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Ten Things Which Tend to Turn Kids into Mensches

Item Number  61017


Author: Joel Lurie Grishaver
Grades: Adult
Format: Eight page booklet


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Joel looks at ways the Friday night dinner table, the magic of bedtime, and the refrigerator door can help families evolve a family culture that regularly asks, “How can we turn ourselves and our kids into the best possible people?”

Let´s start with a confession. I don´t know what a mensch is, I get the general idea, but the specifics, I’m still working on.

The Talmud says that if I get into a fight with my mother, and she ‘irrationally” tells me that I am supposed to throw my wallet into the sea—I’m supposed to do it—regardless of how much money is in it, despite all the credit cards, all the bother involved in replacing everything—I’m supposed to do it. Honoring your mother and father is something a mensch does. And when the Talmud asks the question Even when your mother is half-crazed (and is outright wrong), are you supposed to do what she says?’ The answer is still yes. That is what Rabbi Tarfon did in the Talmud, (Kiddushin 31a). He threw his wallet into the sea. He threw away his American Express Card and driver’s license. That is what a mensch does; I’m still working on it

Here is a case from one of my kids, Kent. It, too, confounds me. Kent once phoned me and asked: “If a friend asks you to vandalize the classroom of a teacher you both hate (with good cause), and you tell him, ‘No, we shouldn’t do it because we’ll get caught.’ And then you think that friend might go ahead and do it anyway—are you wrong if you don’t tell someone and get him in trouble?”

My problem is that I only know some of the menschy things to do in this case. The Talmud teaches that for a mensch the first wrong thing is in the question itself. Not teaching your friend that such an action is wrong is “un-menschy.” Kent’s response, “because we’ll get caught,” doesn’t do the job. If you are a real mensch, you learn to do two very hard things, (1) gift your friends with “rebuke”—because few people are willing to risk the emotional wrath of that kind of honesty, and (2) package your “rebuke” with compassion so that it hurts in the least possible way, and so that it can be heard. Let me make it clear that it’s much easier for me to tell Kent that he should “dog” on his friend, than it would be to find the words and the courage to actually intervene in that way. That is the whole point. Mensch, deep mensch, true mensch, is much easier said than done.

One of the other menschy things to do here is deciding if your words have the potential to elevate or exacerbate the situation. Then if it turns out that to do the rebuke is going to make things worse, you have to hold back and not do it. Being a mensch takes judgment. But what about the big question—railing? Do you protect the friend (and don’t squeal) or protect the classroom (and become a stool pigeon)? Rabbinical Law demands that the true mensch be smart enough to do both. A real mensch finds a way to protect the property without risking the reputation. The true mensch finds a way to prevent the act, but not get friends in trouble if they decide to back out. Therefore, an anonymous tip to the police is sometimes actually really menschy.
  
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Price    $2.95
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