Kenneth Cohen

I Am Not That Good

If one studies the various Mussar books, there is a common emphasis on an individual reaching his potential. One must work at improving himself all of the days of his life.

Often we find that others are intimidated when meeting friends who are locked in at self improvement. This could also apply within families, when certain members choose a life of piety, while others do not.

There is a common rationalization that comes with this realization that friends or family members have surpassed them with the lifestyle that they have chosen. Instead of taking the approach that, “If they could make positive changes, so could I,” they give a different answer. They simply say, “I’m not that good.”

This allows their consciences to be put at ease. They are able to tell themselves that they are still pretty much okay. The others are excellent, but they are not that good.
This attitude also applies when people who should know better, decide not to make Aliya. They are able to live with themselves by putting those who made Aliya, on a pedestal.

They are the great Jews that have strong idealism, and are able to fulfill their Jewish dream. We are also very fine people, but, “We are not that good.”

We must have the faith and courage not to rationalize, but to do the right thing. We need to push ourselves to do what is right, as dictated by the Torah. Studying the Mussar books, will help give us the strength and motivation to get to this sacred destination.

About the Author
Rabbi Cohen has been a Torah instructor at Machon Meir, Jerusalem, for over twenty years while also teaching a Talmud class in the Shtieblach of Old Katamon. Before coming to Israel, he was the founding rabbi of Young Israel of Century City, Los Angeles. He recently published a series of Hebrew language-learning apps, which are available at