Book Club & Adult Ed Discussion Questions and Notes

Discussion Questions for Book Groups and Adult Ed Classes


1)    “In a place where there is no humanity, be human,” says the Talmud. Elie Wiesel’s story of the just man of Sodom, which is found in his book One Generation After (NY: Schocken Books, 1982), states that you should remain moral in the face of immorality so that it won’t change you.  Rabbi Israel Salanter’s quote found at the end of the chapter affirms, more optimistically, that if you stick to it, eventually you will have an impact on society.  (See another, somewhat more pessimistic version of Salanter's quote at  What do you believe?  (You can see some of Salanter’s key ideas in translation at

2)    In untethered times, how to do maintain a sense of moral grounding?

3)    Using the approach of Mensch·Marks, try to recall 42 seminal events in your life, stepping stones that have helped you to become who you are today.  There were 42 stops made by the Israelites in the Wilderness, as recorded in Numbers 33.  See a chart of the stations at  See how Rabbi Simon Jacobson relates the Torah's stations and Baal Shem Tov's ideas to the psycho-spiritual stages of our lives, at  What would you list as the 42 most important "stepping stones" in a typical human life-span?  What rituals do we enact to mark our arrival at that place and our taking leave for the next stop?

4)    Think about the formative moments that made you "you."  After you've covered the major ones, e.g. your wedding day or the death of a loved one, that's when it gets interesting, because you have to dig deep to remember distant encounters and subtle lessons that ended up making a huge difference, though they may not have seemed important at the time. 

5)    The word mensch connotes masculinity in German, much as it does in English when Americans say “Be a Man!” it usually means “Be macho, be heroic, don’t cry,” or some such. The Urban Dictionary’s definition indicates that the kinder, gentler, Jewish definition of being a man has begun to seep into the general culture: An upstanding, worthy, honorable adult person of either sex. Fr. German and Yiddish for "human being."

But still, in some style guides and published sources, mensch is italicized and therefore not yet fully accepted into the vernacular.  See - “Mensch is new to English and still unfamiliar to many people, so writers often italicize it to signal that it’s a loanword. But if it stays in the language, it will go unitalicized increasingly often.”  

In an exchange of emails with an associate editor at Merriam-Webster, it was confirmed that the word is headed in the right direction:

The evidence we have available suggests that mensch is now largely treated as a naturalized part of the English language. Our evidence from professionally written and edited sources show a strong preference for a non-italicized use of mensch, except when it is being used as a reference to the word itself.

There are still writers and editors who will italicize mensch (which suggests that either these writers and editors don’t consider mensch to be fully naturalized into English, or that they feel that a significant number of their readers might not regard it as so), but such usage is on the decline.

Paul Simcha Wood
Associate Editor
Merriam-Webster, Inc.

How can we ensure that this word will no longer be italicized by anyone?  How has our concept of masculinity evolved over the past generation?  When the question was raised several years ago as to whether “real men” eat quiche, was this meant in earnestness or as sarcasm?

6)    And where do women fit into the definition of mensch?  Was Jewish culture so male-centric that women weren’t figured into the equation, or were women already seen as kinder and gentler, thereby not in need of “menschification”?

Mensch•Mark 1: “A Young Rabbi” (…breaking down barriers of age)

1)    “I know that I am not alone; in many fields it is not easy to be young. In the two years since my ordination, I have left many a hospital room wondering whether the patients give their young doctors the same incredulous looks they often give me. A 30-year-old dentist tells me of the difficulties of starting a practice - he wonders whether people will be willing to entrust their sacred smiles to one so young.” How does age factor into first impressions of clergy, doctors, lawyers or other professionals? Are those first impressions fair?  Over the past generation, has this changed? 

2)    “Can a rabbi who is not battle-scarred be truly a rabbi?” – is this true of other clergy as well?  Does a teacher need to have children of his/her own in order to be a good teacher?

3)    Tractate Avot (“Ethics of the Ancestors,” from the Talmud) states in chapter four, “Don’t look at the flask, but at the contents therein.” In other words, don’t judge a book by its cover. (Incidentally, the cover and contents of this book are equally meritorious).  But are there times when appearances do matter?

4)    “Perhaps early career burnout would be less of a problem among rabbis - and other professionals - if they didn't feel compelled to spend the first half of their careers trying to look older and the last half striving to regain the vitality of lost youth.” How much of a challenge is early burnout in your line of work?  Could it be alleviated if people took off their professional masks and brought more of their true selves – their humanness – into their work?  Or do we prefer that, say, doctors play the role, with little transparency?

Mensch•Mark 2: “Gentleman’s Agreement” (…loving unconditionally, preaching courageously)

1)    Finley Peter Dunne, an author and satirist, is the one who first spoke of “afflicting the comfortable and comforting the afflicted,” referring to newspapers (Observations by Mr. Dooley, 1902).  Do you feel that is the role of religion?  Of the two roles, pastor and prophet, which should be the priority for pastors – or should they be equally balanced?

2)    “And I learned the most important thing of all – not to stereotype my congregants, but to see in them reflections of the divine image, human beings, just like me.”  How can we avoid pigeonholing people in workplace or family settings? Does your family have a “Crazy Uncle,” or is it just Uncle Joe expressing his deep-seated frustrations, calling out for attention and love – albeit at every single Thanksgiving dinner?

3)    Read these quotes from the film, “Gentleman’s Agreement,” and try to gain some appreciation of how insecure Jews felt in Fairfield County – and wherever they were trying to find acceptance in an America that maintained an innate hostility to them, even at a time when anti-Semitism was unfashionable, with memories of Auschwitz still fresh.  Then ask yourself whether the PTSD felt especially by older Jews living there is misplaced, or eminently understandable.

Bert McAnny: What? Now, Green, don't get me wrong. Why, some of my best friends are Jews.
Anne Dettrey: And some of your other best friends are Methodists, but you never bother to say that.

Professor Fred Lieberman: Millions of people nowadays are religious only in the vaguest sense. I've often wondered why the Jews among them still go on calling themselves Jews. Do you know, Mr. Green?
Phil Green: No, but I'd like to.
Professor Fred Lieberman: Because the world still makes it an advantage not to be one. Thus it becomes a matter of pride to go on calling ourselves Jews.

