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One of the tendencies of modern historiography is to debunk past heroes. Revisionist historians have blackened the name of some of the great people of the past by dwelling extensively on their human foibles and personal difficulties. Not only does this attitude reinforce the false idea that there are no real heroes in the world, it indirectly absolves all of us from ever attempting to be a hero to one's family, community or nation. One of the sources of this problem is the confusion of true heroism with infallibility. The Torah taught us that there are no perfect people. Only God is perfection incarnate. Heroes, as the Bible points out to us regarding the greatest people of our nation, may have faults and can make errors in judgment. Nevertheless, they remain heroes due to their accomplishments in life and their leadership of the Jewish people. It is essential beyond words to preserve the concept of human heroism in our age. It has been cheapened by the elevation of celebrities and sports figures as heroes. There is a great difference between being well known and being heroic. The currently well known are soon forgotten as they are replaced by another generation's well-known celebrities and sports figures. True heroes weather the ravages of time and are exemplary and inspiring for generations after their actual departure from this world.

All of this is to point out that this year the Jewish people commemorate the passing of two of the greatest heroes of our history: Rashi - Rabbi Shlomo ben Yitzchak of Troyes, France - and Rambam/Maimoinides - Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon of Spanish Cordoba, Moroccan Fez and Egyptian Fostat (Old Cairo.) It is nine hundred years since the passing of Rashi and eight hundred years since the death of Rambam. Both of these great heroes of Judaism have stood the test of time well. In fact, it is no exaggeration to say that they are probably known to more people in our generation than they were known to in their own generations. The Talmud teaches us that there were two main pillars that were the mainstays and support of Solomon's Temple in Jerusalem. The pillars were named Yachin and Boaz. Well, there are two main pillars that support the Jewish world of Torah and tradition and provide now as before the necessary basis for Jewish continuity. These pillars are named Rashi and Rambam. It is difficult to imagine the Jewish world without these two great heroes. How would we be able to study Torah and Talmud without the serene guidance of Rashi's commentaries? Rashi is the master of concise language, deep insight, clarity and sensitivity to the text and the reader of the text. He anticipates the problems and difficulties, clears away the stumbling blocks and effortlessly guides the scholar and the novice alike unto the open plain of understanding and deep appreciation of the wonders of the Torah and the Talmud. Nine hundred years after his passing, Rashi remains fresh and alive - the teacher of Israel, the eternal hero of the Jewish people.

Rambam took the entire compendium of Jewish thought and scholarship that existed until his time and organized it so that its transmission to all future generations of Jews became easier and clearer. The Rambam codified all of Jewish law in his magnum opus, Mishna Torah; he clarified and explained the Mishna in his Perush Mishnayot; he blazed a path for Jewish philosophy in Moreh Nevuchim; he laid down the guidelines for living as a Jew under times of persecution and forced conversion in Iggeret Teiman and Iggeret HaShmad; and he postulated for all time the basic beliefs of Judaism in his thirteen principles of faith. It is not for naught that the Jewish people say of him: "From Moshe to Moshe there arose no one as great as Moshe." He is the great eagle of the Jewish people, the person whose works are studied and commented upon more than any other works extant in the Jewish field. There are more scholarly books dealing with the works and books of Rambam than there are books commenting on the Bible itself! No major work written after his death fails to discuss his opinions and all rely upon him as the basis for all further Torah scholarship and creativity. Together with Rashi, he is the other pillar of Jewish heroism. They are the people who remain heroes to us for all seasons and all times.

Berel Wein

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