Middot: Building Our Character Strengths
In the Middle Ages, Rabbi Yehudah Loeb of Prague (d. 1609) built a golem, a monster-like figure, to protect the Jewish community. Rabbi Israel Salanter (d. 1883) remarked, “How wonderful! But how much more wonderful is it to transform a corporeal human being into a mensch (a truly good person)!”
Rabbi Salanter recognizes that quite often, we are safer when we build up our capacity for goodness, caring, and love. Judaism has always encouraged us to strive to become a mensch, by building up our character. This has been the goal of the study of middot, character strengths.
This is also the goal of the modern positive psychology movement. Researchers have defined character strengths as positive, trait-like capacities for thinking, feeling, and behaving in ways that benefit oneself and others. The development of one’s character strengths shows strong correlations with components related to well-being such as self-acceptance, purpose, mastery and mental health.
The Values in Action Institute has identified six categories of human character: wisdom, courage, humanity, justice, temperance and transcendence. Each of the 24 character strengths they have identified fall into one of these categories.
This discussion-based course seeks to help us understand our character strengths, what the science reveals, what Jewish wisdom offers, and practical tips, exercises, and meditations for us to strengthen our own characters.
It’s interesting, relevant, and fun!
Join us on Thursday’s at 7:00 PM, on Zoom, to learn about the continued relevancy of approaches to Jewish thought.