Elaine Wales: I changed my name. Did you?
Phil Green: Green has always been my name. What's yours?
Elaine Wales: Estelle Walovsky. I couldn't take it. The applications, I mean. So one day I wrote the same firm two letters, same as you're doing now. I sent the Elaine Wales one, and I sent it after they said there were no openings. Well, I got the job, all right. Do you know what firm that was? "Smith's Weekly."
Phil Green: No.
Elaine Wales: Yes, Mr. Green. The great liberal magazine that fights injustice on all sides.

4)    How does the Jewish experience of the “Gentlemen’s Agreement” era parallel Jim Crow discrimination against African Americans?  How does it not? 

Mensch•Mark 3 – The Santa Suit (…dissolving the prejudice of appearance)

1)    “As a rabbi, I always look forward to this chance to transform the dreaded “December Dilemma” into a classic Jewish act of kindness, a “mitzvah,” by feeding the hungry and lifting the downtrodden.  It’s an indelible experience, eagerly shared by my family.  Paradoxically, it never feels so good to be Jewish as when we are helping others to find fulfillment in their Christianity.”  If you are Jewish, how does your family deal with the “December Dilemma,” or is it, for you, a dilemma at all?

2)    If you were the rabbi in this story, would you have put on the Santa suit?  Why or why not?

3)    “So, I decided not to dress as Santa on Christmas Eve.  Neither, however, will I dress as a rabbi. Of course, I'll be wearing my yarmulke – but that's because I'm a Jew.  But I'll leave the rest of my rabbinic outfit at the door – that holier-than-thou inflection that is so hard for all clergy to shed; the droopy walk that comes from having the weight of the universe on our shoulders; and the tinge of fearful mistrust that steers so many Jews far from anything remotely Claus-like at this time of year.” What “outfit” do you wear at work or at home – and are you fully aware that you are wearing it? Do you agree with “Annie” that “You’re never fully dressed without a smile?”

Mensch•Mark 4 – Rising Above the Hate (…caring for my adversary)

1)    Maimonides wrote in his Code of Jewish Law (Deot 7:8) “Any Jew who bears a grudge against another Jew violates the Torah prohibition of “Do not bear a grudge against the children of your people” (Leviticus 19:18). The case of bearing a grudge is as follows: Reuven asks Shimon to rent him a house or to lend him some object but Shimon refuses. A few days later, Shimon asks to borrow or rent something from Reuven. In this scenario, Reuven does Shimon the favor, saying, “I am not like you, nor am I getting back at you for your refusal.” One who does this violates the prohibition against bearing a grudge. Rather, one should eradicate the matter from his heart and never think of it again.” How does this prohibition differ from the Christian call to “turn the other cheek?”  Which is more realistic?  The story of Joseph would seem to be a classic tale of revenge for prior wrongs; but the commentators go to great lengths to show that Joseph was motivated not to avenge what his brothers did to him, but to test them or to validate the truth of the dreams that God had visited upon him.  See the discussion packet that I put together about Joseph, Hanukkah and vengeance.  A

2)     Can you recall a situation when you had to “rise above” a situation?  Did that call for forgiveness, or simply repressing anger? Did it help in the short run?  In the long run?

3) Jews have created an entire week dedicated to learning how to argue with one another constructively, "for the sake of heaven." Read about the "Jewish Week of Constructive Conflict." and see this collection of essays on the topic of moving beyond "sinat hinam," baseless hatred.  Is civility always the ultimate goal, or, in the case of severe life-and-death matters of dispute, does principle need to take precedence over civility?

Mensch•Mark 5 – Saturday Morning Fever (… touching souls in a germaphobic age)

1)    “In fearful times like ours, when the most dreaded enemies are unseen, we naturally tend to shy away from contact with the unknown — or, for that matter, the known, since even our most intimate friends are inundated with millions of invisible enemies. Everyone — and everything — is tainted. I’ve even seen Hebrew-school kids scouring the yarmulke bin for head lice. The purity laws are Judaism’s way of acknowledging that fear of the invisible and channeling it into life-affirming action.” The Jewish laws of purity are very obscure and even in Talmudic times they were mostly dated, but in some ways they are at the core of what Judaism is all about.  How in your life do you confront the fear of invisible forces, like radiation, bacteria or, in our day, computer viruses and hacking?  How do we attempt to control what appears uncontrollable?  In this atmosphere, how do we maintain a trusting, hopeful view of the world and not succumb to dark impulses and conspiracy theories?

2)    Does fear of germs lead inexorably to a fear of other humans?  Think of how Nazi racist ideology regarded Jews as “parasitic vermin” worthy only of eradication.  In that light, the purity laws confront such vile notions by giving us the tools to routinely cleanse ourselves, in body and in spirit.

3)    Psalm 24 asks who shall be worthy to ascend the Mount of God? The answer: “S/he who has clean hands and a pure heart.”  How, in your mind, is cleanliness next to Godliness?

4)    If you had been the rabbi in this scenario, dealing with a high fever, would you have walked around with the Torah?  Would you have gotten physically close to the Bat Mitzvah?

Supplementary questions on Jewish Purity Laws:

1)      What do physical things have to do with religion in the first place? If religion is for the soul, for heaven, for God, why does the Torah devote so much space to skin, infection, blisters, leprosy? 

2)      Secondly, if aspects of the body have to be dealt with, why can’t it be in terms of the Song of Songs, where human beauty is presented so pleasantly, so nicely: “Its ways are ways of pleasantness.” Why have portions like Tazria and Metzora (Leviticus 12-15) which could not be more unpleasant? 

3)      Thirdly, if we have to be physical in order to be spiritual, if disease and ab-normalcy have to be faced, diagnosed and healed, isn’t it dangerous to leave these matters to the priest, the Kohen, the religious figure? How far is this from witchcraft?  Is the priest a witch doctor?


For lots more fascinating information on Jewish purity laws and the sanctity of bodily functions,  click here

Mensch•Mark 6 – Mentioning the Unmentionable (…smashing taboos and sacred cows)

1)    What would be on your Top Ten List of sermon topics you will almost never hear on the High Holidays (Easter, or Ramadan, or whatever applies to your faith, or the State of the Union Address…)?

2)    “As each community defines its values, each rabbi is expected never to question them, whatever they may be, or risk family security, professional advancement, everything. Yet the sermon has to sound challenging, or the rabbi is perceived as a leader who refuses to lead. The artistry, then, is to take a pro-choice congregation and motivate it toward being more pro-choice, or to discuss the tax evasion of others without coming too close to home, and to make all that sound like leadership.”  Or is doing this actual leadership?  If the clergy’s values align closely with those of the congregation, isn’t that a good thing?  If ideas are anathema to you, why entertain the possibility that they might contain elements of truth?

