Your Inner Judith by Ruchi Koval


Ruchi Koval is a JWRP City Leader with the Jewish Family Experience (JFX) in Cleveland, Ohio. 

She was scared but she plowed forward. It was hardly a woman’s job, let alone one for a Jewish widow. Leaving Jerusalem in and of itself would have been enough to scare your average woman. But not her. Not Judith. She pushed herself way, way past her comfort zone, confronted her fears, and did what needed to be done for her nation. Putting her life in danger was the price to be paid, and she was willing to pay it.

Modern day heroine story of the IDF? Not exclusively. Judith lived thousands of years ago in Greek-ruled Jerusalem; her enemy? Helifornus – a Greek general. Her technique? Seduce him and decapitate him. Nice, right? Judith’s bravery was hardly academic or theoretical. Many are of the opinion that her extremely brave action was the turning point in the Jews’ ultimate victorious battle against the Syrian-Greeks in our Chanukah story.

I’ve heard at the JWRP Leadership Conference that leadership is about pushing people out of their comfort zone. I’ve heard that, to paraphrase Finley Peter Dunne, leadership is about comforting the disturbed and disturbing the comfortable.

You know what’s comfortable? Doing what you know you’re good at. Doing what’s expected. Doing what you know will be approved. You know what’s uncomfortable? Doing something new – that might fail. Doing the unexpected – for which you may face disapproval. Doing what you haven’t tried – which might bring unwanted scrutiny.

Judith wasn’t looking for greatness. She wasn’t looking for fame. In fact, some may have considered her behavior unseemly or even un-Jewish. And what of failure? What if she would’ve seduced Helifornus and it had all gone really wrong? Would she have been blamed? And what if she would’ve been unsuccessful in her decapitation attempt? Would she have been killed? All these things could have happened. In fact, she was unknown until her momentous act of bravery and she didn’t fail. She succeeded beyond anyone’s wildest dreams. The world, then, needs more Judiths.

It’s ironic that Judith’s Hebrew name, Yehudit, literally means “Jewess.” Her behavior was the ultimate expression of Jewish leadership: try your hardest, push past your comfort zone, silence the naysaying voice in your mind, and do the right thing. 

How many of us find ourselves in the unwelcome position of making tough choices? Decisions have to be made, and somehow we are the grownups in the story who need to make them. There will be long-term effects from our choices and we’re not sure if we have the guts to jump into shark-infested waters.

Channel your inner Judith, girls. Grab that Jewess inside of you and ask her: What must be done? What must I do? What’s the worst thing that can happen if I fail?

This is greatness. Push a little harder. Disturb the comfortable. Your inner Judith will thank you.

Good luck! You can do it! And have a very happy Chanukah.


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