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Be a Mensch

I’m a competitive man but I have a set of rules.

Rule Number 1: Have rules.

Rule Number 2: Follow them.

What are the rules?

There’s only one.

Don’t behave like an animal.

What does that mean?

It’s only dog eat dog when we make it so.

We don’t have to eat the another dog’s food.

We don’t have to rip out someone’s throat out because we feel threatened.

My Grandmother’s way of saying it was “Be a mensch.”

A mensch is an ancient concept possibly rooted in Hellenistic Judaism.

It incorporates the classical Greek ideal of the ‘citizen’.

One is not born a mensch.

One becomes a mensch through study, discipline and respect for the rule of law.

There is human nature and there is being human.

The two often clash.

I adored my Grandmother and if being a mensch pleased her than I would be the best little mensch in the world.

That’s the thing about drive and ambition.

We can teach children to use drive and ambition for the good of all people or we can teach them to live like money-grubbing savages and to even think that there is glory in it.

My Grandmother said a beast in a Park Avenue penthouse is still a beast.

My Grandmother said the pigs that played Arnold Ziffel were rich pigs but they were still pigs.

Neil Armstrong was a mensch.

He landed on the moon and placed himself second to an achievement that he shared with every person on the planet.

He made a giant leap for mankind.

Sure, he got something out of it; but he would have anyway.

A noble deed done with mixed intentions is a still a noble deed.

A mensch must face his beast to transcend it.

A mensch is not a perfect person.

A mensch is not someone who backs down from fighting an injustice or an unwarranted attack.

A mensch is someone who believes in the value of a civilized life.

A mensch learns to muzzle his inner pit bull.

(c) Rob Goldstein 20126 All Rights Reserved

 

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41 thoughts on “Be a Mensch

      1. Yes. She made so many wise comments on our walks together. The one that became the foundation for my personal world view was “You are better than no one and no one is better than you.” She valued material success because it gives people the chance to free our their but she thought that confusing the acquisition of goods with being superior as a person was the mark of a fool.

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  1. Reblogged this on Billy in Blunderland and commented:

    Can one use the term (which is beautiful and sums up the concept wonderfully, by the way) even if they’re not obviously Jewish?
    I love it, that’s what I set out to be every day, and what I am hopefully teaching my children to be, and what I know my husband is which is why I feel so privileged to be part of his life.
    As always beautifully written by Robert M Goldstein.

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    1. Thank you for the re-blog, Billy. I think that the word Mensch can easily be replaced with the word Citizen.

      If one accepts the premise that a life worth living includes the ability to accept that one has responsibilities to other people then one is also in tune with the most fundamental idea of how we collaborate to create a civilized nation and world.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Fierce reminder, thanks. I call myself out constantly. If I don’t, I know someone will. Your Grandmother was sharp. Poo is poo whomever squats. That word mensch is one of my favorite words. It was used backwards in the DeathGate Cycle series. It was meant as a lesser person and it was difficult to reconcile.

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      1. I hate it too. I joke but i really hate it but I have to pick battles.. I’m not sure what word you are looking for. I call it a pain in the ass. I’m not a writer and will never claim to be. In my job, I am relentless to make sure an error I make never happens again. Taking accountability for one’s mistakes is paramount, in work and life.

        I’m glad you have your mind.

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      1. Sure, Robert! It really made me smile when I read that German word. Yes, it means man, human,…
        Menschheit is mankind
        Menschlichkeit is humanity
        There is a connection between the Yiddish and German language.

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      2. What I weird is that my family on both sides are Spanish Jews. My Grandmother on my Mother’s side was born in London and my Grandfather on my Father’s side was born in Russia, so the fact that they spoke Yiddish suggests that the Jewish community in Germany was influential among the global population of Jews.

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      3. It totally was!!! I think that is why this Holocaust started in Germany. Lots of immigrants to all the other parts of the worlds which you still can recognize from their names: Goldblum (golden flower in German), Spielberg (play mountain). The names are not always making sense but the origin from German Jews.

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      4. Ha…. right! Actually when I saw your name first I thought of it. But I don’t see that anymore after we two drops in that wonderful ocean here. Actually it means Golden Stone 😊

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      5. When I wrote this I did some research.

        I forget that the Jewish people were around when ancient Greece rose to power. I’m sure that they influenced each others cultures. But the description of the ‘Mensch’ is almost exactly the same as the Greek concept of the ‘good citizen’.

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      1. Who are these people and why would they say such things to you? And you can always tell me to back off…but I wouldn’t be a friend if I didn’t challenge the idea that you are anything less than a man who is doing the best he can do.

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      2. I don’t tell friends to “back off”. I expect you to challenge any idea/concept that you don’t see as right for the moment or time or person or place. To paraphrase, what kind of friend would I be to expect you to stifle your own self?
        As for who … I suppose now they’re just the remnant voices in my head from people in the past. Sometimes it’s hard to distinguish their consistent clammor from real noise.

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