How to Raise a Mensch in a Hopeful World….

We live in an imperfect world where we attain to be perfect. Well, maybe, sort of, not everyone. We know the imperfect world part is right, we see, feel and live it everyday (a missing airplane, a capsized ferry, college bound teens killed on a bus) but do we really work very hard at trying to change it? What is a perfect world? What is a perfect me, what definition of perfect sets our standards, why do we want or need to be perfect, is it too much work, can’t we just be who we are???

Oy vey, too many things to think about when I have laundry to finish, dinner to prepare and way too many emails to answer. But here are a few dictionary definitions of perfect: Conforming absolutely to the description or definition of an ideal type; a perfect sphere; lacking nothing essential to the whole; complete of its nature or kind; being without defect or blemish; entirely without any flaws, defects, or shortcomings.

I once ate a perfect apple but when I gave a piece of this perfect fruit to share with my brother, he said it wasn’t perfect, to each his own.

From the moment we know we are pregnant, don’t we all strive to raise the perfect child? This is the one that will have no defects, flaws or shortcomings, this is the one who will cure cancer, be the first Jewish American president, win a gold medal. Then reality sets in and when we realize our personal imperfections and we know our kids are part of us, we then can only hope we give them the tools, the strengths, education and knowledge to go out into the imperfect world and do their best.

As I sat in Temple this morning with my three granddaughters for a Yom HaShoah Service, Holocaust Remembrance Day, I was proud that the three yentas knew to be very quiet, observant of the Rabbi’s words and mindful while reciting the Mourner’s Kaddish. They got it. Hebrew school had done its job.

Later this week my eight year-old granddaughter is giving a presentation in her second grade class, at public school, on a hero that she has researched on her own and has scripted this dramatic scene: She will sit on the floor in front of her class with a notebook/diary and pencil in her lap, and as Anne Frank, she will speak out loud as if she is writing her daily entry. A powerful image.

So what does all this have to do with perfect? For me, it’s the contrast of the imperfect world that challenges us every single day (I’m close to not turning on the news every morning) and how our kids/grandkids find something close to a perfect sphere, and for me, that’s to teach them HOPE and how to be a MENSCH. So here’s my script for Hatikvah and Menschkeit:

TIKKUN OLAM: “Repairing the world”/“healing the world”. Originating in the early rabbinic period, Tikkun Olam suggests humanity’s shared responsibility to heal, repair and transform the world and as Jews it is our responsibility to work towards a better world.

MITZVOT: Part of Tikkun Olam is the act and ritual of Mitzvot: A commandment of the Jewish law, the fulfillment of such commandments through obligation and connections, while performing worthy deeds. There are 613 commandments given in the Torah and in order to live a good Jewish life, one works at fulfilling these commandments. The term Mitzvah has come to express an act or deed of human kindness.

SHABBAT: Some explain the power of Shabbat by its effect on the other six days of the week. We celebrate the Day of Rest by doing different routines, acknowledging our thankfulness to G-d for our blessings, rejoicing in family and friends and taking time to breathe.

TZEDAKAH:Philanthropy, charitable givingwith no monetary reward while learning the personal satisfaction of doing for others. Tzedakah is a central theme in Judaism and means justice or righteousness. As a way of performing Tikkum Olam, acts of Tzedakah are a means to a more just world.

The intersection between Tikkun Olam, Mitzvot, Shabbat and Tzedakah is when I see my grandkids learning and doing these concepts at Temple when they help in soup kitchens, pick up garbage in various parts of town, entertain at senior centers and attend GOT SHABBAT (our monthly family Shabbat Service and dinner). I believe the kids learn how privileged they are to live as they do and grasp what “giving back” means while doing their part in making the world around them better, the importance of helping those who need help and caring for their community.

What better way to give the feeling of hope when extending yourself to someone who needs? What better way to create a mensch than showing through actions a code of behavior that involves being a caring, decent and honorable person who knows “the right thing to do.” A mensch doesn’t have to think “what is the right thing to do?” he/she instantly knows and does.

Hatikvah, Menschkeit and Tikkun Olam—elements of Judaism that make a perfect sphere. Wishful thinking or reality? We can only hope by doing the right thing while trying to repair the world WE set examples and teach those we love.

Oy veh, what’s a Baby Boomer Bubbe to do?

In Memory of my dear friend of 50 years, A Woman of Valor, Nancy Rogoway Tinker, April 11, 1944 – May 1, 2014.



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