Mensch Academy @ Harvard Hillel

Questions in your Chevruta (pair)

1) What was the best piece of feedback that your received in the last year? What was the worst? What made it good feedback or bad feedback?

2) What was one time that you gave feedback that you were really proud of in the past year? How was it received?

3) If you were going to give feedback to God, what would it be?

א"ר יוחנן משום ר' יוסי מנין שהקב"ה מתפלל שנאמר (ישעיהו נו, ז) והביאותים אל הר קדשי ושמחתים בבית תפלתי תפלתם לא נאמר אלא תפלתי מכאן שהקב"ה מתפלל. מאי מצלי אמר רב זוטרא בר טוביה אמר רב יה"ר מלפני שיכבשו רחמי את כעסי ויגולו רחמי על מדותי ואתנהג עם בני במדת רחמים ואכנס להם לפנים משורת הדין. תניא א"ר ישמעאל בן אלישע פעם אחת נכנסתי להקטיר קטורת לפני ולפנים וראיתי אכתריאל יה ה' צבאות שהוא יושב על כסא רם ונשא ואמר לי ישמעאל בני ברכני אמרתי לו יה"ר מלפניך שיכבשו רחמיך את כעסך ויגולו רחמיך על מדותיך ותתנהג עם בניך במדת הרחמים ותכנס להם לפנים משורת הדין ונענע לי בראשו וקמ"ל שלא תהא ברכת הדיוט קלה בעיניך

Rabbi Yoḥanan said in the name of Rabbi Yosei: From where is it derived that the Holy Blessed One, prays? As it is stated: “I will bring them to My holy mountain, and make them joyful in the house of My prayer” (Isaiah 56:7). The verse does not say the house of their prayer, but rather, “the house of My prayer”; from here we see that the Holy Blessed One, prays. The Gemara asks: What does God pray? Rav Zutra bar Tovia said that Rav said: God says: "May it be My will that My mercy will overcome My anger, and may My mercy prevail over My other attributes, and may I conduct myself toward My children, with the attribute of mercy, and may I enter before them beyond the letter of the law. Similarly, it was taught that Rabbi Yishmael ben Elisha, the High Priest, said: Once, on Yom Kippur, I entered the innermost sanctum, the Holy of Holies, to offer incense, and in a vision I saw Akatriel Ya, the Lord of Hosts, one of the names of God, seated upon a high and exalted throne. And God said to me: Yishmael, My son, bless Me. I said to Him: “May it be Your will that Your mercy overcome Your anger, and may Your mercy prevail over Your other attributes, and may You act toward Your children with the attribute of mercy, and may You enter before them beyond the letter of the law.” The Holy Blessed One's, head nodded and accepted the blessing. This event teaches us that you should not take the blessing of an ordinary person lightly.

Questions in your Chevruta

1) What do you think of God's prayer?

2) What do you think of Rabbi Yishmael's prayer?

3) What do you think that it might mean that God's prayer (according to Rav) and Rabbi Yishmael's prayer were identical?

4) What does that say about the nature of prayer? What does that say about the nature of feedback?

5) What does this story say about G!'d's perfection? What is the interaction between perfection and vunerability?

6) How does your feedback for God resemble the prayer of Rabbi Yishmael's?

Questions in your Chevruta

1) What does being a “mensch” mean to you?

2)Look at the Periodic Table of Being a Mensch. Which middot (qualities) do you think are most important to being a mensch? Why?

3) Now look at the Periodic Table of Being a Mensch again. What middot are your top five strengths?

4)What are the middot you appreciate most in others? Are they similar to or different from your biggest strengths? How do those similarities and differences play out in your relationships? Note: According to Mussar, one never wants to over or under expressing of middot. Different situations and relationships call for the correct application of each middah.

5) What are four middot you might want to work on in 5778?

6) Which one these seems the least important? - Add it to your list.

7) If you were to actually try to work on these middot, how would you do it? What do you imagine would get in the way? How might you overcome it?

באחד בשבת מ"ט לא אמר ר' יוחנן מפני הנוצרים ר' שמואל בר נחמני אמר מפני שהוא שלישי ליצירה
The Gemara asks: What is the reason that they would not fast on Sunday? Rabbi Yoḥanan said: Due to the Christians, as Sunday is their day of rest, and they would claim that even the Jews ascribe significance to their special day. Rabbi Shmuel bar Naḥmani said: Because it is the third day after the creation of man, who was created on Friday, and the third day of recovery from a wound or sickness, in this case one’s very creation, is considered the most painful.