HIP NS IZE
TY ILI SIB ON SP RE
CHARLES E. SMITH JEWISH DAY SCHOOL
ETHICAL COVENANT A PRACTICAL GUIDE TO CREATING HONORABLE MENSCHEN AND A MORAL, CARING COMMUNITY
Where there is no Torah, there are no manners; Where there are no manners, there is no Torah. - Pirke Avot III:21 (R. Elazar)
It happened that a man who wasn’t Jewish came before Shammai and said, “You shall convert me to Judaism, on condition that you teach me the whole Torah while I stand on one foot.” Shammai chased the man away. When the man came before Hillel, Hillel converted him, saying “What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor. That is the whole Torah; the rest is commentary. Now go and study.” - Babylonian Talmud, Shabbat 31a
This book was originally designed and created by Deborah Neipris Hendler, Deborah Fink and Kay Klass Levitt.
CHARLES E. SMITH JEWISH DAY SCHOOL
ETHICAL COVENANT אמנה מו סרית
The book that you hold in your hands—the CESJDS Ethical Covenant—is part of our effort to integrate these values, or ‘middot,’ into all aspects of school and home life and truly make them come alive. It is based upon the values cited in the CESJDS Mission Statement, as well as essential moral attributes identified by CESJDS faculty. It reflects the basic precepts or principles, which, as Jews, define our relations to ourselves, our families, our neighbors, our community, our world and our God. The CESJDS Ethical Covenant is our attempt to translate these lofty philosophical principles into words, phrases and ideas that can easily be understood and applied by students (and faculty and parents) in our everyday lives. We hope that you will refer to the Covenant often, and that you will find it a useful guide to proper conduct both in and out of school.
GLASS & SILVER A rich but stingy man once came to the rabbi to ask for his blessing. They talked for a few minutes. Then the rabbi arose, took the man by the hand, and led him to a window that looked out on the street. “Tell me, what do you see” asked the rabbi. “I see people,” answered the rich man, who was very puzzled. Then the rabbi stood the man before the mirror. “What do you see now?” he asked. “I see myself,” answered the man, completely bewildered. “Now, my son, let me explain to you the meaning of my two questions. The window is made of glass, as is also the mirror. The only difference between the two is that the mirror has a thin veneer of silver on it. When you look through plain glass, you see other people. But as soon as you cover it with silver, you stop seeing others and see only yourself.” Adapted from A Treasury of Jewish Folklore by Nathan Ausubel
We rise by raising others, and he who bends over to aid the fallen stands tall. —Anonymous
It’s easy to criticize others and make them feel unwanted. Anyone can do it. What takes effort and skill is picking them up and making them feel good. —Reb Nachman of Breslov
חסד ורחמים Chesed v’Rachamim
BE KIND Be sensitive to the feelings of others Don’t think only about yourself Express gratitude—say “thank you’ Be forgiving—don’t hold grudges
BE COMPASSIONATE Reach out to people in need Put yourself in the other person’s shoes: try to understand their experience Show that you care Help others without being asked
BE CHARITABLE Be generous with what you have Give tzedakah—make it part of your routine Don’t just stand there, do something Give of yourself. You can always give something, even if it is only kindness. No one has ever become poor from giving. —Anne Frank
If you are all wrapped up in yourself, you are overdressed. —Kate Halverson
The best place to find a helping hand is at the end of your own arm. —Swedish proverb
THE KING & THE BEGGAR Maharaja Ranjit Singh has been one of the greatest kings in India. Once he was on tour visiting his kingdom in night in camouflage. During his visit, a beggar recognized him and he bowed in front of Maharaja to pay respect. Maharaja, in response to the beggar, bowed even more to him and paid him a bagful of money. When Ranjit Singh moved on, his general curiously asked him, "Sir, you are such a great Maharaja. Why did you bow in front of that beggar?" Then Ranjit Singh said, "That beggar was poor and illiterate. Despite this fact, he knew how to pay respect to others; I am much more educated than he, so I should have shown much more respect to him. And that's exactly what I did." Excerpt from “Life and Times of Maharaja Ranjit Singh”
Love your neighbor as yourself. —Leviticus 19:18
Words are the guides to acts; the mouth makes the first move. —Rabbi Leon da Modena
If you can’t think of something nice to say, don’t say anything at all. —Your Mother
Treat other people as you would wish to be treated Be tolerant of differences Be patient
Listen to your parents and teachers Don’t interrupt Use good manners (“PETIM”): Please Excuse me Thank you I am sorry May I
B’vakashah……….. סבלנות Slichah………..סליחה Todah rabah……תודה רבה Ani mitzta’er (et)…ת/אני מצטער Ha’im ani yechol (ah)….ה/האם אני יכול
Consider other people’s feelings Don’t be mean: Don’t hit or push, Don’t use words that hurt Don’t gossip
Lashon hara’a…….לשון הרע
Honor all people, as we are all created in the image of God
B’tzelem Elokim….בצלם אלוקים
Don’t be wasteful Show respect for the things in your world
Every action done in company ought to be done with some sign of respect to those that are present. —George Washington
If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am only for myself, who am I? And if not now, when? —Pirke Avot I:14 (R. Hillel)
STICKS IN THE RIVER Remembering times as a boy, Jacob bent by the river and dropped a flotilla of small sticks and leaves into the water’s flow. He watched his boats race and tumble around one bend only to be caught by another. In this rush and pause and rush again, Jacob saw the pulse of nature’s pace. “You see,” said a woman who came up behind Jacob, “clearly we are not in control of where our lives are going.” “Perhaps,” said Jacob, turning toward the voice, “but we are nevertheless responsible for how we conduct ourselves as we are carried on.” Jacob’s Journey Noah ben Shea
If there is no wind, row. —Latin proverb
Say little and do much. —Pirke Avot I:15 (R. Shammai)
People are always blaming circumstances for what they are. I don’t believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and if they can’t find them, make them. —George Bernard Shaw
Do what you are supposed to do when you are supposed to do it Exercise self-control Think before you speak or act— consider the consequences of what you say or do Be accountable for what you do— Don’t make excuses or blame others Do your share Be a problem-solver Take the initiative Persevere—keep on trying Always do your best
It is not your duty to complete the work, but neither are you free to refrain from doing it. —Pirke Avot II:21 (R. Tarfon) It is hard to fail, but worse never to have tried.
Conviction is worthless unless it is converted into conduct. —Thomas Carlyle
Do not stand by while your neighbor’s blood is shed. —Leviticus 19:16
RABBI SAFRA’S SILENCE Rabbi Safra let it be known that he wanted to sell his donkey for five pieces of silver. One morning, a man came to Rabbi Safra’s house and offered him three silver coins for the donkey. Rabbi Safra was saying his morning prayers at the time and did not respond to the man’s offer. Thinking that the Rabbi’s silence meant he was not satisfied with the price, the man offered four coins. Still the Rabbi did not answer. The man raised his price again, this time offering the five pieces of silver Rabbi Safra had originally requested. Upon finishing his prayers, Rabbi Safra said he would accept the man’s first offer and would sell the donkey for three pieces of silver. The man was amazed. Rabbi Safra explained, “I am anxious to sell my donkey and was prepared to accept three silver coins for it. But I did not want to interrupt my prayers to talk about the donkey. My silence confused you and led you to raise your offer. It would be wrong of me to take advantage of your confusion and sell to you at the higher price when I had already decided to accept the lower offer.” Adapted from the Midrash
There are three crowns: the crown of learning, the crown of priesthood, and the crown of royalty; but the crown of a good name exceeds them all. —Pirke Avot IV:17 (R .Simeon)
Courage is very important. Like a muscle, it is strengthened by use. —Ruth Gordon
Tell the truth Don’t deceive, mislead, be devious or tricky Keep your word—do what you say you’ll do Return what you borrow Don’t cheat or steal Have the courage to do the right thing, even if you are the only one Be honorable—build and keep a good reputation Be loyal—stand by your family, friends and communities
Make a habit of being good, for a person’s character is what habit makes of it. —Maimonides Character is much easier kept than recovered. —Thomas Paine
The company of just and righteous men is better than wealth and a rich estate. —Euripides
STOLEN BREAD A story is told about Fiorello La Guardia, former mayor of New York City. Before becoming mayor, La Guardia served as judge in a local court. It was during the Depression, when jobs were scarce and many people were poor and hungry. A woman appeared before him who had stolen food to feed her children. Wanting to satisfy the demands of both justice and mercy, La Guardia ruled as follows: “I fine the defendant ten dollars for stealing, and I fine everyone else in this courtroom, myself included 50 cents each for living in a city where a woman is forced to steal to feed her children.” The money was immediately collected from everyone else in the room and given to the woman, enabling her to pay her fine and have some money left over. Adapted from Jewish Wisdom by Rabbi Joseph Telushkin
THE LOST AX A man lost an ax and immediately suspected that his neighbor’s child had stolen it. When he saw the child walking by, the child looked like someone who had stolen an ax. When he listened to the child’s words, they sounded like the words of someone who had stolen an ax. All of the child’s actions and manners were like those of someone who had stolen an ax. Later, when working in his field, the man found his lost ax. The next day he saw his neighbor’s child, but the child’s actions and manners were not at all like those of someone who had stolen an ax. Had the child changed overnight? No. Only the man himself had changed; when he found the ax, he lost his suspicion. A Chinese folktale adapted from The Book of Virtues Edited by William J. Bennett
Judge not your fellow man until you are in his place —Pirke Avot II:5 (R . Hillel)
Two wrongs don’t make a right. —Your Mother
The precepts of the law are these: to live honestly, to injure no one, and to give every man his due. —Justinian I
Play by the rules Take turns and share Be open-minded: consider the opinion of others Be fair Don’t take advantage of others Don’t jump to conclusions Give everyone a chance
Let justice roll on like a mighty river, righteousness like a never-ending stream. —Amos 5:24
This country will not be a good place for any of us to live in unless we make it a good place for all of us to live in.
