We all want power.
We want muscle power.
We want political power.
We want financial power.
Power brings glory and prestige. Who doesn't want to be strong, rich and famous?
Unfortunately, we forget the most fundamental form of power: the power of values and spirit.
Shimon Ben Zoma, a second century scholar, taught the importance of soulpower. He said: “Who is strong? One who captures his desires.”
This statement is counterintuitive. Power is most intense when unrestrained, without limits. Self denial seems wimpy, the act of a holy loser who refuses to take “advantage” of life. Why capture your desires when you can conquer all your heart desires?
Yet Ben Zoma is right. Power is paradoxical. Without soulpower, any achievement remains empty. The billionaire with inner demons is a miserable man with a lot of money. We need to conquer our hearts before we conquer anything else.
And sometimes, we need to defeat ourselves. Without self control, power disappears. "The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong", because battles and races are ultimately won with soulpower. The the undisciplined athlete will underperform; the disorganized army will falter on the battlefield. Soulpower is a prerequisite to genuine power.
Some of the most amazing examples of soulpower are those who choose life in the face of murder.
The murder of a loved one is an invitation to anger. And anger is the easy choice. Releasing anger seems cathartic, and considering the circumstances, anger seems justified.
Remarkably, there are people who refuse to be swallowed by tragedy. As Evelyn Gordon notes in the Jerusalem Post, some take the courageous route and transform death into life. She writes:
“After 13-year-old Koby Mandell was bludgeoned to death by terrorists in 2001, for instance, his parents decided to set up a foundation to help other victims of terror. Today, the Koby Mandell Foundation runs a variety of programs, including a summer camp for the siblings of terror victims, who are often traumatized by their brother's or sister's murder, and a big brother/big sister program in which specially trained counselors work with these traumatized youngsters on an ongoing basis.
After 15-year-old Malki Roth was murdered in a suicide bombing in Jerusalem that same year, her parents established a foundation to help families care for special-needs children at home. The Malki Foundation provides free long-term loans of equipment and helps finance therapy. It was inspired by Malki's devotion to her own severely disabled sister.”
By conquering their hearts, Koby and Malki’s families have refused to allow death to rule over their lives. And in the process, they are improving the lives of the weak and vulnerable.
Koby and Malki’s families understand Ben Zoma’s teaching.
They understand the meaning of soulpower.