- Category: DEVELOPING A TORAH PERSONALITY
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A MENSCH AND A BEN-TORAH
Thus, our specific Jewish commitment rests on our universal commitment, and one cannot address oneself only to the specific elements while totally ignoring the general and the universal ones. Therefore, in delineating what a ben-Torah should be striving for, the initial level of aspiration is a general one: to be a mensch, to hold basic universal values, to meet normative universal demands.
This point has no bearing upon the question of the temporal sequence via which a person attains his values. I mentioned before that Chazal say there was a period stretching over millennia during which the world had derekh eretz and didn’t have Torah. This does not mean that, moving from the macrocosm to the microcosm, one therefore should practice the same while educating his children, saying, “We’ll devote the first ten or so years to making a mensch out of him, and then when he is bar-mitzva we will see to it that he becomes an observant Jew as well.” Obviously, with- in the world in which we live, this is not an advisable option. If you want your child to be a ben-Torah and a shomer mitzvot, you have to imbue him with values of Torah and yirat Shamayim from a very early age. But this still means that as he grows and matures, he must be given to understand that he needs to address himself to various levels of obligation, one being universal and the other specific to him as a Jew.
1 The second level of responsibility will be addressed in lecture #3 and the third level in lecture #4. 2 This was later printed as, “Abortion: A Halakhic Perspective,” Tradition 25 (1991), pp. 3-12, and appears on Yeshivat Har Etzion’s Israel Koschitzky Virtual Beit Midrash: http://www.vbm-torah.org
3 See Bava Kama 90b-91b and Rambam, Hilkhot Chovel U-mazik 5:1. 4 Rambam, Hilkhot Sanhedrin 26:3.
Shabbat 135a, Bava Batra 110b.
Commentary on the Mishna, Chullin 7:6.
See, for example, Chullin 33a and Sanhedrin 59a.
(Based on a transcript by Ramon Widmonte. This sicha was originally delivered to first-year students at Yeshivat Har Etzion in Winter 5747 [1986-7]. It has not been reviewed by Harav Lichtenstein.)
The lectures in this series have been collected into a book entitled, By His Light: Character and Values in the Service of God.
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