When I was growing up, one of my favorite tv shows was The Incredible Hulk. Lou Ferrigno played a mild mannered man during the day. But then when he got mad, or someone was in trouble, the 70s music would come on, and he would suddenly change. He grew these huge muscles which ripped his shirt apart. And he turned all green. Then the incredible hulk would save the day with his superhuman strength.
In the Torah, there is also a great story about a man who acts like The Incredible Hulk. And he does it to win over a woman no less! It was our ancestor Jacob. One day, Jacob comes upon a well that was used to water flocks of sheep. There was a huge stone covering it. Normally it would take many men to move this big rock. But then Jacob sees a beautiful woman, Rachel, with her thirsty flock. So Jacob single-handedly moves the stone off the well. Smitten by this act of superhuman strength and bravado, Rachel falls in love with him. And the two decide to get married.
Stories about people performing super-human feats are not reserved only for television or the Bible. All the time we read in the newspaper about acts that we thought were not possible. A father who lifted up a car by the rear bumper to free his daughter caught underneath. And the mountain climber or adventurer who is stranded for days without food or water but finds a way to survive. The story of Jacob’s superhuman act surely reminds us that in desperate times we can find a way to overcome almost any obstacle.
But I think that this story about the big rock also means to teach us a lesson about everyday life. Sometimes life calls upon us to endure many difficulties. And Jacob reminds us that we can handle more than we think we can. We can carry a heavier burden than we thought possible, just as Jacob was able to move that big rock.
Sickness can push us to our limits and beyond. When loved one becomes sick, we are called upon to care for them in ways that push us very hard. Three years ago, I officiated at a funeral for a woman who died over the Thanksgiving weekend. She had Alzheimer’s for years before she passed away. For those years, her husband supported her, taking care of her every need. He would not leave her side and he made sure that they would live together until the end. I am sure that caring of his wife pushed Mel beyond all the limits he thought possible. But when you love someone, you find strength in places you did not suspect. Just like Jacob, whose love helped him move mountains.
I believe that there is an Incredible Hulk within each of us. We all have more inner-strength that we think. Hopefully life will not test us with many situations that require superhuman strength. But if we must face such trials, let us have faith in our own ability to move even the biggest rocks that come our way.