What Makes A Man/Woman?

What Makes A Man/Woman?


At our License to Chai (teen education) class on Wednesday night, we discussed the recent controversy regarding the Miami Dolphins, bullying/harassment (and the complexity of the situation), and being a bystander.

For background on this story, and please read this very interesting article and video on What Defines A Real Man In Sports

Ok, now that you have watched the video, and read the article, you can see that there are many issues at play here.  They revolve around dominating over the other, meeting violence with violence, and much more.

We see that the sports world is struggling with this issue, but what does our Jewish tradition have to say about what it means to be a 'Man'/'Woman'?

Here is a quote from the Ethics of our Fathers (2:6) that give us some insight:

ובמקום שאין אנשים, השתדל להיות איש
In a place where there are no 'men', strive to be a 'man'/'woman'

Seems like a simple quote, but there's more than meets the eye!  The text gets us to define the core of what it means to act like an Ish or Isha (Man or Woman).

We talked about the true heroes of the Bible - some who we thought were heroes because they were physically gifted, like Samson, and Shimon and Levi, but their physical gifts ultimately got them in trouble.  Samson's strength ultimately led to his death.  Shimon and Levi's revenge for their sister Dinah led to the deaths of all the males of an entire city, and led their father Jacob to say this to his two boys:

“You have brought trouble on me, making me odious among the inhabitants of the land, the Canaanites and the Perizzites; my men are few in number, so that if they unite against me and attack me, I and my house will be destroyed.” Genesis 34:30

Is being a hero/heroine just about physical strength and violence?

Clearly, the answer is no.  We spoke about other heroes - heroes like Abraham and Sarah who welcomed strangers into their home and fed them, and who can teach us to welcome the new kid to our lunch table.

We spoke about Boaz who is described as a 'man of valor' (איש גיבור) who reaches out to Ruth, a stranger in his land with really no family, and shows her kindness and compassion.  It also showed how we can welcome other people into our friendship circles, and show compassion and kindness to those who are being picked on by bullies.

We learned about Elkanah, Hannah's husband, who shares in his wife's pain when she faces infertility and gives her love and support.

We learned about one of the most famous 'Bromances' in the Bible, between David and Jonathan, and the fact that men and women can show love, affection, and appreciation toward each other!

The teens shared their heroes to me who turned out to be their mothers and fathers rather than athletes and celebrities!

We learned that being a 'man'/'woman' means being brave and courageous; kind and compassionate; supportive and loving.

We ended class with this You Tube clip, with a different perspective on football, and true heroes who can teach us how to be better 'men' and 'women'.



The video really says it all doesn't it.  Fast forward to 2:40 and watch that again.  He admits, the play wasn't his idea, and he says, tearfully, "I never would have thought about that."  He goes on, "I went from being someone who mostly cares about himself and my friends to caring about everyone and trying to make everyone's day and everyone's life."  

It looks like those boys on the that football field, who showed themselves to be true 'men', could teach my beloved Miami Dolphins a lesson on what it takes to be a man.  


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