Friday, June 25, 2010

On Metschlichkeit And And And

Man is nothing if he is not a mentsch. I believe that I composed the wording of this saying, though certainly not the sentiment. In our morning prayers we say,' A person should always fear God, in private and in public – Le’Olam yehei adam yerei shamayim beseter ubagalui.' The opening words of this prayer, ' leolam yehei adam,' can be taken as their own clause and translated as, "Always be a person." Rabbi Yehudah Amital, in Commitment and Complexity, writes that there was a Jewish saying in eastern Europe that a person should always be a 'mentsch,' a human being, and fear of G-d comes next. The saying was based on a poetic re-reading of this beautiful prayer.

My friend Rabbi Josh Hoffman cited this in his weekly Torah essay. I hope to write more about it. His basic idea is to develop the lesson of Bilam's donkey as a tale of the importance of being a mentsch. The importance of this story is highlighted by the tradition that this donkey was miraculously created, and Jewish Philosophy 101 tells us that G-d only makes major miracles if there's a major lesson to be learned. What separates us from animals is the ability to speak and all the related gifts that come along with that. If we misuse our humanity we become no better than animals...

One of the great ones, in terms of teachers, taught me that there is what to be said for writing in naturally altered stated (such as when you're hungry or tired or - as was the case for her - have an ear infection. So, I'm writing now even though I haven't yet eaten today.

I get quite affected by being hungry. Then again, I get very affected by most everything. If I had a penny for every time someone said to me, "Don't be so sensitive..." I could list all those times for you... What's the appropriate thing to say to someone who often tells you to not take their words in sensitively and then they tell you they didn't like something you just said? I'm guessing it's not, "Don't be so sensitive." Tempting.

I've given myself a time deadline and then I'm going to treat myself like a bit of a mentsch and eat something. There's a striking story about Hillel being stopped by students and asked where he was going. Later they discovered he was on his way to take a bath and he explained that yes, caring for yourself is a mitzvah.

Is this a mitzvah?
Looking inside and sharing?
Is it hard to say?


Post a Comment

<< Home