3)    “Ben Bag Bag would say: turn it and turn it again, for all is in it; see through it; grow old and worn in it; do not budge from it, for there is nothing that works better than it. – Avot 5:22.”  Here this rabbinic sage is making it clear that truth can only be attained when something (in this case, the Torah) is looked at from every possible angle.  If even the Torah needs to be re-examined again and again, wouldn't that be even more true for something less infallible, like, say, an opinion? 

Mensch•Mark 7 – Dancing Sheva (…flowing with the rhythms of sacred time)

1)    “Just as my world is beginning to spin out of control, I am stabilized by the realization that the spokes of my week radiate from a fixed center: Shabbat.”  Does your week radiate from a fixed center, an anchor that keeps you from floating away?  How does the Sabbath perform that function (for your faith, and for others?)  How and when do you “unplug?”

2)    Does your worship community stifle spontaneity and look down on physical movement?  How important is it that prayer be active and flowing, involving bodily movement, rather than passive and rigid?  When people say that they are “spiritual and not religious,” are they reflecting upon religious experiences of their childhood that have been similarly stifling? 

Mensch•Mark 8 – Superabbi: The Flawed Model (…taking myself off the pedestal)

1)    How has your life been influenced by a particularly positive experience with a spiritual leader? Negative?  Should that person have such power over you as to make or break your relationship with your faith tradition? 

2)    In the days of the Talmud and again with the early Hasidic movement, tales of wonder working rabbis proliferated.  Is that dangerous today?  Should people be encouraged to compare their favorite rabbi to the Messiah?

3)    Given all the scandals that have occurred involving clergy, has it eroded trust to the point where their leadership should no longer be taken seriously?

4)    Newsweek used to rank the top fifty rabbis in America.  What would be the criteria that you would use to rank your spiritual leader?  Should we really be trying to pit one spiritual leader against another?

Mensch•Mark 9 – Shedding the Baggage (…baring my soul before God)

1)    “If the world is a very narrow bridge, as Rabbi Nachman of Bratzlav suggested, then to cross it we've got to cut loose the loaded U-Haul that we are dragging along.”  Are you a saver?  When you are sorting through old things that you’ve saved, how do you determine what’s a “keeper?”

2)    Do you subscribe to the principles of feng shui, where clearing out clutter is very important? Interestingly, the Talmud advises us to position our bed in certain directions, depending on whether you want male or female offspring, or to become rich or wise.  One might say that the mezuzah is intended to bring a positive spiritual energy into a home.

3)    What psycho-spiritual burdens do you need to shed?

Mensch•Mark 10 – Fathers and Sons (…the power of parental presence)

1)    “What Passover and Easter share, I believe, is the idea that even when a present father appears to be off on an endless business trip, he can still hear and be heard. What those sibling holidays teach us is that the loving parent never really dies, and the loving God always returns.”  Compare this to Psalm 27: “For though my father and my mother have forsaken me, the Lord will take me up.”  Is our experience of divine love the result of our having experienced the unconditional love of a parent – or the result of having been abandoned by parents (e.g. when they die) and having nowhere else to turn?

2)    Psychologist Erik Erikson believed that children who have secure attachments with their parents have a general sense that the world is predictable and reliable.  He called this “basic trust.”  Is such trust a prerequisite for religious faith?  If that is the case, think of religious figures who did not enjoy the benefits of such secure attachments, like, say, the entire Book of Genesis.  How could Isaac have found a sense of sanctity in the universe after having been traumatized by his father on Mount Moriah? Perhaps religious faith results not from basic trust, but from the struggle to overcome its absence.

Mensch•Mark 11 – The Dangling Knife (…the parent as sculptor, mentor – and shield)

1)    “Since the day Abraham circumcised Isaac, the knife has transformed father into sculptor, asserting his responsibility to mold and perfect nature. The knife also turns father into mentor, one willing to inflict pain for the sake of proper moral development.” A rabbinic story has Rufus, the Roman Governor of Palestine asking the great Rabbi Akiba: “If God dislikes a man having a foreskin, why did God create him with one in the first place?” Akiba replies that God has created an incomplete world, leaving it to human beings – in this case the parents –  to bring it to greater perfection.  Do you see the act of circumcision as a way for humans to put the “finishing” touches on God’s creation, this new life?  By having the community invited to the celebration, does this also reinforce the message that “it takes a village” to raise this child?

2)    Maimonides writes in “Guide to the Perplexed (part 3, chapter 49),” “Similarly with regard to circumcision, one of the reasons for it is, in my opinion, the wish to bring about a decrease in sexual intercourse and a weakening of the organ in question…”  I beg to differ.  The notion of having a permanent reminder of God’s covenant on one’s procreative organ might for some people be a sexual turn-off, but to say that is to disregard the Jewish sex ethic, which sees sex not as inherently evil, but in fact as a blessing.  It does see promiscuity as evil and the objectification of sex partners as wrong, but there should be no need decrease the rate of sexual intercourse within healthy relationships. What do you think?  Is circumcision about sex at all, and if it is, is the purpose to remind us of the holiness of sex, or its potential to harm?

3)    Are you buying the notion that giving the father the responsibility to perform circumcision on his own son is intended to channel primal anger into one controlled cut?  It should be noted that, contrary to common belief, domestic violence is just as prevalent in Jewish homes as in those of non-Jews.

Mensch•Mark 12 – Hugging, Blessing, Letting Go (…with every embrace, a release)

1)    “It is petrifying to be a parent, so much so, in fact, that since the Middle Ages, Jewish parents of a Bar Mitzvah have recited the oddest of blessings. It reads: “Praised is God, who has relieved me of guilt for whatever becomes of this child.” Historians trace this “Baruch Shep’tarani” blessing back to the biblical story of Jacob and Esau, brothers whose post-­adolescent lives took dramatically different tracks. Although Rebecca and Isaac were hardly exemplary parents, the blessing validates their unavoidable helplessness in opposing Esau’s wayward ways. In instituting this prayer, the rabbis were implying that there comes a point where parents simply have to let go.”  Have you ever heard this blessing recited at a Bar or Bat Mitzvah (by the parent, not the rabbi…)? Why is it rarely recited today?  Should it be? 

