’t know if the moderators can do that but I can only hope that readers of the thread will scroll down to this comment so that I can do some damage control for my opaque writing in the post.

  22. In grad school, to commute in the Boston area, I once carpooled with a JDL member. He was gunning the engine at every opportunity, driving aggressively in traffic, etc., even more so than the typical crazed Boston driver. I finally decided it was too much to take.

  23. Let me add: An inordinate emphasis on toughness gets you the loons who by and large make up the JDL and Kach. If that’s the tradeoff, I’ll take wimpiness, actually.

  24. Yeah but Bob “tough Jews” like that who are frum really are the exception that tends to prove the rule.

    Jaded, I’m sure it depends on the person. Some people are naturally brave and would never back down from a physical confrontation but weak when confronted with a company-catered “kosher meal” ordered just for them of dubious kashrus. Other people are disciplined martinets in their relationships with God but complete wimps in the “street.”

    But I do think the focus here on street toughness is misguided. I raised it in the context of the general topic of manliness. I do recall that the Ramban writes of the value of accepting physical humiliation as a valuable opportunity for spiritual growth, too. It’s a tough issue but that’s why I was disappointed that it wasn’t grappled with the way I had hoped when I read the first few lines of the posting.

  25. We also know a rabbi who has a black belt in karate and teaches martial arts to kids.

  26. They played basketball in the gym at the Yeshiva Gedolah high school my sons attended.

    By the way, there is a Jewish street element, the ones who riot and get criticized heavily.

  27. Well he is right in that sports that emphasize stregnth and conditioning, such as swimming and wresting, Martial arts, are never taught in a Charedi school.

    I think he is right in his basic premise, but for other reasons.

    We as a community don’t have a street element to project this image that he wants. Personally I don’t get too worked up over this or that image but I do get his point.

    We don;t have this street presence for a couple of reasons, one we tend to be no lower than lower middle class. People in middle class have something to lose, so tend to shy away from confrontations unless directly threatened.

    Also, in our Shules, most of the attension is placed on being a better kinder person, so this must sink in.

    However, I don’t agree with his conclusion, the BT’s are usually very upper middle class to upper class, as this is how the Kiruv Orgs work, they prospect from the top.

    Not saying someone can’t walk in off the street and be accepted in Kiruv land, they do and are, just not the majority.

  28. I don’t see too many Orthodox Jews volunteering to be patsies. Where are the real life examples to back up the claims of the article? Send this one back for mandatory revision.

  29. Ron, are you suggesting that overcoming physical fear is harder than overcoming physical desires.I think that overcoming fear ànd pulling a pollyana everthing is all in gds hands faith thing is easier than overcoming physical desires sometimes. Then again I’m not afraid of much. Ór maybe I don’t understand your points.

  30. get past that self-parody of masculinity called “machismo” and talk about the very real virtue of manliness,

    Point taken. This is true about many middos. In some circles the self-parody of humility that is low self-esteem passes for the genuine article.(OTOH the post was too long as it is :)).

    IMO what is sometimes missing from the curricula and societal emphasis is
    getting past that self-parody of self-control AKA kveeshas HaYetzer called “aidelkeit-meekness” and educating about the very real virtue of g’vurah.

    There are times when not being confrontational manifests an admirable self-control but there are times that self-control demands BEING confrontational. My gripe is with an education that might so exalt deference and meekness so that youth trained in it cannot summon the g’vurah/courage needed to fight (first and foremost the internal enemy) even when it is absolutely necassery.

  31. Ron- to clarify; as laziness is antithetical to zrizus=alacrity and correctly identified as a “bad” midah to be resisted, so is cowardice antithetical to g’vurah and a bad midah which needs to be resited. More pointedly, if G’vurah is the Yetzer Tov flexing it’s muscles then cowardice is THE bad middah that undergirds all the others. Every surrender to the Yetzer Harah large or small in thought , word or deed, is on some level moral cowrdice.

    The GR”A explains that the initial most basic tactic of the Yetzer HaRah is to induce fear and existential angst. He interprets the primordial snakes initial “ice breaker” to Chava “Is it so that G-d commanded you not to eat from ANY of the treees of the garden???” as a rhetorical question with the implied message: “Well you can’t live that way, you won’t be able to manage without any nutrition. Listen to Him and experience pain and nonexistence. Listen to me and become Gods yourselves. No pain no death”

    To put new teeth on Winston Churchill’s saw: There is nothing to fear but HaShem Himself. Those who do (as the Brisker Rov et al) are fearless of all others.

  32. Regarding the comment by RDS
    May 16th, 2007 11:00 :

    You miss my point: There is TODAY a large “frum” market for books about Jewish spiritual heroism. That says something about values held TODAY.

  33. This is an excerpt taken from Jewish Media Resources (Jonathan Rosenblum’s website):

    Menahem Ussishkin recounts a visit to the Kotel on Erev Rosh Hashana of
    1929, a month and a half after the Arab riots. After the riots, prayer at the Western Wall had nearly ceased, and Ussishkin describes his depression as he stood in the
    nearly empty plaza thinking of times past, 2,000 years earlier.

