The Book

This book can change your life- if you let it. Experts in fields from medicine to therapy, math to business, spirituality to resistance,  speak of their experiences and how good character traits brought them to where they are in life.

Via true life experiences and scientific documentation you will see why being a good person, a mensch, is the key to personal and communal health, happiness, and success.

Be a Mensch-
by Moshe Kaplan MD Category: Literature Issue No. 152
Gefen Publishing, 2009. 110 pp.

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Reviewed by Pnina Kass:

Man’s inability to understand his fate, let alone accept it, is a recurring theme in all the arts. Whether it is Rodin’s “Thinker” pondering his fate, or the Biblical Job asking “why me?” and “what am I?” These are  questions common to all cultures. For many years a staple of the non-fiction market has been the book that promises to help the bewildered, the worried, the lonely, the dissatisfied, all those sensing that the acquired knowledge of our century still hasn’t answered this deep and troubling question. Many books, including bestsellers have barely scratched the surface and many, rightly so, have been dismissed as “pop psychology.” What has become more and more obvious, and troubling to many people, in an age of rapid technological advances is the vacuum in our personal lives. Human communication whether it be MySpace, YouTube, Twitter is to many only a synthetic reconstruction of the humane and the human.

In this slim volume, Dr. Kaplan has approached a fascinating group of thinkers, activists, and academics, and asked them to bring their particular insight to the problem of individual character and ethics. This veritable roundtable of theoreticians, businessmen, and religious  thinkers makes for a spirited read; Natan Sharansky side by side with Prof. Robert J.Aumann, followed by the scholar Rabbi Abraham Twerski – a wonderful and quite different approach to the usual “take” on this subject. A thoughtful read.

Quotations from the Book:

Sara Yoheved Rigler, author of Holy Woman and Lights from Jerusalem – “According to Judaism, the goal of life is to fix one’s character traits: if one is stingy, to become more generous; if one is anger-prone, to become more patient; if one routinely lies or cheats, to become more honest.  In other words, the goal of life according to Judaism is to become a mensch.”
Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski, MD – “The happiness of man can only be achieved when he rises above his innate desires and strives for a goal beyond that of self-gratification… it is only when man is truly whole that he can achieve the happiness of being a mensch.”
Howard Jonas, Founder and CEO of IDT Corporation – “…good character, which is at least as essential, if not more so, to founding and running a major company, can be developed. Persistence, courage, patience, empathy, loyalty, honesty, integrity, kindness, generosity, the ability to cooperate with others – these can all be worked on and cultivated… Until you can look at any person, see him as an equal, and rally listen to what he has to say, you’ll never be sure whether he has something exciting to offer or not.”
Yakir Kaufman, MD, Chairman of Department of Neurology at Herzog Hospital in Jerusalem – “If we can find ways to develop ourselves internally, so that we can become more genuinely more caring, generous, humble, grateful, honest, faithful, spiritually sensitive people, then our more positive and more beautiful internal selves will manifest externally as fit, healthy bodies.”
Rabbi David Gottlieb, Ph.D., former professor of mathematical logic at Johns Hopkins University – “An altruist is someone who acts for another’s benefit. What makes him an altruist is that his reason for acting is to help the other person. Nothing prevents the altruist from receiving a benefit from his actions, as long as the benefit was not his reason for acting… an essential element in the ideal life is love, both the capacity to recognize love in others and the capacity to respond or initiate out of love for others.  This is a key element in our appreciation of good character… Actions are expressions of character. Love is the key element in ideal character – the closer to love the motivation is, the higher the value we see in the actions and the person.  The value of being a loving person is not just that it improves actions. Being a loving person is being the best person one can be.”