Magazine article Moment

Who Is Your Favorite Biblical Character?

Magazine article Moment

Who Is Your Favorite Biblical Character?

Article excerpt

Independent

No one strove as much as David to access the light of God, which he mentions at least 15 times in his Psalms. No one found himself so immersed in the darkness as he, as in the incident involving Bathsheba and her husband Uriah. No one rose out of the depths of the abyss as he to acknowledge responsibility for his wrongdoing. And no one publicly owned his guilt in front of the news cameras and the press as he.

He didn't tell the people, "It wasn't real sex" or "I didn't inhale." Rather, he came completely clean over the tragic scandal that he had perpetrated. Indeed, the ancients taught us: Where Adam and Eve fell, David rose. He was a warrior imbued with divine power and mortal weakness. His words, more than any others have, for close to 3,000 years empowered us and inspired us, gladdened us and consoled us. He personified the teaching of his descendant Hillel the Elder: "If there is no one doing what needs to be done--you be that person!" (Mishnak Avot 2:5).

Rabbi Gershon Winkler

Walking Stick Foundation

Thousand Oaks, CA

Humanist

Biblical characters are routinely flawed and fallible, which makes them approachable. It is also what makes them collectively favored over two-dimensional superheroes. No one Biblical character stands out above the rest, but I have great admiration for any who display courage. I extol Abraham's bravery and fortitude for taking on God over Sodom and Gomorrah and the injustice of a planned slaying of good people along with the bad. Likewise, I praise Moses for daring to tempt God's anger and plead for compassion when God was about to kill the Children of Israel for making and worshipping a golden calf. I admire Esther for standing up to Ahasuerus on behalf of her people. And, as my son reminded me, I have enormous respect for Nahshon who, according to Midrash, was the first to jump into the Red Sea and set its parting in motion. This last deed may be the most admirable. Nahshon's act was not a case of stepping up to authority, but rather, stepping into the utter unknown. Instead of allowing events to take hold of him, he chose to be the master of his own destiny.

Rabbi Peter H. Schweitzer

The City Congregation for Humanistic Judaism

New York, NY

Renewal

Although most of the Bible is written from the male point of view, the Song of Songs brings us a woman whose voice rings true and clear. From her, I learn the Torah of Love. When the Shulamite tells me, "Great seas cannot extinguish love, no river can wash it away," I am inspired to keep opening my heart, even when faced with negativity or criticism. When she says, "Kiss me with the kisses of your mouth, for your sweet loving is better than wine," I am emboldened to embrace life, enjoy its pleasures and receive God's presence fully. When she opens the door too late and is bereft at missing her beloved, I am sent to repent for the times that I have been too self-absorbed, too blind, too complacent to receive love. The Shulamite is playful, passionate, assertive, tender and wise. She is bold and direct in expressing her desire, yet infused with innocence and sweetness. Above all she is generous in her praise: "How beautiful you are, my beloved, and how gentle," she whispers. My heart stirs. She challenges me to call each moment "My Beloved" and to generously acknowledge beauty everywhere. Rabbi Shefa Gold Director, Center for Devotional, Energy and Ecstatic Practice Jemez Springs, NM

Reconstructionist

Where would we be without midwives? Two of myTorah favorites are Shifrah and Puah, catchers of Hebrew babies in Egypt (Exodus 1). When Pharaoh directly orders them to kill all newborn boys, they defy him, slyly misleading the evil regime. They are the first recorded practitioners of civil disobedience (Thoreau, Gandhi, King, Mandela and many more would follow).

The text twice tells us that Shifrah and Puah had "awe/fear of God"; they did the right, divinely inspired thing, even at great personal risk. …

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