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What is a Man?

August 28, 2011 | by

I was born and raised on the island of Trinidad in the Caribbean. It appears that in the Western world, a "man" is expected to be macho, keep up with the latest fashion, smoke, drink alcohol, be a womanizer, etc. But experience has shown me that there is something wrong with this definition.

Could you please give me a Jewish definition of what it means to be a "man"?

The Aish Rabbi Replies

In Hebrew, one of the words for "man" is "gever."

"Gever" comes from the same root as "gavar," which means to overcome or conquer. (Similarly, the Hebrew word for hero is "gibor.")

So a true man is one who overcomes. But overcomes what?

The Talmud (Avot 4:1) says: "Who is a 'gibor,' a mighty man? He who conquers his evil inclination."

To explain: The evil inclination is the desire within each human being to follow physical passions. In other words, the desire to smoke, drink, eat and "be a womanizer" (as you put it).

Life is full of challenges in these areas. No matter what level we're on, there is always a new test awaiting us. Because the reason for our being here in the first place is to grow by overcoming these challenges.

Of course, we need to engage in the physical world. But we should not do so for its own sake; rather we infuse our physical experiences with an eye toward a higher, spiritual goal.

Ironically, one who overcomes the temptation to "be a man" according to Western standards, is the true man according to Jewish standards!

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