2)    Each person replenishes up to 70 billion cells daily.   The human body replaces itself every seven years.  We’re not so much human beings as human becomings.  Until the moment of death, the ultimate letting-go, when we stop growing. “I know that when I die, my children’s first act will be to consummate that separation with the ritual cutting of clothing, every bit as painful as the circumcision and shaved chin, and every bit as necessary for further growth.”  At the same time, Jewish (male) mourners also stop shaving for at least a month following the death of a parent.  In light of this essay, what might be the symbolic significance of that mourning practice?

Mensch•Mark 13–  Leaping with Angels (…helping my sick child or a dying congregant?)

1)     “Each of us has had at least one of those moments that changed our lives forever. A moment where one action, however simple, made all the difference. It can be the simplest thing – a phone call or an email from a long-lost friend. It could be something traumatic, like an auto accident. Something that changes the meaning of all that has been and all that will be. Invariably, this incident wakes us from our slumber to a life of service, a life overflowing with meaning, a life of leaping souls and spiritual audacity.” Can you think of such a moment in your life?

2)    How does one prioritize whom to support?  See this Talmudic passage (Bava Metzia 71a): “R. Joseph taught: ‘If thou lend money to any of my people that is poor by thee:’  This teaches, if the choice lies between my people and a foreigner, ‘my people’ has preference; the poor or the rich — the ‘poor’ takes precedence; thy poor [sc. thy relatives] and the [general] poor of thy town — thy poor come first; the poor of thy city and the poor of another town — the poor of thine own town have prior rights.” But when the choice is to either help a family member whose illness is not life-threatening, or to assist a community member who lies near death, whom would you prioritize? 

Mensch•Mark 14 – My Brother’s Keeper (…living at the crossroads of disability and destiny)

1)    Various world traditions have shown a lack of acceptance of those with disabilities.  Scriptural sources like Leviticus 21 have been used as prooftexts banning those with physical defects or intellectual challenges from fully participating in ritual, particularly as priests.  But other biblical leaders were noted for having surmounted challenges, like Moses, who had difficulty speaking, and Isaac who was blind.  Leviticus 19:14 commands us, "You shall not insult the deaf, or place a stumbling block before the blind" and Isaiah 56:5 proclaims, "For my house shall be a house of prayer for all people."  What does your religious community do to offer greater inclusion for those with disabilities?

2)    "One who sees…people with disfigured faces or limbs, recites the blessing, 'Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, who makes people different.'  One who sees a person who is blind or lame…recites the blessing, 'Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, who is a righteous judge.'  But if they were born that way (with the disability), one says, '…who makes people different.'" (Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Hilchot B’rachot 10:12) Why do you think Maimonides distinguished between one whose challenges were from birth as opposed to the others?  Do you think reciting a blessing in these cases makes sense?  Does a blessing serve to suppress negative reactions and summon feelings of wonder and empathy?

Mensch•Mark 15 – The Peter Panning of America (…finding an ever-present past)

1)    We tend to live in the past.  It is a lot easier, in truth, to focus on the past than on the future, and when we do look into the future, we typically don’t venture out far beyond the tip of our noses.  Even in “Back to the Future 2,” after just a few scenes in 2015, the plot immediately takes  Marty back to the safe and solid ground of 1955, where most of the movie takes place – 60 years ago. There’s good reason for this.  Whenever we try to guess what’s coming far down the road, even experts tend to be dumbfounded. In 2006, technology whiz David Pogue wrote in The New York Times, “Everyone’s always asking me when Apple will come out with a cell phone. My answer is, ‘Probably never.’ ”In 1950, Ray Bradbury predicted a necessary colonization of Mars in the early 2000s due to a global nuclear war that would render the Earth unlivable.  In 1900, the Ladies’ Home Journal predicted that by now, all mice and rats would have been eliminated. So would the letters CX, and Q. Plus, we don’t like to look too far down the road.  We’ve seen time and time again how people will willingly mortgage the long-range future for the sake of short term gain, in terms of debt, carbon emissions, food supply; hey, even in the Torah, the future is mortgaged for a bowl of lentil soup.  It was that incident that the Torah uses to demonstrate that Esau is not fit for leadership.  But Esau is hardly to be blamed for doing what the rest of us do all the time. It is much easier to look backward, or just a little bit ahead, than to gaze far into the unknown.  Do you prefer to look to the past or focus on the future?  What about your faith tradition?

2)    Is self-absorption the invention of Baby Boomers, Gen X or Millennials – or none of the above?  David Foster Wallace, the brilliant writer who died in 2008, said in a famous commencement address at Kenyon College, “Think about it,” he told the graduating millennials, “there is no experience you've had that you were not at the absolute center of.”  He said “natural, basic self-centeredness…is our default setting, hard-wired into us at birth.”  Technology now enables us to spend our entire lives in a narcissist’s paradise – life becomes an eternal selfie. This list was found in a church-based periodical.  It rings true for all of us:


-          Think about yourself.
-          Talk about yourself.
-           Use “I” as often as possible.
-          Expect to be appreciated.
-          Be suspicious.
-          Be jealous and envious.
-          Be sensitive to slights.
-          Never forgive a criticism.
-          Trust no one but yourself.
-          Demand agreement with your own views on everything.
-          Sulk if people are not grateful to you for favors shown them.
-          Never forget a service you may have rendered.
-          Do as little as possible for others.
-          Love yourself supremely.

Do you agree that those who can never get beyond the “me,” whose lives consist only of instant gratification and the illusion of immortality, for whom it is always about “me,” they will find only despair in the end. 

Mensch•Mark 16 – Living on the Back Pages (…the sacred, never-boring, pulse of daily life)

1)    “What is known is that the word boredom didn’t appear at all until the 18th century.  Does that mean that no one was bored until the 18th century? Or were they bored, but too busy in their struggles to survive to notice?  It’s interesting that we never read of someone from the 18th century in search of the perfect 16th century antique chair.  They seemed to be living more in the moment.  No one ever looks bored in a Brueghel painting.  Boredom appears to be somewhat indigenous to our era of detachment from self.”  What do you do to fend off boredom?  If someone is bored at, say, a religious service, is the problem mostly with the service, or with the participant?  Is boredom in the eye of the beholder?

