How to Be a Mensch

The promotion of virtue within a human being is the original idea of changing oneself on the inside, in order to become a better human being. This type of virtue acquisition is ensconced within the tomes of religious libraries, and the shelves of classical antiquity that are becoming more like tombs, in the face of a redefining of virtue. If virtue-signalling continues to replace actual virtue in the minds of this generation, then all virtue will eventually be lost.

Virtue as defined by religion and classical works of antiquity is a moral compass formed by character development that takes place within the human soul. Discernment, courage, self-control, and a sense of fairness are some of the main virtues of classical antiquity. Patience, kindness, humility, and compassion are a few of the virtues found amongst the world’s religions. Doing unto others as you would like to have done to yourself is a key adage meant to foster consideration to others. And, loving your fellow person as yourself exceeds the limitations that are inherent from a sense of egoism.

Yet, the trendy virtue-signalling of more recent years is based upon a set of pseudo-values that lack the countermeasures to put a rein on one’s own negative character traits. In fact, it is entirely possible to fall prey to virtue-signalling, without becoming virtuous at all. If we are considerate, then we should be considerate to all. We should not only be concerned for specific “oppressed” groups within the framework of identity politics; rather, also, for those who are labeled “oppressors.”

By labeling, categorizing, and placing into good groups and bad groups, we are overlooking the uniqueness and individuality of each, and every person categorized. “The line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either — but right through every human heart — and through all human hearts.” (Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn).

Thus, every individual has a fine line within themselves, wherein both hate and love, compassion and intolerance exist. We should compel ourselves to demonstrate love toward all human being, rather than love some and hate others. Also, in regard to compassion for all, instead of compassion for some, and intolerance for others.

Seek to Mend

“With righteousness shall you judge your fellow.”

– Leviticus 19:15

Up until recently, I did not realize that to give another person “the benefit of the doubt” was actually akin to a Torah precept (Rashi; Shevuos 30a). Yet, there can be no mistake, that this should be the prevailing attitude of one human being toward another, in order for the world to spin harmoniously upon its axis. If not, well, case in point, I wouldn’t be surprised if the world would suddenly spin slightly off its axis, based upon what is happening in this country, and all around the globe.

The Torah compels us to judge others favorably, since we ourselves are not impartial, namely, because of the human tendency to be critical of other people’s behavior and lacking in discernment towards our own behavior. Thus, we need to work against the negative inclination to judge others wrongly, by giving them the benefit of the doubt. This is all the more important within the framework of the overall climate of cancel culture that is potentially able to become the normative mode of “communicating” with others, based on our own narcissistic pride and glory in ourselves, on one hand, and superficial virtue signaling on the other hand.

Yet, putting other people down by “calling them out” on perceived injustices, moral flaws, or lack of tolerance, in order to make ourselves feel superior is a deadly trap for the soul. Thus, we would be better off by showing true compassion toward everyone, regardless of our slanted accusations that would otherwise roll off the tongue, past the teeth, and out into the space between us and others, whether in-person, or through social media. G-d help us to make amends for the damage that we may have already done. In our lives, we should seek to redress the wounds of society, only by beginning with ourselves.

Sovereignty of Loving-Kindness

Omer Day 7
Malchus shebbe Chesed: (Kingdom within Love)

The corresponding emotional attributes, sovereignty (autonomy, dignity, etc.) within loving-kindness are key qualities in healthy relationships. To be “there for the other person,” in essence, requires a strong sense of inner fortitude, knowing who you are, in order to relate to others from a centered awareness of one’s own identity. Maintaining healthy boundaries, by recognizing the other’s autonomy is also integral to being able to express love in an appropriate manner. Acts of kindness, done in a way that respects the other person’s dignity is important.

Our own inner worth, the value we place upon ourselves in regard to personal dignity, reflects the One whose sovereignty rules over our hearts, if we permit Him to do so. Yet, if we see ourselves as separate from G-d, then we risk narcissistic pride, that creates an illusion of ourselves as being more important than our abilities and accomplishments would indicate. The expression of love to another person from a place of self-aggrandizement may only result in posturing ourselves above the other.

