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June 13, 2013

Role ModelsI noticed the following tweet yesterday from @triathletemargs[1] “Hey @chrissiesmiles[2] are you going to Kona this year? Please say yes! #myidol you’re the reason why I started in triathlon.”

Who are your Role Models?

This week’s Parsha (Parsha Chukkas) can be summarised as follows ( ) – The laws of the Para Aduma — the red heifer — are detailed. These laws are for the ritual purification of one who comes into contact with death. After nearly 40 years in the desert, Miriam dies and is buried at Kadesh. The people complain about the loss of their water supply that until now has been provided miraculously in the merit of Miriam’s righteousness. Aharon and Moshe pray for the people’s welfare. G-d commands them to gather the nation at Merivah and speak to a designated rock so that water will flow forth. Distressed by the people’s lack of faith, Moshe hits the rock instead of speaking to it. He thus fails to produce the intended public demonstration of G-d’s mastery over the world, which would have resulted had the rock produced water merely at Moshe’s word. Therefore, G-d tells Moshe and Aharon that they will not bring the people into the Land. Bnei Yisrael resumes their travels, but because the King of Edom, a descendant of Esav, denies them passage through his country, they do not travel the most direct route to Eretz Yisrael. When they reach Mount Hor, Aharon dies and his son Elazar is invested with his priestly garments and responsibilities. Aharon was beloved by all, and the entire nation mourns him 30 days. Sichon the Amorite attacks Bnei Yisrael when they ask to pass through his land. As a result, Bnei Yisrael conquers the lands that Sichon had previously seized from the Amonites on the east bank of the Jordan River.

This week marked the 19th Anniversary of the passing of the Late Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson. I thought I would try to try to bring a few things together regarding “Role Models” which the Rebbe was to so many people.

I am not one who knows a lot about the Rebbe, but his legacy will remain for decades, from what I have heard and read you learn how deeply he cared for each human being and his example serves as a source of motivation and inspiration to each of us.  His life’s work was in spreading Jewish pride, practice, knowledge and love to the furthest reaches of the globe.

But what can we learn from Role Models and who should we choose as Role Models?

I noticed the following interesting vort (a “word”) on this week’s Daf Yomi[3]  learning (Eruvin 100 – 106) that shows we can learn from all creatures:

 “Even if the Torah had not been given we would be able to learn modesty from the cat and learn not to steal from the ant.”

Rashi explains how the cat shows modesty in matters of relieving itself in private and properly disposal afterwards. He also explains states that ants store up food in the summer for the winter, and they don’t steal food from one another.[4]

In this week’s Parsha. We learn of the death of Miriam (Moses Sister) and Aharon (Moses Brother). Both were Role Models to the Jewish People and they are examples to us all.

Aharon is a role model who exemplified how one can be passionate about one’s beliefs, strong willed about one’s convictions, and yet remain kind and loving to everyone one interacts with. In Pirkei Avot (1:12) we learn, “Be of the disciples of Aaron, loving peace and pursuing peace; be one who loves others and draws them near to the Torah.”

Miriam, in her courage and wisdom, is a true role model of inspiration.

Over the last few years I have read or I am reading books on people that have inspired me in my pursuit of spiritual growth, triathlon, exercising, eating and overall healthy lifestyle.

People like:

–      Chrissie Wellington who went from being a normal working person to becoming the greatest Ironman athlete. Chrissie has been both @triathletemargs’s and my triathlon inspiration. I read Chrissie 50 point race checklist[5] before every triathlon and followed a number of her tips for my Ironman;

–      Chief Rabbi Lau. His book “Out of the Depths” should be compulsory reading. His story from Holocaust survival to becoming Chief Rabbi of Israel is truly remarkable;

–      Chris “Macca” McCormack book highlights what it takes to be an elite athlete and to win. What is more remarkable is his dedication to perpetuating the memory of his mother who died of cancer;

–      Rich Roll, I am sure you have not heard of him. In his book “Finding Ultra” he goes from being an overweight middle aged alcoholic to becoming one of the world’s fittest men, doing Ultraman[6] events on a “plant based diet” (yes!). Rich is spreading his message of healthful and positive living, have a listen to his Podcasts; and

–      Cooks and chefs like Yotam Ottolenghi, Teresa
Cutter ( and Lisa Fallon Mindel ( who have motivated me to explore many different foods and to even try my hand at cooking/ baking with ingredients that I had not heard about a few years back.

Role Model parentsI have learnt from many people, but as a father, husband and a friend I also need to be a Role Model for others. I think this is harder!

I came across the following quote – “It may be alright to be content with what you have, but never with what you are.”

[1] Nutritionist and Blogger – Margaret Mielczarek –

[2] Chrissie Wellington – World Champion Ironman athlete

[3] Is a daily regimen of learning the Oral Torah and its commentaries (also known as the Gemara), in which each of the 2,711 pages of the Babylonian Talmud are covered in sequence. Under this regimen, the entire Talmud is completed, one day at a time, in a cycle of seven and a half years.

[4] The Ben Yehoyada points out that once the Torah was given we are to learn these and other positive character traits only from the Torah and not from animals. Animals also possess negative qualities which one might be influenced by, whereas the Torah is pure righteousness and goodness.

[6] The ULTRAMAN WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS is an athletic odyssey of personal rediscovery; as such, it is the next step in the endurance challenge of being human. Covering a total distance of 320 miles (515 kilometers), on the big island of Hawaii, they require that each participant complete a 6.2 mile (10 K) open ocean swim, a 261.4 mile (421 K) cross-country bike ride, and a 52.4 mile (84 K) ultra-marathon run.


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