2)    “Judaism celebrates the dull over the dazzling, and in doing so, the dull becomes dazzling.  Judaism says, take an ordinary object, a pair of candles, a while cloth, a loaf of bread, and say a few words over them, a blessing, and suddenly the mundane becomes a focus of enchantment.  Suddenly the ordinary becomes extraordinary.  Suddenly a simple act takes on cosmic significance.”  Do you agree that it is now time for us to “dare to be dull?”

3)    Is history primarily written on the front pages or the back pages of a newspaper (or e-zine)?

Mensch•Mark 17 – The Forbidden Oreo (…the snack we eat reveals the masks we wear)

1)    “But now that Kosher is "in" and Oreos are O.K., I'm not sure I want them to be. Not that I want my children to suffer, but I know that in some perverse manner my Oreo envy kept me safely at the outer edges of middle America, shielding me from total absorption into the vanilla masses. More than anything else, the Jewish contribution to American culture has been through communicating the experience of marginality, of having survived Otherness. Oreo denial was, for me, a direct extension of Egyptian slavery – it made me uncomfortable enough to feel different and different enough to feel proud.” Do you agree that being outsiders has helped Jews to make a unique contribution to American society?  Has it been worth it?  Does complete assimilation into the “vanilla masses” necessarily mean the end of Jewish distinctiveness?

2)    What does the end of the essay suggest to you, that we need to be more than carriers of old, dusty traditions.  How can we revive them – or what new ones can be created?  Do Jews – and others – constantly need to be injecting their faith traditions with new symbols and ritual practices to keep them from going stale?

3) An excellent and comprehensive resource on the values embodied in the Kosher laws can be downloaded from Hazon: Here is a sampler of their "Food for Thought" curriculum - And here is another - and one more Also see my own collection of resources on the topic of Kashrut.

4) "The Forbidden Oreo" has been the subject of much comment over the past several years:  The Forward:  "To be fair, I was pretty excited about the Oreo going kosher, and I found it more than amusing when Rabbi Joshua Hammerman wrote in the oft-quoted op-ed in The New York Times that the kosher Oreo was “a telltale sign that Jews have finally made it.” Hammerman also wrote that the Oreo going kosher was the biggest thing to happen next to a Jewish president. He didn’t have to outright say it, but he was pretty much ushering what can best be described as a new Jewish epoch: the Age of Oreo Judaism."  Also see this from Tablet. 

Mensch•Mark 18 – The Invisible Fence (…the importance of setting behavioral boundaries)

1)    “I was fascinated to discover that monogamous societies are the exception rather than the rule. Among mammals, only about 5% of species practice it. And among human societies, according to Murdoch’s Ethnographic Atlas, over 72% permit multi-spousal relationships. Judaism didn’t climb off this bandwagon until Rabbi Gershom banned polygamy in the tenth century, and some non-Western Jews continued the practice until the 20th century. But monogamy was already predominant in many Jewish communities much earlier and Talmudic law set firm boundaries on marriage especially to protect women.” Gershom’s ban also included divorcing a woman against her will and reading someone else’s private mail.  He was big on setting limits. Various commentators suggest that the ban had nothing to do with Torah laws (where polygamy was prevalent); it was done to promote harmony in the home and to protect the rights of women.  Think of examples where the limitation of freedom was in fact liberating.  Does the Sabbath work that way for you?

2)    This essay speaks of various kinds of fences.  How do you place a “fence around the Torah” in your life?  How does this concept work in non-religious settings, e.g. an alcoholic who does not allow any liquor into the house, or a Holocaust survivor who refuses to visit Germany, and goes a step further by never riding in a German-made car.

Mensch•Mark 19 – The Power Grid (…recognizing power’s potential – and its limits)

1)    When in your life have you most felt a sense of being small in the face of nature’s grandeur?  Was that feeling intimidating or comforting?  Did you feel close to God, or did God have nothing to do with it? If not God, than what was the focus of the awe?

2)    When have you felt the most powerful? When holding an infant? Climbing a mountain? Winning the lottery?  Is power a zero-sum game - does need to come at the expense of another’s weakness? Can one be powerful and humble at the same time?  Deuteronomy 17:14-20 expresses that very concern in trying to limit the power of kings.

Mensch•Mark 20 – Paradise in a Sandbox (…recovering the pure faith of a child)

1)    What are the life-lessons that you learned in the sandbox (or on the swings, for that matter)?  For Jews, he first learning experiences are considered especially formative – which is why the youngest child recites the four questions at the Passover Seder, and traditionally, on the first day of Hebrew School, a child is given Hebrew letters dipped in honey, so that learning will always be sweet.

Mensch•Mark 21 – The Other Side of the Bed (…seeing the healer as patient)

1)    “Leviticus 16 commands us, regarding Yom Kippur, “Afflict yourselves,” and from the Hebrew word “afflict” we get an entire Talmudic tractate called “Ta’anit,” which describes numerous fast days prescribed by the rabbis particularly in times of drought. The rabbis were gluttons for fast days, it seems. More pain, more gain — and more rain.”  Do you believe there is a positive link between “pain” and “gain?”  If so, is should our goal to have as much stress as possible in our lives? 

2)    Each morning, traditional Jews recite this blessing expressing wonder at the intricacies of the body: “Blessed are You, our God, Spirit of the World, who wisely formed the human body. You created it with openings here and vessels there. You know well that should even one of these stay opened, or one of those stay closed, we could not long survive. Blessed are You, Healer of all flesh, who makes the wonders of creation.”

3)    Do prayers for healing work?  Do you see a difference between “healing” and a cure?

Mensch•Mark 22–  Numb and Numb-er (…a rabbi’s job is not to numb the pain)

1)    “After 25 years in the rabbinate, I can’t allow myself to become oblivious either to the thunder of Sinai or the still, small cry of suffering. A rabbi’s job, I’ve learned, is not to numb the pain, but to heighten awareness of life’s tragic nature and the inherent beauty of survival.”

2)    Karl Marx called religion the “opiate of the masses.”  Is there ever a time when religion does us a favor by dulling our senses?  When we are facing the enormity of a sudden tragedy, is it better that religion can, in fact, numb that pain?  But Marx was more concerned that religion perpetuates inequality and validates oppression, by calming the populace, focusing their thoughts on the promises of the world to come rather than the injustices of this one.  Is that still the case?  Does religion stir or sedate? Which should it do?

Mensch•Mark 23 – Goodness and Mercy (…finding my voice at my first funeral)

1)    What was it like on your first day on the job?  Can you recall that feeling?

