Class Spotlight: Honorable Mentchen – Character Pitfalls #2

24 05 2010

Based on a Naaleh.com shiur by Rabbi Hanoch Teller

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This new course introduces a series of mini-workshops on the vital topic of personal character and the implementation of moral sensitivity into our daily lives. Featuring Rabbi Hanoch Teller at his best, these short 20 minute lectures are sure to add an inspirational lift to your day!

Too often, we spend an inordinate amount of time trying to change others, when in reality we can change only ourselves. The Mishna in Avot says, “Who is mighty? One conquers his evil inclination.” Western society considers one who prevails over others to be mighty, but our Rabbis emphasize that it is really one who prevails over himself.

The more conscious we are of our weaknesses, the more we can try to curb them before they damage ourselves and others. If we refuse to acknowledge our character failings, we will inevitably rationalize our flaws, and try to demonize and find fault with others. Just as our sages instituted numerous rabbinic prohibitions or fences so that we would not come to transgress Torah law, we must erect fences around our evil character traits to prevent us from stumbling. Rav Yisrael Salanter once said that a person is like a bird. He can fly ever so high but if his wings stop flapping, he will inevitably fall down. Working on our middot is a constant battle and we must be watchful at all times.

The first step to improvement is to admit our wrongs. Instead of correcting their mistakes, people have a tendency to persist in their errors. To quote Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, “One who makes a mistake and doesn’t correct it is making a second mistake.” Many times, parents will err with their children and place unrealistic demands on them. They may even see their child suffering and still continue on their ill chosen path.

Time is life and one can literally commit slow suicide by killing time. It is important to have proper priorities and to preoccupy ourselves with doing good for others instead of thinking only of ourselves. We should ask ourselves, “Are we giving our children a feeling of being loved and appreciated?”

Our tombstones will never be inscribed with the epithets, “She had the shiniest floors or he drove the fanciest car.” Instead, people will remember you as, “The good neighbor or the loving mother.” Small acts of kindness, thoughtful deeds, and giving of oneself without thought of remuneration, will remain with us for eternity. The famous coach, Vincent Bardey, was wont to say, “Being the winner is not the main thing, it’s the only thing.” Similarly, Rabbi Shimon Finkelman points out, “Being good is not the main thing, it’s the only thing.”

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