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Heroic Failure

Friday, 19 October, 2012 - 6:30 pm

Our society is infatuated with heroes. From Superman to Chesley Sullenberger, we admire heroes. What is it about heroes that fills us with awe and adoration?

Felix Baumgartner parachuted to earth from the edge of space. After years of planning, setbacks and failures he triumphed. Yet, what made him a hero was overcoming his four and a half minutes of fear and terror.

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In this week’s parsha, Noach, we read about the great Flood. G-d was angry with mankind’s corrupt behavior and elected to start over. He caused a great flood to wipe out all creatures. The only human exceptions were Noach and his family.

The Torah relates that after the flood Noach “remained alone.” We can only imagine how lonely Noach must have felt at that moment. The vast earth was desolate. There was no one else.

It was then that it dawned upon him how great a failure he had been. Yes, he was worthy of being spared. But, in all his time, he had not succeeded in influencing even one person to improve. He and his family were the lone survivors.

Far from celebrating his survival, Noach recognized his shortcoming. He could have easily slipped into despair. How would he succeed in a world that had just experienced such utter destruction?

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The true sign of a hero is not how she deals with victory, but how she overcomes challenges and keeps on going and going. Never giving up – that’s the hallmark of a hero.

Noach, though he neglected to save a generation, is tasked with rebuilding the world. He is a broken man. Yet he perseveres and becomes the father of mankind.

***

We all have our personal struggles. We are all in the midst of a divine mission. We cannot look at our faults and conclude that we are destined to disappoint. We may have ‘tried’ a mitzvah, but the magical progress we expect eludes us. As Noach, we must move forward. If we step into the next mitzvah, we are on our way to becoming heroes.

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