I grew up in a generation that sought to change the world. The hippies of the 1960’s wanted to remake the world with values of peace and justice. Over time, they found the world didn’t heed their cries, and they eventually gave up and joined the system. Their values were right, but their methods were not effective.
When I became a Yeshua follower in the early 70’s, we also wanted to change the world, but we sought to do so through the message of the Besora, realizing, it was Yeshua who could change the world, not political or social revolution. We knew it worked, because we saw Yeshua change lives. People were delivered from drugs and alcohol, and many other problems when they embraced Yeshua. But at the same time, I saw many people apply Christian labels to themselves, but there was no change in their lives. As a Jew, I was well aware of this practice. Christians killed Jews in Yeshua’s name for the glory of God. Taking the forms of religion do not change lives. An anti-Semite is an anti-Semite, whether he claims to follow Yeshua or not. All they wind up doing is pollute the Name of Yeshua.
Yeshua’s teachings make it clear that they Torah is more concerned with how we treat one another than how observant we are. It’s not what we do in Yeshua’s Name that matters, but how we treat people. Yeshua taught that if our brother sins against us, we should forgive him 70 times 7 times. The key is to reconcile with one another, not to count offenses.
I strive to live a life that reflects Yeshua in me. Yeshua was the ultimate Mensch. If anyone remembers me after I am gone (I have no plans to go anywhere at the moment), I want them to remember me for some kindness I did, not for a transgression.
People don’t remember you for being right. People go to great lengths to argue their positions. In the end, they may be right, they may not, but in either case, few, if any people remember them for it. The people in my life, who made the most difference to me, were people who conducted their lives with honor and kindness. They were people who reflected Yeshua in their actions.
According to Leo Rosten, the Yiddish maven and author of The Joys of Yiddish, a mensch is “someone to admire and emulate, someone of noble character. The key to being “a real mensch” is nothing less than character, rectitude, dignity, a sense of what is right, responsible, decorous”. Yeshua was the ultimate mensch.
It’s a worthy question to ask ourselves, “are we living our lives in such a way that we positively impact others?” Think about the people who most impacted your life. Did they impact you by their arguments or by how religious they were? Or did they impact you by the way they treated you? The people who made the biggest difference in my life, were there for me when I needed them. The best way to pay them back is to be available to people who need me to be there for them in a positive way. All the emails, cards, and gifts can’t take the place of being there.
Guy Kawasaki writes in his blog, “Here is my humble attempt to help you achieve menschdom.
Help people who cannot help you. A mensch helps people who cannot ever return the favor. He doesn’t care if the recipient is rich, famous, or powerful. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t help rich, famous, or powerful people (indeed, they may need the most help), but you shouldn’t help only rich, famous, and powerful people.
Help without the expectation of return. A mensch helps people without the expectation of return–at least in this life. What’s the payoff? Not that there has to be a payoff, but the payoff is the pure satisfaction of helping others. Nothing more, nothing less.
Help many people. Menschdom is a numbers game: you should help many people, so you don’t hide your generosity under a bushel. (Of course, not even a mensch can help everyone. To try to do so would mean failing to help anyone.)
Do the right thing the right way. A mensch always does the right thing the right way. She would never cop an attitude like, “We’re not as bad as Enron.” There is a bright, clear line between right and wrong, and a mensch never crosses that line.
Pay back society. A mensch realizes that he’s blessed. For example, entrepreneurs are blessed with vision and passion plus the ability to recruit, raise money, and change the world. These blessings come with the obligation to pay back society. The baseline is that we owe something to society–we’re not a doing a favor by paying back society.”
The prophet Micah observed, “what does the Lord require of you O man, but to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God.” Its the little things we do for others that will change the world, one person at a time.