Mattot: Heroes and Anti-Heroes



When faced with the cruel injustice of life, two men in history responded in very different ways: Moses and Acher. With the recent gruesome murder of Leiby Kletzky at the hands of one of our own, these two voices emerge yet again: One of doubt and despair. The other of hope and confidence. The voice of the hero and the voice of the anti-hero.

Some people like their heroes to be good. They want them to fight for a cause, overcome the obstacles in their path and triumph over evil. Other people prefer their heroes to stumble and fall, get bruised up, make mistakes and emerge better than at the start, but still as a work in progress.

It’s been said that this is part of the appeal of the Bible – so many of its heroes are so very human. It’s also been said that if the Bible were not written by God, it would have been written by an anti-Semite, because unlike the scriptures of other religions, it paints the Jews as decidedly imperfect.

And perhaps this fascination we have with imperfection is what has given rise to the popularity of the anti-hero. In novels and movies, the anti-hero is the chief character, the protagonist, whose traits and behavior are conspicuously contrary to those of the archetypal hero.

This sermon analyzes two figures from Jewish history: one an anti-hero, Acher, and one a hero, Moses. It contrasts their attitude to divine justice and their contradictory legacy – one a legacy of doubt, the other a legacy of hope. It also speaks of Moses’ 120-day sojourn on Mount Sinai which corresponds to this time in the Jewish calendar.


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The Meaningful Life Center