Every culture has its heroes. In Western civilization, the heroes for youth are apt to be sports figures or popular entertainers who make a great deal of money. More mature people are likely to admire financiers and industrialists who have achieved great success. In either case, the role models are not people of great spiritual achievement.

Judaism has as its role models the Patriarchs and Matriarchs – Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, Leah – who are known not for their worldly success, but for their total devotion to God. Parents tremendously influence their children. If the parents choose heroes of great spirituality, so will the children.

Acknowledging the Patriarchs by referring to them in prayers (e.g. “the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob”) is not enough. If children are given tangible evidence that their parents value and wish to emulate the virtues of the Patriarchs, they will follow their elders and seek the spiritual, rather than the material alone, in their lives.

Today, try to emulate our forebearers by embodying their beliefs; value people of great spiritual achievement, rather than those who have been only materially successful.

Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski