May 25, 2024
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May 25, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

In one of his “For what it’s worth” segments, the late Paul Harvey related the following story:

While working on the production of a movie in Santa Fe, New Mexico, in 1986, actor Robert Redford was scouting out the town. Mr. Redford walked into an ice cream parlor where a young woman immediately recognized him. However, the woman was determined to play it cool, and she pretended that she didn’t notice the movie star.

As soon as she left the shop, the woman realized that she had forgotten the ice cream cone she had just bought. She returned to the shop and asked the cashier for her cone. Mr. Redford overheard the conversation and said, “Madam, you’ll probably find your ice cream cone where you put it… in your purse.”

An important component of healthy ambition is having role models from whom one draws strength and encouragement. Many times, when one feels defeated or exasperated he/she is able to push yonder because the image of his hero is enough to encourage him not to surrender.

Our Sages state that “One is obligated to say, ‘When will my actions reach the actions of my forefathers, Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov?!’” The commentators explain that although our actions will never be on the same spiritual level, or with the same devotion as those of our patriarchs, we have to make them our role models. If we are seeking to follow in the path that they trailblazed, our actions will at least “touch” their actions, and we will be headed along the proper path.

Even the greatest of people have role models. Any individual, almost bar none, who has achieved great accomplishments will point to specific personages who gave him the fortitude and courage to pursue his goals in the face of challenges and impediments.

The tragedy of role models is that it works both ways. A negative role model can also be a source of strength for delinquent and maladaptive behavior.

During the ‘90s, when the sports world was swept away with “Jordan fever,” my rebbe, Rabbi Berel Wein, would quip, “How much can you expect from a generation whose motto is to ‘Be like Mike’?”

During the previous decades there has been no dearth of iconic personalities who have been caught engaged in negative behaviors. At times, when they were questioned about their actions vis-à-vis their “hero-like” status, they replied that they never intended to become role models. That inane and callow response is indicative of the fact that they indeed are hardly worthy to be role models. One does not choose who idolizes him. If one is cast into the limelight, role model status is a stark reality and responsibility, like it or not.

Although it is more blatantly true for adolescents, the truth is that every person is strongly influenced by his/her role models. Who we choose as our role models has a strong impact on how we live our lives and the goals we strive to attain.

I write these words in honor of the yahrtzeit of one of my foremost role models in life, my zaydie Rav Yaakov Meir Kohn, z”l.

Rabbi Wein (another of my role models) often relates that the ultimate test of success in life is when both your grandparents and your grandchildren are proud of you.

… Amen!

By Rabbi Dani Staum

 Rabbi Dani Staum, LMSW, is the rabbi of Kehillat New Hempstead, as well as guidance counselor and seventh-grade rebbe in ASHAR, and principal at Mesivta Ohr Naftoli of New Windsor, and a division head at camp Dora Golding. He also presents parenting classes based on the acclaimed Love and Logic methods. His email address is: [email protected]. His website is: www.stamtorah.info.

 

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