In this issue

Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review April 7, 2005 / 27 Adar II, 5765

An action plan for change

By Rabbi S. Binyomin Ginsberg

Printer Friendly Version

Email this article

Enhancing a child's refinement can be done, but there must be guidelines

http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Last week, we addressed the need for creating a character "portfolio" for our children in order to help them grow in refinement. We suggested making an assessment by listing what appears to be their strengths and their weaknesses. Let us presume that this task was completed. Now what?

We need to use the completed inventory to foster growth and steady advantage  —  but within the limits of reasonable expectations.

In an effort to spur change, we take an honest look at our current self and compare it with what we want to become. And that can, understandably, appear to be overwhelming. Taking on too much at once   —   trying to change ourselves too quickly   —   inevitably ends up being counterproductive. Most people find themselves breaking under unnaturally high standards, trying to live at levels that they are not ready for.

Because of this, our sages encourage us to progress slowly. Rather than give up or burn-out because the task is too hard, we should take on the challenge by breaking it into small pieces.

The Klauzenberger Rebbe, Rabbi Yekusiel Yehudah Halbertsam, zt"l, offered a priceless interpretation on the biblical narrative describing the patriarch Jacob's dream of the ladder. The Torah tells us that Jacob saw a "ladder planted in the ground, whose top reached the heavens, and behold there were angels of G-d ascending and going down." Taught the Rebbe: If we try to ascend and swiftly transform ourselves into angels, we will fall right back down.

The great contemporary philosopher, Rabbi Shlomo Wolbe, offers some practical advice on how to develop and change one's character a step at a time. He suggests that an individual begin by taking limited action   —   say, performing three little acts of kindness daily. After a few of months, it's inevitable that one will start to really develop sensitivity to people, seeing what they need, thinking how to help them and become a truly kind person. If, for example, one wants to stop being a hot-head, he suggests that instead of just resolving to be patient and never lose one's temper   —   try taking on a half hour of patience every day.

But where does one begin?

In choosing the areas of character to refine, should we focus on one's greatest weakness, which while in dire need of rectifying, may in fact be too difficult to change, or do we look at an area in which we can be confident of successful results?

I believe the answer is both. We should select the strongest positive quality and work on making it even better. But at the same time find an area of weakness that has the highest chance for success.

With children particularly, success will create further motivation to continue working toward refinement.

Bear in mind, though, that when selecting an area of character to improve, there are some that one should never work on because the chances for success are almost zero. For example, when a parent shares their frustration with me about their child's lack of organization, my advice to the parent is to seek ways to compensate for that shortcoming, but not try to change that trait. I have not yet seen a child change in this area.

The Hebrew word middah has two meanings   —   character trait and measurement. Our character traits need to be balanced. In successfully changing a middah, we are often told that we must to go to the opposite extreme. But this is true only for a limited period of time.

Ultimately, we want to reach a happy medium. As Maimonides writes in Hilchos Daos (1:2), balanced character traits are ideal (except in regard to arrogance and anger). Thus, when it comes to working on an action plan for change, there is usually no wrong way. There can be different approaches to change and one must select the approach that works best.

Obviously, if we don't succeed the first time or the second we continue trying. We can't give up on this area  —  as the great Talmudist, the Vilna Goan, (1720-1797) explained, "A person is alive only in order to break a [negative] character trait that he has not broken until now. Therefore, one should always strengthen one's self; for if he does not strengthen himself, why is he alive?"

What next? Oh yes! I forgot to mention one crucial part of the action plan. It must contain a method and timeline of review. How often will you revisit the portfolio, and subsequent action plan, and how will you measure success? That I leave to your own comfort level.

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes upliting articles. Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

Rabbi S. Binyomin Ginsberg is dean of Torah Academy in Minneapolis, MN. and a columnist for Yated Ne'eman. Let him know what you think by clicking here.

© 2005, Yated Ne'eman