Middos and Manners

There was a great article titled Developing Middos: Learned or Experienced? by Dr. Benzion Sorotzkin that appeared years ago in Jewish Observer and was later published in the Artscroll book, Timeless Parenting. The article, in my humble opinion, is worth printing out to read at your convenience.

Dr. Sorotzkin, ends the article with a section titled, “Middos or Politeness?” that I thought of last week, after coming to our childrens’ day school to drop off a drink for my daughter. As I gave the drink to my 7 yr old (I had forgotten to pack in her lunch), she said, “Thanks, Abba.” Her teacher looked at her and said, “What beautiful middos you have.”

Is saying, “Thank you”, looked at as good middos?  It could be.  I think that when a child or adult has to make a choice in behavior, we are exercising middos.  If we are teaching our children that the reason we say “thank you” is because it’s nice to acknowledge someone doing something nice for you, then the “thank you” is regulated to good manners.  Here are some examples, off the top of my yarmulka covered head, that can be looked at either as middos or manners:

  • Getting up and standing for a Rabbi
  • Not running in shul
  • Saving the last piece of cake for someone else
  • Giving a siddur to a visitor in shul

Like most things in life, Hashem has gives us the opportunity to infuse a simple action with kedusha.  Keeping our eyes open for those opportunities is the tricky part.

2 thoughts on “Middos and Manners

  1. Ely S

    Unfortunately, Neil, the bar is currently set very low for middos in our day schools.
    I’m sure there are a variety of reasons for it, but I think some of it has to do with the changes in curriculum over the years – more focus on “bein adam l’makom”, less on “bein adam l’chavero”.

  2. Neil Harris

    True. The yeshivos and day schools that do try to stress Bein Adam l’Chavero still have prepare kids for a high school system that also demands high levels of ability for Bein Adam l’Makom- ie “seforim smarts”.

    I think also most people in chinuch under the age of 45 were raised were educated in a system that looked at learning skills vs people skills.


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