2)    “If 99 percent of life is just showing up, being a rabbi has taught me that being present, even for a total stranger, can be a source of infinite grace to those in need.”  Is it true that “just showing up” carries immense power and weight?  When has that happened in your life, either as the show-er or the show-ee?

Mensch•Mark 24 – Over and Out (… “outing” a congregant at his funeral)

1)    It is hard to remember just how traumatic is was to be part of the LGBTQ community during the early days of the AIDS crisis – on top of the way LGBTQ individuals were already being stigmatized, in particular by religious communities. If you were Mordechai, would you also have asked to have been “outed” in this way?

2)    Jewish sources emphasize the sanctity of all human lives.  The Mishna declares that one who saves a single life is like one who has saved the entire world (Sanhedrin 4:5), and the Torah proclaims, "Thou shalt not stand idly by the blood of your fellow" (Lev. 19:16).  Does the Torah add, “But if you think they are sinners, it’s OK to stand idly by?”  The point here is not to dredge up theological claims that are abhorrent (and the assertion that AIDS victims somehow “deserved it,” is abhorrent), my point is that those claims are totally irrelevant.  If there is a cry for help, we must respond.  Sadly, it took too long for people – and the government – to respond.

Mensch•Mark 25 – The Vale of Tears (…a condolence call to a place of unspeakable suffering)

1)    A Jewish perspective on the need for sane gun laws:  The NRA’s claim that the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun is fatally flawed.  Jewish sources tell us that the world is not full of bad and good people.  We are all good and we are all bad.  Moses himself was bad at times – he killed an Egyptian officer, after all, when his own life was not in danger.  What drove him was anger, and anger got the better of him much later on, as well, when he disobeyed God’s command by hitting the rock rather than speaking to it (Numbers 20:12).  It was for that incident that Moses was denied entry into the Promised Land.  Some might think it a harsh punishment, but the Torah is giving us a clear message here that excessive violence can never be tolerated.  Moses was angry at the people, calling them rebels, and his anger got the best of him. So he resorted to blows rather than words.  If even Moses, our greatest leader, was susceptible to irrational violence, then it’s not about crazy people doing crazy things; it’s about perfectly normal and good people who fly off the handle and do crazy things.  The difference is, now we have semi-automatic rifles, the kind built by Russians to kill Nazis, and these rifles are designed to spray bullets without aiming, to hit soldiers randomly. Back in Moses’ time, people got just as angry as they do now, but it was much harder to kill. Back in Moses’ time, people got just as angry as they do now, but it was much harder to kill. And people did not take such pride in their weaponry. It’s hard to imagine that Moses (the original Moses, not the guy who played him) would have said that his trusty rod would have to be pried from “my cold, dead hands.” Given his history, if he had wanted to trade his rod in for a rifle, Moses might have had to wait a bit before passing a background check.

Mensch•Mark 26 – The Towers (…having the chutzpah to reach for the sky)

1)    Do you agree with the premise that Manhattan skyscrapers and the stack of Talmud volumes have something in common?  What is that fine line separating healthy striving, ambition and chutzpah from what happened in the Tower of Babel story?  Where did they cross the line?  Did we cross the line as well in our desire to build so high?

2)    “What was the Talmud but another Babylonian tower, another edifice intended not to usurp God, but to engage in an innocent and noble stretching of limits?   There is a classic Talmudic tale (Bava Metzia 59b) of a rabbi who overrules the voice of God in making a key legal decision.  The other rabbis are compelled to agree, and God is heard to say, up in the heavens, most likely with immense pride, "My children have defeated me!  My children have defeated me!"  This was hardly a hostile takeover. Hubris is only tragic when translated into Greek.  We call it “chutzpah,” and God seems to love it.”  When the World Trade Center was destroyed on 9/11, were you among those who wanted to see it rebuilt?  Why or why not?  Now, in retrospect, are you glad it was?   See "A Brief History of Chutzpah," which has several Jewish sources on the topic.

Mensch•Mark 27 – The Yarmulke Bin (…even beanies become souvenirs from Sinai)

1)    “The yarmulke bin is a time capsule documenting our intertwined destinies and most personal life choices, a portal to Jewish Narnia, a mysterious hamper filled with our most sacred laundry, overflowing with fantasy, history and imagination. The kippah is a touchstone to our holiest moments, reminding us perpetually: ‘Under me lived a Jew.’” There is nothing inherently holy about a yarmulke.  Can you think of other mundane objects that become sacred over time, with use? Photo albums? Starbucks coffee mugs? 

Mensch•Mark 28 – Bar Mitzvah Nation (…what happens when “they like us, they really like us”)

1)    For years, Jewish professionals have bemoaned the inflated focus on the Bar Mitzvah.  This essay questions that questioning, wondering whether we should just take “yes” for an answer.  But in fact things are more complicated, because many American Jews have turned it into something it was never intended to be – an end, rather than a beginning, to Jewish education and an escape from community, rather than a chance to embrace community.  Many leave synagogues for boutique private affairs, and even within synagogues, many of the services lack a communal element.  What is your feeling about this ritual – and how can it be improved upon?

Mensch•Mark 29 – My Father’s Huppah (…a Catholic Tevye; the Brave New World of assimilation)

1)    “The wedding canopy has long been a great symbol of both exclusivity and inclusivity. It represents the home — the Jewish home — that the couple will build together. In the Bible, the term connotes the private chamber where the marriage was consummated; today it still marks that sacred space reserved for bride and groom alone. But it’s also said to be modeled after Abraham’s tent, which had open walls and welcomed all comers, dissolving boundaries between private and public, promoting an inclusiveness that is both intimate and ultimate.” Where do you fall on the “exclusivity – inclusivity” axis?  Do you see it as sliding scale, or is there no middle ground?  Has that ground shifted over the past few decades?

Mensch•Mark 30 – Jews of the Jungle (…lessons from the cruel and supremely tranquil savannah)

1)    “Despite spasms of violence, most of what we saw was like a grand Garden of Eden. Lots of moms and babies cuddling. Lots of eating, drinking, sleeping and reproducing. The miracle of the ordinary.” A medieval document called Perek Shira explores these verses from Job 12:  “But ask now the animals, and they shall teach you; And the birds of the sky, and they shall tell you; Or speak to the Earth, and it shall teach you; And the fishes of the sea shall declare unto you; Who knows not among all these, That the hand of God has wrought this? In whose hand is the soul of every living thing, And the breath of all humanity.” Each animal is not only a fellow traveler, but a divinely inspired teacher – this notion is embedded firmly into Jewish tradition.

