“Dancing with the Stars” and the Acquisition of True Beauty

Dec 23rd, 2011 by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Holidays, Reflections & Observations
Written by Debbie Isaacman

Dancing with the Stars is one of my favorite shows! I look forward to watching the

glitzy and dazzling costumes, the music which moves us to feel such a wide range of emotions from the quick paced rhythmic beats to the lyrical flow of music used for the waltz. Then of course there are the dancers themselves who come on stage every week and rise to the challenge of performing. The competition has the potential to facilitate not only the progress of dancing technique but also the personal growth and development of the contestants themselves!

From the moment one particular contestant took to the stage, he won my heart and that of many others as well. He was not your conventionally “handsome” celebrity but by virtue of the fact that he was a participant in this competion, showed that he had a winning combination of courage and charisma that was going to take him far. Not many people with a severely distorted and scared face would feel confident walking onto a dance-floor where their “unconventional” physical features would be seen by millions. JR Martinez had been a soldier who was involved in a landmine explosion while in Iraq. His injuries were very severe and it was not clear if he would make it. He did survive but in many ways he wished that he hadn’t after he saw what his face and body looked like.

I could identify with JR’s struggle as I too have a somewhat “unique physical appearance difference.” I was born with the radius bone missing in each of my arms, making my forearms somewhat smaller than everybody else’s. My doctor told me if you are to miss a bone, the radius is the way to go as it does not connect to the elbow which thankfully gives me the flexibility of movement and allows me to be completely functional. It has been pretty challenging going through life looking distinctly different especially in a world where beauty is a very sought after commodity. Many women will go to extraordinary lengths to achieve this state of beauty including having plastic surgeries and Botox treatment to ensure their physical beauty stays in tact. This preoccupation with physical beauty has a history going back to ancient times.

The Ancient Greeks or Hellenists, the protagonists in the Chanukah story, put great emphasis on the body and physical perfection. They were the ones who created the Olympic Games which was an arena to celebrate the human form and its accomplishments. One’s worth in this culture was dependent on outside appearance and physical form which by its nature is temporary and as such will eventually disappear. The Ancient Greeks did not learn the lesson that Jewish wisdom has always taught which is that beauty is not what you look like on the outside but who you choose to develop yourself to be from the inside. JR Martinez made a choice not to be defined by his physical appearance but rather it is through his courage, determination and fighting spirit that a special kind of beauty radiates.

We all go through life as soldiers fighting the toughest war of all and that is the one we wage with ourselves. The Chanukah story is all about triumph against the enemy by accessing those qualities which we have to draw from the depths of our being. When this occurs and we know and understand our worth in the world, then miracles can begin to happen. When we have come out of our own battlefields scarred by the experiences we have had and choose to use the light we contain within, we truly become shining stars in the world. We can use the Macabees, as our role models who have taught us how each one of us has the potential to be a hero in the world. We can see JR Martinez living this message today. He teaches us that despite obstacles and adversity that challenge our lives, we have the capacity to radiate light out into the world as he has done.

As you watch the candles flicker, know that the flames you see are a reflection of the light that shines within you and that is where true beauty lies!