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)].

Our Responsibility to the Next Generation

“And these words which I command thee this day, shall be upon thy heart; and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children.”

– Deuteronomy 6:6-7

The future will be decided by the values, attitudes, and beliefs that the next generation upholds. If we permit ourselves to take a casual stance, in regard to how the younger generation is being taught in the public education system, than we consign even our own children to the whims of the zeitgeist, unless we educate them ourselves. Moreover, we should attempt to foster the moral values, that are being diminished in the eyes of the youth, by making an effort to raise awareness, and educate those who are being led astray.

The moral values that we uphold should be passed on to our children, as per the wisdom of instilling these values in them, so that they will go in the way of their heritage, and not depart from those ways (see Proverb 22:6).  Yet, the effort being made by the indoctrination of youth into Woke ideology in the educational systems, is competing for the souls of children, whose minds are pliable. Unless they are taught the morality that has shaped the bedrock of Western civilization, they will know of no other truths, other than what they are taught by a system that attempts to usurp the truth, morality, and ethics of Judeo-Christian belief, as well as classical antiquity.

The values being instilled in the current generation will shape society down the road, more readily than is already happening today, as a result of the cultural revolution. The stance of any individual concerned for the future, must not be complacent. Consider the ramifications of Vladimir Lenin’s remark, “Give me four years to teach the children, and the seed I have sown will never be uprooted.” This is what we have to contend with, before it is too late.

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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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Blessing of Preservation

1st Aliyah parasha Vayechi

5783 – blessing of preservation

Both Manasseh and Ephraim both grew up in the royal household of Egypt. Yaakov, their grandfather, who is partially blind, asks who they are, when Jospeh brings them to him. On a deeper leve, his question may be construed as an inquiry into their character. Are their moral concomitant with the legacy of Abraham? Have they remained in their integrity as the sons of the righteous Joseph, who surely instructed them properly. Despite the surrounding idolatrous environment, are there adherents to the belief in the G-d of Israel? The answer to all of the above is yes, inasmuch that Yaakov’s blessing was for the sake of preservation, that they continue on the derech.

This blessing is performed every Friday evening when parents bless their sons. Implicitly, this blessing is meant to be a safeguard against undue influence from the less than ideal mores of society that are opposed to living a righteous life. Something we all face, in terms of this type of influence, the moreso, depending upon how much interaction we have with outside influences.

Peer pressure, while growing up, especially for those of us who have grown up in the secular world; and, other types of pressure today as adults at work, in social spheres, and at the hands of the misguided social justice warriors who use intimidation and condemnation as their means to compel or cancel others, who do not follow the narrative norm. Yet, Israel is a nation set apart from the nations.

Truth and Lies

Wokism Exposed: Part 1 – the dialectic

Wokism is a misguided “social justice movement,” that upholds a pseudo-morality opposed to godly values. Irrespective of pointing out its ideological roots, it can clearly be explained as “cultural Marxism,” based on its overarching intent to divide groups of people into the oppressed and the oppressor – a basic Marxist strategy. Wokism’s roots go back to Hegel and Marx, whereof Hegel, perhaps, the first progressive, introduced the concept of the dialectic, wherein the thesis (status quo of society) is critiqued by the antithesis, thus forming a new society, called the synthesis; yet, this process continues to repeat itself, until theoretically, a utopia, brought about by the Spirit of Man results somewhere down the road of history. Marx rejected any idea of the spirt, and founded what he referred to as “dialectical materialism,” proffering the viewpoint that through a complete upheaval of society, a utopia can come into fruition out of society’s ashes. Neither dialectical approach to history and revolution is in accord with recognizing G-d’s hand in all human affairs; so, its end result can only be antithetical to the divine plan on earth.

G-d save us from the new totalitarianism.

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The Sweetness of Torah

Sweeten the words of Your Torah in our mouth.

– Blessings of the Torah

What was once pleasant, has become unpleasant. The wisdom of the Torah has given place to the wisdom of the world, without any recourse to the truths of our ancestors. Rather, for many amongst the children of Seth in the diaspora, the traditions of Judaism may still flourish, yet, without the substance. If we only knew what we were missing, we would pray, “sweeten the words of your Torah in our mouth.” In other words, we would feel compelled to learn of the words and instructions of Torah, to the extent that they would appeal to our sense of priorities, and what is important in our lives. Rather than rejecting them as passe, unenlightened, or contrary to our progressive sensibilities, we would yearn to receive them, if only G-d would somehow cause us to appreciate their flavor, taste, and essential ingredients.

We have forsaken “the fountain of living waters,” and constructed “cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water” (Jeremiah 2:13, JPS). When we thirst for something more constant in our lives to bring us peace, contentment, and lasting joy, we turn elsewhere, without realizing that only pure water from the Source of all that exists can supply us with any refreshment of lasting value. And, still, we yearn for something more than the ephemeral pleasures of life. For G-d has planted eternity in the heart of mankind, so that we might seek to know Him beyond time and space. Only a transcendent G-d, Who is able to transcend our own understanding, can give us anything of lasting joy in this world and the World-to-Come. His wisdom, contained in Torah, within the narratives of creation and fall, the lives of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Joseph and the Exodus, plus the giving of the Torah at Sinai, and all of the commandments are rich in value.

