web analytics
November 28, 2014 / 6 Kislev, 5775
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post
IDC Herzliya Campus A Day on Campus

To mark IDC Herzliya’s 20th anniversary, we spent a day following Prof. Uriel Reichman, IDC’s founder and president, and Jonathan Davis, VP for External Relations, around its delightful campus.



Home » InDepth » Op-Eds »

The Tale Of Two Armstrongs In Elul

(L-R) Lance Armstrong and Neil Armstrong

(L-R) Lance Armstrong and Neil Armstrong

Two major news stories involving two famous men named Armstrong occurred within days of each other recently. Was it random happenstance? Or was there hashgacha involved?

We know that nothing happens outside Hashem’s realm and power. But did Hashem have a specific reason for these two events occurring together when they did?

Of course, we can’t claim to know the specifics of how Hashem operates the world, but something tells me there must be a message for us to uncover from the two men named Armstrong.

Lance Armstrong is a hero to millions of people, especially to those battling cancer. While on the rise in a cycling career, he was diagnosed at age 25 with a cancer that metastasized to his brain and lungs. His cancer treatments included surgery and extensive chemotherapy, and his prognosis was initially very poor. He was told he had less than a forty percent chance to live. But he not only survived, he went on to become a world class cyclist and win the most prestigious international cycling race, the Tour de France, for an unprecedented seven consecutive years.

But something happened to make him less of a hero in the eyes of many. After years of rumors and investigations, he decided to stop fighting charges that he used illegal steroids and hormones. (He still maintains his innocence despite the allegations of those who claim to have witnessed otherwise, though he is no longer battling them in order to clear his name.)

On the other hand there is Neil Armstrong, the famous astronaut and the first man to walk on the moon, who died at the age of 82. He coined perhaps the most famous secular quote of the 20th century upon taking that first step on the moon in 1969, saying, “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

While Neil Armstrong could have taken advantage of his fame, as other astronauts of his era did, he shied away from the limelight. He simply did not want any financial or material gain to come from his work for his country and its space program. After retiring from NASA he went on to live a very quiet life teaching at a small college in Ohio.

Lance Armstrong. Neil Armstrong. Both become major news stories within days of each other for very different reasons. Both become major news stories in Elul.

What does the name Armstrong connote? A strong arm. Lehavdil thousands of havdalos, the name Armstrong brings to mind that the Ribbono shel Olam is described in Egypt as having a Yad HaChazakah, a Strong Hand or Arm. In Parshas Ki Savo (26:8), the pasuk says that Hashem took us out of Egypt with a Yad HaChazakah. We mention this pasuk in the Hagaddah and we say there this Strong Arm refers to the plague of dever, the death of the animals of the Egyptians. The Malbim explains that only with regards to dever do we find the Torah describing that Yad Hashem struck the Egyptian flock. For no other plague is the term “the Hand of Hashem” used. This indicates that dever was somehow the greatest of all the plagues. In fact, the Malbim says that dever existed in every plague and encompassed all of the Ten Plagues. Without going into the details of how that was the case, we derive from this that the term Yad HaChazakah relating to Hashem indicates great judgment and consequence.

Is it any wonder, then, that we find the word Armstrong in the news in Elul, with the Day of Judgment right around the corner? Indeed, the Yad HaChazakah is coming and we must prepare.

And how do we prepare? We must learn the lesson of Lance Armstrong and the allegations against him. We may be heroes to many people who look up to us for our various spiritual accomplishments. But unless we do teshuvah, whatever we do in private that is inappropriate can and will come back to haunt us when the Yad HaChazakah chooses to have it displayed. That display may be in this world or it might wait for the next, but He will judge the inner core of who we really are and there is no escaping it. False facades and fortune only last so long before eventually being blown to pieces.

The lesson of Neil Armstrong is a more uplifting one. Attempt to accomplish great things – indeed, take one small step by one small step in creating and becoming a giant leap of a man for all mankind – but remain humble while doing so. Reach the moon of accomplishment but don’t become arrogant and aloof as a result of your greatness. Retain and maintain humility and modesty. As Chazal (Avos 2:9) say, “If you have learned much Torah, don’t give yourself a lot of credit, for this is why you were created.” Feel as if you are just doing your job and don’t allow yourself to become a pompous celebrity. Never forget that you must view yourself as a servant, an eved Hashem, and don’t try to cash in on your “celebrity” in any way for self-serving purposes.

Perhaps these are some of the lessons we are meant to learn from the tale of two Armstrongs in Elul.

Rabbi Boruch Leff is an assistant principal at Torah Institute in Baltimore and the author of five books. To schedule a speaking engagement with Rabbi Leff or to receive two books for the price of one – “Shabbos in My Soul” and “More Shabbos in My Soul” (Feldheim) – or to purchase the book “Are You Growing?” (Feldheim) at 40% off, contact the author at sbleff@gmail.com.

About the Author:


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “The Tale Of Two Armstrongs In Elul”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
IDF Chief Rabbi Rafi Peretz delivers lecture.
IDF Chief Rabbi: Nothing is Holy to Muslims Temple Mount except Al Aqsa
Latest Indepth Stories
Greiff-112814-Levaya

My son is seventeen; he didn’t want to talk about what happened, or give any details of the Rosh Yeshiva’s words of chizuk.

Protesters in Ferguson, Missouri

All involved in the Ferguson debate should learn the laws pertinent to non-Jews: the Noahide Laws.

Charley Levine

Prominent Jewish leaders acknowledged that their predecessors had mistreated the Bergson Group.

Cravatts-Richard--new

Abbas has been adding new layers of rhetoric to his tactical campaign to de-Judaize Jerusalem

The Jew’s crime is his presence.

Hamas’s love for death tried to have as many Palestinian civilians killed as possible

Israel recognizes the fabrication called a Palestinian nation; So what do we want from the Swedes?

Arab attacking Jews in the land date back a century, long before Israel was created or in control.

Creativity without clarity is not sufficient for writing. I am eternally thankful to Hashem for his gift to me.

Golden presents a compelling saga of poor but determined immigrants who fled pogroms and harsh conditions in their homelands for a better life in a land of opportunity.

It seems to us that while the Jewish entitlement to the land of Israel transcends the Holocaust, the Jewish experience during that tragic time is the most solid of foundations for these “national rights.”

Too many self-styled civil rights activists seemed determined to force, by their relentless pressure, an indictment regardless of what an investigation might turn up.

Unfortunately, at present, the rabbinate does not play a positive role in preventing abuse.

Egypt’s al-Sisi is in an expansionist mood. He wants Israel’s permission to take over Judea and Samaria.

More Articles from Rabbi Boruch Leff
Leff-111414

If you’re always battling against getting older, you’re always going to be unhappy.

Leff-101014-Zecharia

Hashem created all human beings and it should sadden us when Hashem, their Father, does not see nachas from them.

All Jews are inherently righteous and that is why we all have a portion in the World to Come.

“When a mother plays with her child there is an acute awareness of the child. But even when the mother works at a job or is distracted by some other activity, there is a natural, latent awareness of her child’s existence.

The Three Weeks determines the “who we are and how we live” as Jews.

Sometimes when Chazal say that two different people are really one, they do not mean it literally, but rather figuratively.

Yehoshua knew that the outcome of the battles would depend not on military might, but on the spiritual strength of Klal Yisrael.

The question begs: how in the world can we accept that Bnei Yisrael en masse did not ever keep the mitzvah of shemittah?

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/the-tale-of-two-armstrongs-in-elul/2012/09/12/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: