Saturday, November 28, 2015

Rededicating Ourselves to Being Mensches


Thanksgiving is over and the holiday season is officially in full swing. With Hanukkah around the corner, I’ve been thinking about how my family might add to its celebration this year. 

I recently watched “The Making of a Mensch,” a short film that explores the science of character through the lens of the ancient Jewish practice of Mussar. I had read about Mussar, the ethical and spiritual discipline dating back to the 10th century that provides a framework for being our best selves, and briefly tried practicing it. Seeing “The Making of a Mensch” encouraged me to revisit the teachings on character traits such as humility, gratitude, patience and equanimity to name a few. 

But when in my jammed-packed work and family schedule would I have time to do it? Then an idea came to me as if it were a divine revelation–Hanukkah. Hanukkah is the holiday of rededication. We could revisit the teachings about character development during the holiday and discuss as a family when we lit the candles each night how we could rededicate ourselves to being the best we can be. 

So, this year, my family will add a little Mussar to its Hanukkah observance. As we celebrate the rededication of the Temple to its spiritual purpose after the Maccabees victory over the Seleucids, we will also recommit ourselves to leading lives of purpose, to being mensches.