Seeking Meaning

“And the life of Sarah was one hundred years and twenty years and seven years; [these were] the years of the life of Sarah.” – Genesis 23:1, The Complete Jewish Tanach

Commentary notes that there is a specific reason that the word “years” appears after each component number of the total number of years of her life. Inasmuch as each time frame of her life is to be understood in a certain manner, the following rendering is given: her childhood, young adulthood, and adulthood were all equally good (based on Rashi). Imagine an equanimity of identity, intention, and purpose spanning the entirety of a life – this was the life of Sarah.

This may be contrasted with the lives of many people in modernity. Common language, currently describes different formative years in a negative way, for example, the terrible twos, the rebellious adolescence, and the burdensome task of “finding oneself” given to the young adult. Also, consider the pressure of higher-level education, and earlier, placing the burden of choosing an area of interest upon the student, before he or she may be ready to decide upon a profession. In like manner that so many teenagers and young adults change their image, interests, and friendships; college-bound students and university freshman change their majors.

And what of the often turbulent years of the teenager, as well as the young adult, especially if one’s formative years were actually not so formative? “Train a child in the way he should go, and even when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6, JPS 1917 Tanach). There is a continuum, expressed by Erikson, between “identity cohesion and role confusion,” especially during adolescence; yet, a cohesive identity may be formed as the result of parental instruction and role modeling. Additionally, each child may be brought up in accordance with his or her own personality, and learning style. This is not a task that can simply be relegated to the teachers where the child attends school.

Unless an individual embarks upon a steady path, replete with a moral component, then how can one navigate the vicissitudes of life? Too often, the formula of permitting the youth to experience life for themselves, without providing any clear guideposts, is the one taken by parents who have been influenced by the permissiveness of societal norms. Yet, there is still something to say for those throughout the world who are brought up within a more traditional framework. This would include those within cultures that embrace traditional morality, as well as those that uphold religious values.

The monotheism embraced by both Abraham and Sarah served as a rallying cry for their newfound beliefs, whereof each was committed to a high degree of sanctity in their lives, despite the idolatry and diminished moral sphere of the surrounding peoples of that time. Eventually, the three Abrahamic faiths influenced the world in a manner, whereby many people were called to a higher standard.

Comparatively speaking, as the standard of the world seems to decline in more recent times, it is even more important to plan a trajectory for our own lives, those of our children, and the future of society, even in the midst of societal breakdowns. We need a return to an unadulterated life of stability, purposeful intent, and commitment; instead of the rampant nihilism, experimenting, and seeking of entertainment, so common in modern society. May the pure, devoted, and moral life of Sarah serve as an example for us to seek meaning and the utmost good for our lives.

“Where there is no vision, the people cast off restraint; but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.”

– Proverbs 29:18, JPS 1917 Tanach

motzei Shabbos: Terumah 5781


Motzei Shabbos: parashas Terumah 5781

“Tell the Israelite people to bring Me gifts; you shall accept gifts for Me from every person whose heart so moves him.” – Exodus 25:2, JPS 1985 Tanach

The sin of the golden calf preceded the building of the mishkan (tabernacle). The gold used to build the calf, was contributed by the men, who gathered the earrings for the cause of making an idolatrous calf. “Take off the gold rings that are on the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me” (Exodus 32:2, JPS 1985 Tanach). When Moses returned from on top of Sinai, he shattered the tablets upon discerning the idolatrous revelry focused on the golden calf; thus, in effect, the covenant was symbolically broken upon its intended reception (Jeremiah 31:32). Incidentally, the covenant was not renewed, until Moshe spent another forty days on the mountain; and, brought down the second set of tablets.

Yet, first, Moshe pleaded on behalf of B’nei Yisrael for H’Shem to forgive their descent into idolatry. Moreover, it can be understood that even before the actual transgression, the remedy for the sin had already been given to Moshe on the mountain, when he received the instructions regarding all of the details for the building of the Mishkan (Tabernacle). For, “the Tabernacle was a form of atonement for the sin of the golden calf” (Or HaChayim, JT Shekalim 1:5,

The collection itself of the materials for the construction of the mishkan served as a form of repentance; inasmuch that the collection was designated as a free will offering; this reflects the nature of teshuvah (repentance). Or HaChayim explains that this is the reason why the collection was not made mandatory; instead, everyone contributed of their own free will, inclination, and what their heart compelled them to give; otherwise, “they would not enjoy the atonement for their participation in the sin of the golden calf” (Or HaChayim,

The essential nature of the Mishkan reveals a hint as to why this type of repentance led towards reconciliation with H”Shem. The Mishkan is where H’Shem’s presence dwelt, in a visible way when the clouds of glory would hover over the Tabernacle. There is an inherent transition enacted amongst the people, from idolatry to the worship of H’Shem, indicated by the difference between them freely contributing gold for the golden calf; versus giving freely from their heart for the tabernacle that will enable the worship of H’Shem. We may also make that transition in our lives, from the idolatry of the modern world, towards the everlasting values given to us at Sinai.