Mensch•Mark 31 – The Wall and the Mall (…exploring what makes a place “holy?”)

1)    What makes a place “holy?”  Must it be a place of physical beauty? A place that inspires awe, like a high mountain or bursting waterfall?  Or a place of great suffering – a battlefield, for example?  A place of national mourning, as the ruins of ancient Jerusalem became for Jews?  

2)    Can anyone “own” a holy place?  Should holy places be above petty politics – or is that impossible.  The Church of the Holy Sepulcher, for example, makes the politics surrounding the Kotel almost quaint by comparison, as many denominations vie for influence. 

Mensch•Mark 32 – Where Spring Forever Dwells (…discovering a Promised Land right here)

1)    “Where Bialik’s Zionism was rooted in the need for a Jewish refuge there, in Israel, the most Zionist thing we can do now is to make the Jewish pulse beat more vibrantly right here, and to lure back those who have long since taken flight from our synagogues and schools. They want to return – almost as much as they need to return – to us, and then, with our help, to Zion.”  Do you agree with this Diaspora-centric vision of Zionism?

2)    “There are people out there who have never heard of Hayyim Nachman Bialik, who yearn for grounding every bit as much as Bialik longed for flight. We’ve got to extend a hand and help them down from their perch.”  Recent polls show that an increasingly large percentage of Americans feel that they have “no religion.”  Do you agree with the premise stated here that people who have strayed from involvement in faith communities feel a void in their lives – or does it suffice for people to find more secular enclaves of support?

Mensch•Mark 33 – Kosher Pigs (…in religion, hypocrisy can be a good thing)

1)    “We all must learn the difference between hypocrisy and inconsistency, between pretending and striving, between going half way in earnest, and throwing it all away without giving it half a chance. And you know, a little hypocrisy isn't so bad at times. It's not the worst sin to pretend a little, to play out what we may not fully believe.”  Do you agree?  For example, have religious rituals and prayers that might have felt forced at first become more meaningful with repetition?

2)    “Most of us are so afraid of being called hypocrites that we take the easy road. If we expect little of ourselves, we usually deliver.”  Why do people consider hypocrisy worse than just about any other type of sin?  Does it have to do with the loss of trust when respected public figures turn out to be different from what they claimed to be? But is it fair to judge them by a higher standard than we judge ourselves?

Mensch•Mark 34 – Crisis (…my greatest test of faith – and most lasting life lesson)

1)    “I subscribe to the philosophy of Paul Tillich, who said “Doubt isn't the opposite of faith; it is an element of faith.”  Is your faith based on certainty or doubt.  The very name Israel means “to struggle with God,” which places Jews more on the “doubt” side of the scale.  But in fact the certainty – doubt continuum cuts across all faith traditions. 

2)    How are sports and religion comparable? How do they differ?

3)    “I could have focused on the evils of intolerance and extremism, as I had attempted to do in the article. I could have focused on the deep depression that had engulfed me. But I chose instead to speak about failure. It was the right choice. By turning my comeuppance into a universal lesson, I helped many of those present to confront their own failings.”  Is part of a pastor’s job, I fact, to fail, so that he or she can model how to confront the reality of imperfection?

4)    “Heck, even God fails.  God created and destroyed the world several times over before hitting upon the right combination. In chapter six of Genesis, God even expresses regret for having created human beings. Commentators are aghast that a supposedly omnipotent God could feel that way. But the verse is right there, right before the story of Noah and the Flood. It’s hard to ignore.”  Theologically, do you have a greater problem with a God who models failure – or one who actually fails?  

 5)  How do you deal with failure?  Do any of the suggestions made here resonate with you?

Mensch•Mark 35 – Championing Civility (’s impossible to avoid gossip, but essential to try)

1)    Rabbi Yisrael Meir Kagan, a 19th century sage, literally wrote the book on the Jewish laws of gossip.  He was more commonly known as the Chafetz Chaim, “the one who desires life,” after the verse in Psalms 34:13 – “Who is the person that desires life (hechafetz chaim), who loves days to see good? Guard your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking guile….”  His magnum opus on the laws of speech is summarized in detail at this site:

2)    Destructive speech is equated with murder in the Talmud, yet people who call themselves “religious” habitually engage in it.  How can that be addressed by the community at large?  How can you address it in your own life?  Since this is a sin that by its very nature every person commits, does that make it more difficult to sanction?

See below some guidance from the Chafetz Chaim - try to follow these guidelines strictly for a week...or even just a day!  For a clearer, pdf version of this chart, click here.

I once asked the congregation to not gossip for the entire ten days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Click here to read more about the Ten Days Project And click here for a complete packet of background material on the Jewish laws of gossip.

Mensch•Mark 36 – “Do You Think I’m Evil?” (…the stain of hatred on the human soul)

1)    “Apartheid began with segregation. Any segregation, including excessive gender segregation, leads us down a slippery slope toward discrimination.”  This statement flies in the face of the old adage, “Familiarity breeds contempt.”  Do you feel that once people with differing backgrounds get to know one another, their differences become less relevant?

2)    When you read about Mandela, when you read his words of love and reconciliation, and when you visit his tiny cell on Robben Island, as we did, you see how easily he could have succumbed to the hatred and the fear. Then you admire how, from his position of strength, as the leader who could have crushed his opposition and driven them into exile, he instead embraced them. It is impossible not to shed a tear on behalf of the man from whom the capacity for tears was ripped away, as his eyes were blinded in the limestone quarries. as his eyes were blinded in the limestone quarries. But can a person as forgiving as Mandela singlehandedly melt away the power of longstanding hate? Would Martin Luther King have been able to do that in the US, has he lived a full lifespan?  Can hate ever be defeated?

Mensch•Mark 37 – Piercing the Heavens (…the purest form of prayer)

1)    “To hear Jewels play is to hear the shepherd boy’s flute in the iconic Hasidic tale of the Baal Shem Tov. Moved by his first exposure to the powerful Yom Kippur service though unable to read or understand the liturgy, that boy prayed in the manner that he knew best. The congregation was aghast and looked to evict the boy, until the rabbi indicated from the pulpit that those shrill sounds of the whistle were able to pierce the heavens so that the prayers of the entire congregation might ascend.”  Is there a “correct” way to pray or, if prayer is to be from the heart, wouldn’t spontaneous utterances of the soul be precisely what prayer is supposed to be?  Does the standardization of ritual lead ultimately to its ossification?  In other words, does the lack of spontaneity kill religion?

