Where Did A First Grade Teacher Get The Strength To Perform Her Extraordinary Act Of Bravery?


hero-in-connecticutBy Rabbi Shraga Simmons

When a crazed gunman opened fire inside a Connecticut elementary school – murdering 26 children and adults – first grade teacher Vicki Soto responded with an astonishingly selfless act.

Upon hearing the first rounds of gunfire in an adjacent classroom, the 27-year-old teacher went into lockdown mode, quickly ushering her students into a closet. Then suddenly, as she came face to face with the gunman and the bullets flew, she used her body to shield the children.

Vicki Soto was found dead, huddled over her students, protecting them.

We all mourn this unspeakable tragedy.

Yet where did this young woman get the strength and conviction to perform such an extraordinary act of bravery?

In the animal world, this devotion is found to some degree as a motherly instinct. The bear will fiercely protect her cubs, just as a mother is intensely devoted to her children. But how far does it go? Can it even override the most basic instinct for self-preservation?

A parent’s greatest wish is for her children to grow, to see them flourish – physically, emotionally and spiritually. With determination and focus, a parent can attain a level of absolute devotion – even at the expense of her own welfare.

What makes Vicki Soto’s actions so remarkable is how she developed that same degree of self-sacrifice for children not biologically your own.

She lived with the reality of a profound truth: A teacher is like a parent, charged with nurturing a child’s growth, helping to transform their physical lives into something greater.

“Vicki’s life dream was to be a teacher. It’s what she loved to do,” said her cousin, James Wiltsie. This young woman was willing to give up her entire worldly existence, for the higher meaning of caring for these children.

Lifelong Legacy

Deep down, we all want to accomplish great things. We all want to give generously and truly care for others. We all want to use our potential.

A friend recently told me that he’s been thinking about his “legacy.” Now in his mid-50s, he is haunted by one overriding question that he cannot ignore: How will I truly impact this world?

I told him to sit down and figure out what he’s willing to die for. Maybe even read some obituaries, to give perspective on the greater meaning of life.

I told him: Once you’ve found a cause so meaningful that you’d forfeit your life for, that leads to the more important and obvious corollary: If you are willing to die for something, then that is the highest goal for how you should be living.

There is something deep in the psyche of every human being: Being good is so important that we’re even willing to die for it. Yet we too often fall short of these higher objectives – because we get distracted.

Vicki Soto understood that when you live with full focus and devotion, you attain unparalleled power.

The great tragedy is that this remarkable young woman had so much more to give.

Let us ensure that her death is not in vain.

Let’s make a plan to discover our ultimate pur­pose and then implement it into day-to-day life. Let’s take it one step at a time, so not to become overwhelmed. Let’s keep our eye on the ball and not get distracted.

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Vicki Soto’s great act of devotion should inspire us to take 10 minutes today and ponder: “What am I living for?”

Finding the answer is a big project. But there’s no better use of our time and energy. Because if we don’t know what higher purpose we’re pursuing, then we’re living like zombies, just going through the motions.

Vicki Soto was up to the challenge. “She didn’t call them her students,” her sister Carlee told NBC. “She called them her kids. She loved those students more than anything.”

She loved her students so much that she referred to them as her “little angels.” In reaching the ultimate level of devotion and saving their lives, Vicki Soto reached beyond the angels.

Source: AISH.COM

{Matzav.com Newscenter}


  1. “There is something deep in the psyche of every human being: Being good is so important that we’re even willing to die for it. Yet we too often fall short of these higher objectives – because we get distracted”

    What amazing MUSSAR!! Thank you.

  2. #2, #3,Does it pas for you to be on the internet to begin with if you are so concerned about looking at a picture of a women? Do you ride the subway in the summer and walk the streets of NYC without ever thinking about the pritzus that you see daily? Is this picture going to harm your neshama more than what you see on a daily basis in the streets? If no, then close your mouth and be quiet. If yes, then look in a sefer and stay off the internet

  3. We believe that we’re mosser nefesh l’torah; yes that we should be so commited to a Torahdike lifestyle, that we are willing to die for it.
    Beautiful, poignant article…It should make everyone think “Mayayin
    bahta ulan atah holech”…..

  4. Can we think first?, cwcwe:

    Your comments are despicable. The late Ms. Soto is not in the picture immodestly dressed, and committed a brave and valiant act at the cost of her own life.

    We can debate the propriety of women’s pictures another time.

  5. If the only thing you got out of the story is if the picture of the lady belongs on the site… she probably belongs here more than you. disgusting.

  6. Aren’t you ashamed of yourselves #2 and # 3 to
    focus on such a trivial thing as a picture of a
    murdered teacher. A tragedy happened here and all you care about are nareshkeiten.

  7. RE: Comment #1 & #2.
    In advance please pardon my harshness.
    I think that the whole point this wonderful article was trying to prove flew way over your pea-sized brains if you are so narrow minded as to only focus on the picture.
    Please grow up, maybe some miracle-gro can help speed up the maturity process.

  8. 4.This brave young woman is a hero,it is an honor to post her picture.What has become of us as a nation,when we debate whether or not to post her picture.HAVE WE ALL BECOME FANATICS?

  9. If you think that a picture of a hero who gave up her life to save children is provocative then you as an individual are sick. If our society believes this (and I don’t think a majority do) then we should discuss this chumra that has been around only in the last few years.

  10. Thanks # 1 for your positive comment.

    Shame on commenters #2 & 3 whose gut reaction to this beautiful piece is ‘lady’s picture etc.’ I guess that’s all they saw in this inspiring article…

  11. Matzav is priviliged to publishj her picture. Vicki Soto sacrificedher own life for her students, some of who may well be Jewish. Her picture is an inspiration. Thank you Matzav !!

  12. 2, and 3- U totally missed the point of this article. Shame on u.
    As a teacher, its been really hard on me these last few days thinking if I would have been able to do the same had it chas ve’shalom been my classroom. Its a scary thought and not a time to be holier than thou.

  13. Would Matzav please define exactly, what is their policy regarding pictures of women! Sarah Palin-NO, Rebbitzen Pam-NO, Wendy-Yes, Mischelle Bachman-Yes etc… We ARE taking note of Matzav’s double standard! We ARE watching/monitoring every post of yours! Did you ask your “Daas Torah” this question? You little immature kids living off of your rich Daddy’s bank account, aught to grow up already!

  14. Who are “We”? You do not speak for me. As for many people I speak to in my frum community, they are bewildered as to when a women’s face started to be seen as something pritzus. Och in vey soon we will all be in burkas.


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