Yet, in not overstepping the boundaries of the other, by accepting the other as a unique individual (sovereign, autonomous), two people in relationship to each other can coexist. This holds true for our interactions with all human beings, inasmuch that we endeavor to respect and appreciate others for whom they are. Recognizing the inherent value of our fellow human beings, can be done without diminishing ourselves; nor, on the other hand, by thinking that we are better than the other. We should not judge others; because, G-d, Who is sovereign over all is the Ultimate Judge.

This is especially true today in regard to the judging, blaming, and pointing the finger at others, as a result of the prolific influence of Woke doctrine. As soon as we start labeling people, we will be tempted to judge them. Wokism provides its own categories, based upon the Marxist view of the world as a continual interplay of power dynamics, between the oppressed and the oppressors.

Yet, as in Communism, and fostered by the cultural Marxist tenets of Wokism, eventually the oppressed become the oppressors. It is a never-ending cycle that the ideologues actually think will lead to a synthesis of opposites, culminating in a utopia. History proves that this ideology has always led to a dystopia. People who value compassion, tolerance, and respect toward others need to steer clear of these dangerous ideas.

[These are my personal reflections on the implications of today’s combination of middot (character traits). These reflections are not meant to be comprehensive, inasmuch that they are not based upon any one particular system. Nor, may these ideas be characterized as authoritative, because I profess to being a student, not a teacher. I hope to inspire others to delve into an exploration of their personality, for the sake of tikkun hanefesh (rectification of the soul)].

Diminished by Sin, Renewed by Teshuvah

“No greenery remained on the trees or the grass of the field in the entire land of Egypt.” – Exodus 10:15

It is as if to say that Egypt was deprived of its finery. Later, the Egyptian people, who had developed a sense of respect toward the Children of Israel, gave them their silver and gold vessels, as well as fine garments; thus was Egypt depleted. This is metaphorically the effect of sin upon our lives, that the corruption within eventually takes on an outward appearance, diminishing our regality as beings created in the image of G-d. Additionally, the external manifestation of sin may appear in a way, and a measure, concomitant with the aveira (sin).

Consider that even though King David was forgiven for his transgression, he was still chastised as a measure of H’Shem’s attribute of justice. Lest we think that teshuvah is too easy of a way to wipe our sins clean, perhaps, like David, we are still chastised, yet, to a lesser degree than we would have been if we were obstinate to the point of not acknowledging our sins. One might say that this is an example of the dynamic interchange of mercy and justice, working in tandem with each other, to a greater or lesser degree; and, we hope that H’Shem will always sweeten the judgment against us, by way of showing His mercy toward us.

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Everyday Avodah

motzei Shabbos shpiel for Shabbat Shuvah:

Avodah as an Everyday Intention (not only for the pious):

“And now, Israel, what doth the L-RD thy G-d require of thee, but to fear the L-rd thy G-d, to walk in in all His ways, and to love Him, and to serve the L-RD thy G-d with all thy heart and all thy soul.”

– Deuteronomy 10:12, JPS 1917 Tanach

According to Ramchal, the primary expectation of H’Shem is to serve Him with all our heart and soul. In other words, our avodah (service) towards H’Shem within the framework of our everyday lives is what counts the most in His eyes. It is written elsewhere, “Trust in the L-RD with all thy heart and lean not upon thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct thy paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6, JPS 1917 Tanach). Thus, living in accordance with H’Shem’s intent for our lives goes well beyond observing Shabbos, giving tsedokah, and lighting Friday night candles.

Every facet of our lives should reflect the wisdom of G-d, bestowed upon us through His words. For, his wisdom is higher than ours, and his thoughts are not our thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9). That is to say, that if our thoughts are not in accordance with the transcendent values that H’Shem would like to instill within us (see Jeremiah 31:33), then, we may unfortunately be led astray by a subjective rendering of value, derived from our feelings.

The current set of values being offered to society, proliferating to an accelerated degree, fosters subjectivity, while de-emphasizing objective reality. Additionally, when an entire society adopts a set of pseudo-values, then that society is no longer in accordance with G-d’s directive. How will the faithful be able to continue to walk in integrity? Our dependence on H’Shem is essential, despite whatever trajectory the world takes.

“Commit thy way unto the L-RD; trust also in Him, and He will bring
it to pass. And He will make thy righteousness to go forth as the light,
and thy right as the noonday.” – Psalm 37:5-6, JPS 1917 Tanach