Now More Than Ever—Be a Mensch
This is my first blog, so be kind. I promise to blog about things that are important to all of us—how to get through this life, and how to help others along the way. I’ve always believed we each have at least one talent, and through that talent we can find our passion, our purpose. My passion is writing, and by pursuing that passion I can strive to serve a purpose. At this time, I see my purpose as helping others on their path to becoming a Jew. I hope this will also help Jews learn more about the questions and challenges we “Jews by Choice” have/had along the way. I wanted to do this blog because I wish someone had done one (or I had found one) when I first started on my journey years ago. I would not have felt so alone on the path. I had a lot of support from friends, family, several rabbis, of course, but there was no one I knew like me—staggering down the path by myself until I got to my 16 weeks class at the local community center. It was great to meet other people on the same journey but when I got back home, I was alone again trying to learn, questioning my motives, and worrying about how I would ever fit in. And the Hebrew—oy vey!
Out of all great new words I learned during my studies, the word mensch became my favorite. Yes, it means a person of integrity and honor, but really it translates more simply as: a human being, or what a human being should be. The rabbi who taught one of my classes ended each class by saying, “now go out there and be a mensch” and we all knew what he meant. We were to be an example, someone for others to look at and think, there is a good person. After all, what is it that every Jew is meant to do—heal the world, right? Tikkun olam, and all its interpretations, still comes back to one thing in my mind: Jews bear a responsibility not only for our own moral, spiritual, and material welfare, but also for those around us, the world, in fact. So many Jews that I met took this seriously, and that was one thing that won me over. Jews can have varying levels of religiousness, but they have core values that seem to live on and on. It was those values that kept me on the path when things were not so clear, and it was not easy for me to continue.
I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that being a mensch is especially important today. The wear a mask, don’t need a mask, my freedom is more important than you getting sick, world that we are in today calls out for every one of us to step up. What do we value?
This next week will bring us more challenges as we all wait to see how much longer this virus will stalk us, and as we watch the case totals rise, the death totals rise. I will try to step up and think of others by still wearing my mask, staying home, and by keeping in touch with my Jewish community via my Temple’s online services and programs, and through calls and emails.
In the meantime, if you have any questions about what Judaism looks like to those on the path, or if you are on the journey yourself, and have questions, please contact me. I can’t promise to have all the answers, but I can tell you what I learned along the way. If you are wondering about Judaism, keep asking good questions, keep reading and searching. I believe in that old adage, “when the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” We are all teachers in one way or the other, but we are also all students. When we close our minds and stop learning, our passions can die. If there are any topics in particular that you would like to read about, let me hear from you.
Until next time, stay well, and be a mensch.