A Man of Valor

How do we determine the worth of a man?  To quote from the song “Seasons of Love” from the musical ‘Rent’:


                Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes,

                Five hundred twenty-five thousand moments so dear

                Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes,

                How do you measure, measure a year?


                In daylights, in sunsets, in midnights, in cups of coffee,

                In inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife

                In five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes,

                How do you measure a life in the year?


                How do you measure the life of a woman or a man?


In Proverbs 31 we are taught that the value of an Eshet Chayil, a woman of valor, is far above rubies. I’d like to think that a comparable value might be found for an Ish Chayil, a man of valor. It’s not the clothes that make the man, nor the car, nor the competency you show in your profession.  No, it is the intangibles that define us.


Do we genuinely care about someone, or is it a superficial “how are you” that is more reflexive than sincere?  Do we offer to help when help is needed, or wait to be asked? Do we perform an act of chesed, kindness, because it is just innately in our DNA, without any thought about how it might confound the day’s appointments, or hem and haw because it doesn’t fit? Do we perform acts of tzedakah at the inconvenient times, because we know the need is great, or bemoan the state of affairs without recognizing that person could be me under different circumstances?  Do we welcome the stranger, as the Torah demands, because we were once strangers, or does the discomfort cripple us to ignore the stranger?


This Ish Chayil would probably think of himself as an ordinary person, not an exemplar.  Perhaps that is what helps define one, a person who performs mitzvot without any thought of reward, for we learn in Pirkei Avot that the reward of a mitzvah is another mitzvah. It sort of becomes auto-pilot.


I mentioned a few weeks ago during a D’var Torah that Jewish tradition tells of the existence of the lamed-vavniks, which stands for “36”.  The world is held together by the righteous deeds of 36 people in every generation, although we will never know whom they are, as they do not know it either, but sometimes we think that we can hazard a guess.  The fact that this thought comes to mind should not cause any undue embarrassment. On the contrary, it is the ultimate compliment, and well-deserved.  If I am thinking of someone in particular, I cannot say, for I might accidentally reveal a lamed-vavnik.  May we all be thought of by others as qualified for this lofty compliment.

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