Heroes: Then and Now

Throughout history, heroes have captivated us with their stories of courage and selflessness. They come from diverse backgrounds and have made significant contributions to society. From legendary warriors to contemporary activists and inventors, we have a wide variety of individuals whose legacies remind us that anyone can make a meaningful difference in the world. Even small actions can have a significant impact on history.

Ancient Heroes

The Book of Exodus is a captivating literary work that showcases a range of exciting characters. While some of these figures are explicitly named and their stories are widely recognized, many others remain anonymous, and their contributions often go unnoticed. However, as our Passover Haggadah text reminds us, the impact of these unnamed individuals is of utmost importance. In fact, without their specific actions and sacrifices, “we, our children, and our children’s children would still be slaves in Egypt.”

“These are the names of the children of Israel who came to Egypt” (Exodus 1:1).
When expressed in Hebrew, it is written as: “אֵלֶּה שְׁמוֹת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל…” (שמות א:א).

Among the first individuals explicitly named in The Book of Exodus are the Egyptian midwives to the Hebrews, Shifra and Puah. Their actions constitute the world’s earliest recorded instance of civil disobedience in historical narrative. In defiance of Pharaoh’s orders, these midwives chose not to comply.

These passages provide a detailed account of the efforts of the Egyptian Pharaoh to control the population of the Hebrews and the resistance of the Hebrew midwives who refused to carry out his orders to kill the male infants.

“When you deliver the Hebrew women, and you see them on the birthstool, if it is a son, you shall put him to death, but if it is a daughter, she may live.” – Exodus 1:17-21

“The midwives, however, feared God, so they did not do as the king of Egypt had spoken to them, but they enabled the boys to live. So the king of Egypt summoned the midwives and said, ‘Why have you done this thing that you have enabled the boys to live?'” – Exodus 1:17-21

“Pharaoh’s daughter went down to bathe in the Nile, and her maidens were walking along the Nile, and she saw the basket in the midst of the marsh, and she sent her maidservant, and she took it. She opened it, and she saw him, the child, and behold, he was a weeping lad, and she had compassion on him, and she said, ‘This is one of the children of the Hebrews.'” – Exodus 2:5-6

“She bestowed upon him the name Moses, declaring, ‘For I drew him from the water,’ as expressed in the Hebrew phrase ‘min hamayim mishitihu.'” – Exodus 2:10

Modern Heroes

In more modern times, Juan Pujol García was a Portuguese-born double agent whose bravery and cleverness played a crucial role in achieving victory during World War II. Pujol’s ingenuity led him to send deceptive reports to Germany, earning the trust of the Nazis and eventually a mission to recruit double agents in Britain. He staged an elaborate deception on English soil, creating a fake network of English double agents that confused the German High Command.

Agent Garbo’s strategic brilliance shone through as he skillfully deceived the German High Command several times, changing the course of history to favour the Allies. Using creative tactics, he orchestrated the fabrication of convincing decoys such as balloon tanks and rows of planes, leading to German misperceptions about the upcoming Allied invasion. His legacy highlights how personal courage and strategic thinking can influence the world.

As I watched “Simone, Woman of the Century,” a documentary that chronicles the life and achievements of Simone Veil, I couldn’t help but be amazed by the extraordinary journey of this remarkable woman. Veil’s life began with a happy childhood in a secular Jewish family. However, her life took a dark turn when she was arrested along with her family and deported to Auschwitz during World War II. Despite the horrors she experienced in the concentration camp, Veil’s resilience and determination never faltered.

The documentary highlights significant moments in Veil’s life, such as her graduation and achievements after the war. She went on to earn a French law degree, raise a family, and serve in the French government. Notably, she played a pivotal role in securing legal abortion rights in a primarily Catholic country, which was a significant victory for women’s rights. Veil’s journey culminated in becoming the European Parliament’s first president, where she contributed substantially to preventing historical conflicts that had troubled Europe for centuries.

Simone Veil’s life is a testament to her commitment to political leadership and passionate advocacy for women’s rights. Her legacy inspires those working toward gender equality, and her dedication to preserving the memory of the Holocaust underscores the importance of collective remembrance and justice.

Celebrating Unsung Heroes

Unsung heroes embody personal courage and selflessness. Their bravery, self-sacrifice, and commitment inspire generations and leave an indelible mark on history. Let us celebrate their contributions, learn from their example, and strive to positively impact the world.



  1. Rabbi Shipell. “Weekly Torah Seminar.” Lockdown University, Lockdown University, info@lockdownuniversity.org.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *