The Mensch Series #2: What is a Middah?

Lesson: The Mensch Series #2: What is a Middah?

Sam - Strike Out the RabbiBeing a Mensch (good person) is one of the most important aspects of being Jewish. In this session, you will learn about the idea of a Middah (virtue or value) and why following them helps you become a mensch. you will learn:

  • Definition: What is a Middah?
  • The middah of generosity, nedivut
  • The middah of humility, anavah
  • The middah of truthfulness and honesty, emet



#1 Lets DEFINE the word, middah

Elul-lgA middah is a Jewish value or virtue and it is a smart way to live. A virtue is a characteristic of/held/exhibited by a good person. A Jewish virtue or middah is such a characteristic that has been derived from Jewish tradition. Anyone, Jewish or not, can and do have middot (plural of middah) so in that sense they are universal virtues. At the same time, because middot are drawn from Jewish texts and based on Jewish understandings of the world, they are uniquely Jewish. Living my middot help us live like a mensch.

#2 Watch this short video on Smart Ways To Live by the Maccabeats

#3 STUDY these Jewish teachings about middot

Hebrew Text Image

“Moses was a very humble man, more than all the people that were upon the face of the earth” (Numbers 12,3)

There are seven types of thieves, but a “thought thief” (one who deceives another) is the worst of all. (Mechilta Mishpatim 13, 135)

Do not allow anything to pass your lips that you are not certain is completely true. ( Rabbi Menachem Mendel Lefin of Satanov)


#4 READ this story about a new kid in school, as told by Rachel, when she younger.

Shabbat Girls w Birthday CardsLast year, a new friend joined my class. Her name was Jennifer and she moved from England because her mom got a new job and they moved to New York over the summertime. Jennifer had a funny accent and we did not know some of the words she said, like “smarmy.” She also ate this sandwich on the first day for lunch with a very funny smell called marmite. It really smelled bad and nobody wanted to eat lunch next to her. I felt bad for her because she looked sad.

After school that day, I heard a few kids talking about Jennifer and making fun of how she spoke. I thought that was mean. That night at home, I told my dad about Jennifer and what happened at lunch and he suggested that we invite her and her family for dinner on the weekend and welcome them to our neighborhood. My dad was from Argentina and he knew what it felt like to be the new kid when his family moved to New York. He told me the children making fun of Jennifer were not being humble and that he expected me to always show my humility. What’s humility I asked dad? He said it was the virtue of not thinking you are better than other people.

The next day at school, I asked Jennifer if I could sit next to her at lunch, it was the first time I ever saw her smile but it would not be the last. That was in 1999, I’m now 26 years old and on that day, she and I became best friends that year and we’ve been friends ever since.

#5 WATCH this music video about honesty and truthfulness, emet

#6 WATCH this video on an act of generosity, nedivut

#7 Respond and React
Now that you have watched the videos, read the story, and learned about Middot, please respond to these questions in your Tamid Workbook.

1. What is the english translation of middah?
2. What are the three middot you learned today and give a one sentence definition for each midday.
3. Explain this phrase: There are seven types of thieves, but a “thought thief” (one who deceives another) is the worst of all. 
4. Of the three middot you studied today, what is the most important one in your opinion?
5. If you had to start a middah practice at your school, what would you choose?

Need some help?

We’re here for you. At any time, if you have any questions, please contact one of our teachers so we can help you.

Also, at the end of the session, remember to review your responses in your Tamid Workbook so you can get credit for this lesson. Behatzlacha (Hebrew for good luck)!

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