2)    Are children with special needs embraced by your (faith) community or sidelined?

Mensch•Mark 38 –  Marching - and Riding - for Our Lives (…fulfilling God’s will by violating it)

1)    To read more about the concept of “Pikuach Nefesh,” (saving a life), see

2)    “The Talmud states that to save a single life is equivalent to saving the world.” Jewish law is decidedly “pro-life,” with one important distinction from the common American definition of the term.  There is near unanimous belief among rabbis past and present that human life does not begin at conception, but at birth.  That poses deep church/state concerns for Jews when discussing abortion laws in America.  But the “pro-life” attitude is expressed clearly in this concept of “Pikuach Nefesh,” as well as in laws regarding, say, capital punishment, euthanasia and the use of lethal weapons.  What is your personal “ethic of life?”  Do you believe it is possible to develop a “culture of life” in the US that would allow for people on all sides of the abortion debate to find common ground?  Does “Pikuach Nefesh” have implications in other areas of urgency – such as preservation of species, so many of whom are necessary for the continuation of human life, as well as climate issues?

3) In his book, “Putting God Second.” Donniel Hartman claims, as he puts it, that “faith in God is not meant merely to inspire one to worship but to change those who worship, and to be a force for generating care and concern for all of God’s creatures, in particular for those over whom one holds power.” Hartman’s main point is that most people of faith – not just Jews – tend to focus so much on following what they perceive to be God’s will that they forget what the primary purpose of religion is – and what one can plausibly argue that God wants the most - and that is to put people first – to connect to human beings. THAT is the authentic Jewish way. He illustrates this through some biblical quotes and rabbinic anecdotes.  For instance, in the book of Jeremiah, God is quoted as saying, “Torati lo shamaru, v’Oti Azvu.”  “They deserted me and did not keep my instructions,” which, in the Midrash, Rav Huna interprets in an unusual way – that God is really saying, “IF ONLY they had deserted me but nonetheless kept the mitzvot!” In the rabbinic view, even GOD would prefer that we focus less on God and more on living a good, moral life among other people. Similar ideas can be found in Amos, as well as the New Testament and Quran.  Do you think that if given the choice between scriptural injunction and ethical compulsion, we should "put God second?"

Mensch•Mark 39 – Going, Going Gone (… a baseball immortal and overcoming tribal loyalties)

1)    “Mel Allen's life was one long, extended, exhaustive, exhilarating, triumphant prayer.”  How is the call of a baseball game comparable to the drama of sacred liturgy being played out in a grand cathedral? 

2)    “We felt that as long as Mel was with us, maybe we could regain that lost youth, that passion, that innocence. But here we are: The man who coined the name Joltin' Joe has left and gone away.”  Why is it that we so crave innocence? Fellini wrote, “If you see with innocent eyes, everything is divine.” On the other hand, Stephen King said, “The trust of the innocent is the liar’s most useful tool.”  Which do you think is more true?

3)    “It was on that night that the Voice of the Yankees enabled this Red Sox fan to understand that ultimately, we are all on the same team.” Can you think of a moment in your life when you came to realize that the tribal differences that often feel so powerful are ultimately insignificant?  Is it a good thing that tribal attachments are so powerful?  How powerful should they be?

Mensch•Mark 40 – Should Jews Turn the Other Cheek? (…looking evil in the eye)

1)    “When you turn your cheek, you are no longer looking at your offender in the eye, face to face. True reconciliation can only occur when two human beings can truly see what is human in the other, and how each of us is created in the Divine image.”  Does the idea of “turning the cheek” actually de-humanize the perpetrator, since all enemies would be forgiven automatically?  How do Jewish and Christian approaches to forgiveness differ?  Click here for a study packet on turning the other cheek, with Jewish and Christian sources. and  Here are the source materials from Matthew 5.. A good book to read on this topic is Simon Wiesenthal’s The Sunflower See this reader's guide to The Sunflower, and a brief synopsis of the book.  See also Rabbi Jonathan Sacks' essay on hating an enemy.  See also Martin Luther King's "My Pilgrimage to Nonviolence, and Gandhi's essay, "My Nonviolence."

Mensch•Mark 41 – From “I” to “Wii” (…overcoming selfishness as a key to happiness)

1) “The Talmud says of Yochanan ben Zakkai, the greatest rabbi of his era, that ‘no one greeted him first, even the Gentile in the marketplace.’ He could have rested on his laurels and waited for people to come to him. He lived at a time when Jews were fighting Romans for survival – and, as always, Jews were fighting other Jews too. But it didn’t matter to him. Yochanan saw that every other human being is created in God’s image and he made it his business to greet them – and to do it FIRST.”  Is it harder to be genuinely friendly to a stranger or nemesis than even turning the other cheek?  Forgiveness can be a condescending and abstract act, but genuinely greeting someone is quite different. Do you agree?  When you extend yourself to someone, in a greeting or perhaps an invitation to dinner, you are opening yourself up to rejection.

2)“The medieval Talmudist Rabbi Menachem ha-Me’iri said that even when we resent a visitor’s intrusion, we should STILL act as if we are happy to see him.”  Do you screen phone calls – and if so, do you not answer even calls from friends, family and acquaintances?  Are we that hassled that we need to grab any moment of private time we can?  Was the world a better place be before caller ID?  What has been the impact of social media on the art of greeting, and on human interaction in general?

Mensch•Mark 42 – The God of Love (…a family legacy of unconditional love)

1) “Some come out of the closet.  I came off the fence.”  In what ways is a religious or political leader taking a firm stand on a controversial issue analogous to a person who “comes out of the closet?”  Or is there absolutely no comparison.  If you are part of a religious community, or even a political one, do you prefer that your leader / representative aim drive as closely as possible in middle of the road?

2)  Are people “called” to leadership, religious, political, or otherwise?  Or do people tend to back into leadership roles?  Biblical figures cut both ways.  Few of them really want to lead. Ask your pastor – was he or she “called?”

3)  Compare Moses’ final address and poem at the end of Deuteronomy to George Washington’s.  How does each one reflect the qualities we would want in a “founding father?”

4) Can you describe a time when a parent or other mentor most embodied the concept of mensch, thereby teaching you how to be one?