    ‘Suddenly,’ the Zionist leader writes, ‘I detected the sound of approaching footsteps. Out of a darkened side-street stepped an elderly Jew of stately appearance, attired in traditional festival garb. He approached the Kotel with bowed head and began to
    kiss its stones with holy fervor. I recognized him – it was Rabbi Chaim Sonnenfeld [leader of the old Yishuv of Jerusalem]. I did not move or approach him, for I did not want to disturb his awesome reverence.

    ‘A deep sigh escaped his lips. He raised his head, gave the stones a final embrace, and turned to leave. Then he noticed me and approached.

    “How happy I am,’ he said, ‘that I have found here a brother who shares our anguish and pain.’ He suddenly lifted his head, his eyes shining with fervor and hope and said, ‘Do not be dejected. This will also pass…. Not through narrow alleyways and not
    with bowed heads will we enter this holy place, but through boulevards and with proud bearing.’

    ‘The words of this amazing sage,’ Ussishkin concludes, ‘left an impression upon me that I will never forget, and I returned home calmer and more serene than when I left.’

  34. Bob-

    Historically I agree with you. IMO the deemphasis of G’vurah is of fairly recent vintage. In recent times G’vurah has been marginalized along with some other values which were once thought to be mainstream Jewish.

  35. I like the point of the posting, because frum Jews, and perhaps BT’s in unique ways, do have to really “step up” at a certain point, even when there is no physical danger but a great threat nonetheless to one’s ego or self-image. For men, the recollection of first going out with a yarmulke, drawing that line, should be profound. (Actually I don’t exactly remember it myself. That’s why I say it should be profound.) You then spend the rest of your life walking around with an announcement that you’re different, you’re not part of the majority, you stand for something, maybe something others don’t like. Yes, that takes gevura.

    On the other hand, I think Bob’s right — there is a vast literature dedicated to this topic. It is enough, I think, to name merely All For the Boss, the iconic and ground-breaking frum biographical memoir, which is nothing if not the Jewish Profiles in Courage (do our younger readers know what Profiles in Courage is, I wonder?).

    Afilu hochi (even then), I have to express constructive disappointment with this post for this reason: I thought Rabbi Schwartz was actually going to get past that self-parody of masculinity called “machismo” and talk about the very real virtue of manliness, which is absolutely a positive character trait in its time and place. Unfortunately, this post undermines that point by its emphasis on the approach in Avos. Naturally that approach is absolutely true; the yeitzer, including the one who urges us to display masculinity when it is not the time and place to do so, is stronger than any challenge to our physical courage.

    Afilu hochi I believe some of us BT’s need to hear that the Torah does not say it is a bad thing to “break your back” to earn a living to support your own family; it may not a bad thing to respond firmly and in a dignified fashion (to the extent it is not reckless) to verbal or physical assaults in galus and elsewhere; it is may not be a bad thing to serve in the armed forces of the country where you live. There are many stories of physical courage displayed by our gedolim, too, and though the source of that strength is always the edifice of Torah on which such people stand, it was not the yeitzer that the Brisker Rov had to fight to walk through the streets of Warsaw after curfew, nor Reb Moshe Feinstein when he supervised the construction of mikvaos in the Soviet Union, nor the innumerable poshuteh yidden (ordinary Jews) who have lived and worked in phsyically threatening and hostile environments in order to support their families and serve Hashem. They had to be as brave as lions — literally, for lions do not have a yeitzer hora — and to face life and death and the physical peril in between with the knowledge that all is in Hashem’s hands.

  36. JT, I got some focus this morning from breakfast containing Cheerios and Sam’s Club apple juice. Any chemical intake along the lines you favor would have made my comment above less splendid.

  37. Bob Miller, how about some controlled “substance”s for those having a bit of trouble focusing on the main points.I’m not goin to even touch the large side issue of lack of quality religious book writing.
    Ór dire need of it.

    Chaim G,I think there are plenty of ffbs that need to do teshuva way more so than bts so the bt thing starts becoming almost universally applicable in the long run to plenty of corrupt ffbs as well. At the end of the long hard day its all about self discipline ànd how hard it is. Your tagging worries çan be allocated to more profound questions on this essay.

    Àdderall anyone ?

  38. This article would have been more impressive if there was more substance to the main thesis.

    There are many available books, written and published by the “frummest” Orthodox Jews, on Jewish spiritual heroism during the 1930’s and 1940’s. At least one series was written specifically for use in Jewish schools (you can check with Torah Umesorah).

    These do not represent Jewish spiritual heroism as being some anomaly. Nobody would have published all these books without a “frum” market to sell them to!

    Examples of easily available books:

  39. Is this the same contributor who called for the abolition of the terms BT and FFB???

  40. RDS,
    Welcome back !! So happy you could make it. You havent done a post in blog decades.
    “Practicing self discipline” is quite the daunting directive.
    Do you think its cheating, if a high energy/ super impulsive individual medicates his/her life away into a mediocre, alacrity laced haze of lovingkindness initiatives.
    And manages to fabricate Mother Theresa’s sense of altruism & Palti Ben Layish’s sense of discipline. All with a perfected dose of adderall/ritalin/concerta or any other flavor…………….
    Any spiritual brownie points issued or heaven credit given if this sort of “discipline helper” is used.
    Brilliant points and concept connecting/ threading, thanks for expounding on this stuff in profound english with awe inducing subtexts and connotations.

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