A Test of Courage

Question

What is the definition of “courage” according to Judaism? For example, courage to not do something hurtful to others, such as not stealing or spreading lies. Thanks.

2 weeks

Answers

  1. Courage in this sense is a trait that is unique to people. Animals may exhibit physical strength. But courage, spiritual strength, applies only to people.

    The Sage Ben Zoma said: “Who is a strong and courageous person? Someone who subdues his inclination to do wrong, as we find expressed in the verse: ‘A person who doesn’t lose his temper is better than a strong man, and one who controls his spirit is better than someone who conquers a city’.”

    When it comes to the courage of spiritual strength everyone has the same opportunity to excel. Wherever you stand spiritually, there is a challenge. Though some people, due to place of birth, education, etc., would seem to have it easier, in actuality each person faces his own tests which are perfect for him.

    An amazing story is recorded about Rabbi Chaim Vital (16th century) and the Arizal (Rabbi Yitzchak Luria). The Arizal was the great teacher of Kabbala in modern times. Rabbi Chaim Vital was his primary student, who recorded almost all of the Arizal’s teachings. Once Rabbi Vital asked the Arizal the following question: “If the Talmudic Sages with all their greatness and levels of holiness weren’t able to bring the mashiach (messianic era), then how are we going to be able to?”

    The Arizal’s answer is even more understandable today that it was then. He answered: “In the time before the mashiach it will be extremely challenging to correctly observe mitzvot. Mitzvot performed then will require greater courage than they did in earlier times. Therefore, even if those mitzvot may not be done as completely as before they will have greater power, and we will merit the arrival of the mashiach.”

    Best wishes from the AskTheRabbi.org Team