Be a Mensch

Yael Eckstein  |  July 7, 2023

Maya, elderly Jewish woman from Ukraine, receiving care from The Fellowship during rocket attacks on Netivot, Israel, May 2023

Endow the king with your justice, O God,
 the royal son with your righteousness.
May he judge your people in righteousness,
 your afflicted ones with justice. — Psalm 72:1-2

This month, we will look at the theme of justice as one of the bedrock principles of our Judeo-Christian values. Enjoy!

Psalm 72 is widely believed to be King David’s last psalm—its final line reads “this concludes the prayers of David son of Jesse.” A prayer for Solomon, King David’s son and successor, this psalm is a moving record of everything the psalmist wished for his child, teaching us what is most important in life.

Recently, when I was writing my oldest son a birthday card, I asked myself, “What do I truly wish for my child?” Of course, I want him to be happy, healthy, and successful, but more than anything, I just want him to be a good person.

The first thing the psalmist prayed for is to “endow the king with your justice, O God, the royal son with your righteousness. May he judge your people in righteousness, your afflicted ones with justice.” In other words: “Let my son always do the right thing.”

Judaism has a term for this—being a mensch.

Be a Mensch

I pray that my son will be the one who includes the kid who is always alone at recess, returns the scooter he finds in the park to its owner, and shares the last cookie with his sister. Someone humble and honest who lives with integrity and looks out for others. When he messes up, I pray that, like King David, he will have the courage to admit it and make things right.

In Judaism, there’s an expression, “derech eretz kadma l’torah,”that “good character comes before Torah.” In other words, it’s more important to be a mensch than it is to be “spiritual.” In fact, it’s the pre-requisite. How can you have a good relationship with God if you don’t have a good relationship with His children?

Before the Jewish people received the Torah on Mount Sinai, they needed to come together “as one man with one heart,” and before they reaccept God’s laws each year on Shavuot, they must go through 49 days of self-betterment during the Counting of the Omer.

A person may be able to quote the Word of God by heart, but if he can’t apply it to his life, what’s the point? When King David prayed for his son’s future, he recognized that who his son would be would always be more important than what his son had.

Your Turn:

Get back to the basics. Focus on simply being kind, honest, and just.