Sex, Heroism, And What Every Son (And Daughter) Wants To Hear

Everyone wants to be the hero. 

Not just a hero; 

The hero. 

We look at the horrors of the world and there isn’t one of us who doesn’t wish for a second for super-human abilities to rescue, to save, to right the wrongs and make everything ok. 

There’s nothing wrong with that impulse.

After all, heroism is an expression of our Godly nature.

The thing is though there are other factors to be considered. We cannot fly or through bolts of fire. That’s why Superman, Thor, and Wonder Woman (how could I leave her out?!) are heroes only in our imagination. 

But don’t worry; real heroism is still attainable for us. It isn’t flashy and it’s certainly much more subtle. Human heroism is in the moments of decision when the hero makes the tiniest of choices to do the hardest things possible: to act with grandeur in spite of lethargy and impulse. Working with the depressed and the addicted, I’m fortunate to spend my days in the company of such heroes; people who fight mighty battles that no one ever knows of.

While the rough outlines are innate to us, human heroism needs grooming. We need people to cheer us, to celebrate with us, to say ‘keep up the good work’, etc. There are, of course, some of us whose heroics will be unknown and unacknowledged except by those us who realize that we stand today on the shoulders of the anonymous heroes who came before us. But all of us need a pat on the back and the respect of those whose opinions matter to us.

Chief among those bequeathers of respect are our parents. I’ve listened to the storied and the famous, who’ve received award and recognition from world wide authorities, bemoan (and often cry) that they wish their mom and dad could see them, that they could say, ‘Wow! That’s an impressive achievement. I’m humbled. I could have never done that.’ 

Because there’s nothing like a pat on the back from mom or dad.

That to me is the lesson Jacob’s blessing and testimony of Joseph. In the middle of the beautiful Biblical poetry is a cryptic expression, ‘his bow was firmly established’ (Genesis 49:24). The Talmud comes to the rescue with a sensational interpolation: ‘But his bow was strongly established’ as referring to Joseph’s overcoming his temptation with his master’s wife. He calls it a bow because semen shoots like an arrow.’

Here’s a father, a Biblical patriarch no less, not only complementing his son but extolling a virtue that the vast majority of us would rather make believe doesn’t exist: his son’s sexual chastity.


That totally rocks.

Jacob was saying to Joseph, ‘Joe, you’re a hero. You could have given into the seductions of Mrs. Potiphar (and who better portrays her than the great Joan Collins in Donnie Osmond’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat?) and no one would have known. But you kept it together; you stayed faithful to the mission. I’m humbled. You’re my hero.’

While I’d probably be mortified if my dad mentioned my sexuality, I know now that Jacob was really on to something. If we want real societal holiness (as opposed to repression which is the really-bad-for-you-margarine-imposter for holiness) then we need to celebrate chastity and menchlichkeit. We need to inculcate in our children and in ourselves that sexual temptation is an opportunity to manifest our heroic side. We need to tell them again and again that the moments of temptation are their moments to shine. The world may not give them medals or put them on the cover of magazines, but they are our heroes.


Because every one of us wants to be a  hero.