by Rabbi Josh Franklin
We began by showing students and parents clips of real life acts of heroism caught on camera. In the videos, they watched many different kinds of heroism from a man leaping onto subway tracks to save a woman who fell, to a boy taking control of a bus after the driver loses consciousness, to a man simply picking up a disabled woman who fell in the middle of a street. Any person can become a hero, and heroes come in all shapes and sizes. When we polled our families to find out what qualities they believe heroes possess, they came up with the following responses.
Our session also focused on one of the unsung heroes in the Jewish tradition. During each family session, we will explore a new personality. This week we talked about Nachshon Ben Amminadab. The Torah mentions Nachshon several times, but his real standout appearance can be found in the Midrash. Our students read the book Nachshon, Who Was Afraid to Swim, while our parents studied a Midrash about Nachshon from Mekhilta D’Rabbi Ishmael. We discussed how Nachshon embodies the rabbinic value of being a stand up guy:
ובִמְקוֹם שֶׁאֵין אֲנָשִׁים, הִשְׁתַּדֵּל לִהְיוֹת אִישׁ
In a place where no one stand up for others, strive to be the one of stands up for others (Pirke Avot 2:5)
While Moses is busy praying at the Sea of Reeds, the Israelites are kvetching, and the Egyptian army is pursing. Nachshon rises to the occasion and takes a leap of faith into the water. He becomes a hero by standing up and taking action when no one else will. We left our families with the following questions to reflect on at the end of the session, and to take home for dinner table conversations.
- When have you acted like Nachshon?
- Was there a time when you should have acted like Nahshon, but didn’t?
- Who is someone you know who has acted like Nachshon?
- Is there ever a time when it’s not good to act like Nachshon?
- How are you going to begin to act like Nachshon?