THE BUNDLES OF STICKS A woman had several children who were always quarreling with one another. She begged and pleaded and tried one thing after another to get them to stop their squabbling, but the children didn’t listen. Finally, she thought of a plan. She told each one to get a stick. Then she put all the sticks together, tied them in a single bundle, and asked each child to break the sticks in two. No one could. Then the woman untied the bundle, returned the sticks to each child, and had them try again. Each stick was easily broken. “You see,” said the woman to her children, “if you work together, you will be as strong as that bundle of sticks. But if you quarrel and fight against each other, you will only be as strong as the weakest among you.” From that day on, the children lived together harmoniously. Moral: United we stand, divided we fall. Adapted from Aesop’s Fables
How wonderful that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world. —Anne Frank Be the change you want to see in this world. —Ghandi
Do your share to make your home, school and community better Be a team player Be a good neighbor Respect authority—obey the rules Take pride in your surroundings: • Don’t pollute, litter or spoil • Write only on paper • Put trash in trash cans • Keep the bathrooms clean Make your corner of the world a better place—be part of Tikkun Olam תיקון עולם Show your commitment to the Jewish people and the State of Israel through Ahavat Yisrael אהבת ישראל
Do not separate yourself from the community. —Pirke Avot II:5 (R. Hillel)
Do what you can, with what you have, where you are. —Theodore Roosevelt
GOD’S FINGERPRINTS A man, stiff in his proudness, looked down at Jacob. “Jacob, I want my life to make an impression on others.” “Every life is an impress,” said Jacob. “What do you mean?” asked the man. And Jacob answered, “We are God’s fingerprints.” Jacob’s Journey Noah ben Shea
Thus said the Lord: Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom; let not the strong man glory in his strength; let not the rich man glory in his riches. But only in this should one glory: in his earnest devotion to Me. —Jeremiah 9:22-23 You shall be holy, for I, the Lord your God, am holy. —Leviticus 19:2
Understand and appreciate God’s presence in the awe and wonder of your world Don’t think you are better or more deserving than another person; don’t think that others are better or more deserving than you Make your life holy by learning and practicing mitzvot Study Torah Be lifelong learners
Ahavat Torah………...אהבת תורה Torah L’shmah…..…תורה לשמה
Recognize, appreciate and acknowledge the good things that people do every day Hakarat ha’tov..…..הכרת הטוב Compliment others on their achievements Try these words: Nice work! Good try! Yasher ko’ach…...ישר כח Kol ha’kavod……כל הכבוד Don’t boast or brag about your own achievements Behave with dignity—you hold a piece of God within you
Holiness means striving for ethical perfection; it means a disciplined life where one learns to master one’s passions instead of being enslaved by them; it means removing oneself from the vulgar and the profane. —Rabbi Hayim Halevy Donin He who saves a single life among people, the Torah credits him with having saved an entire world. —Mishna Sanhedrin 4:5
ON BECOMING A ‘MENSCH’ The purpose of the CESJDS Ethical Covenant is to help every one of you become a mensch and to help CESJDS become a community of ‘honorable menschen.’
What is a ‘mensch’? ‘Mensch’ is a Yiddish word which literally means a ‘person’ or ‘man,’ but is generally understood to mean an honest, caring, responsible, decent human being. The word developed in the Jewish culture of Eastern Europe, where to call someone a mensch was the highest compliment that could be given. Today the term mensch still represents a moral ideal for which we all strive. Not too long ago, Jews in America were largely an immigrant population. Children of immigrants, most of them from Eastern Europe, were constantly challenged by their parents to “talk like a mensch,” “eat like a mensch,” “dress like a mensch,” and most important, “zay a mensch” (be a mensch). The job of every parent and teacher was “makhn fun kinder menschen”— making thoughtful human beings out of children. For a person is not born a mensch. Rather, one must learn to be a mensch. This is the work of a lifetime.
Good Luck — B’hatzlacha [!]בהצלחה
MISSION STATEMENT The Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School is an independent community day school serving students from Kindergarten through 12th grade. The School is dedicated to creating an environment in which students can grow to their fullest potential as responsible and dedicated members of the Jewish community and of American society. Based on six basic Jewish precepts, the Mission of our School is to teach its students:
To become lifelong learners inspired by a love of “learning for the sake of learning” through a rigorous comprehensive academic program of general and Judaic studies which places a priority on critical, independent and creative thought and expression.
To understand and appreciate the wisdom, spiritual depth and ethical guidance of Judaism.
To understand and appreciate the perception of God’s presence in the awe and wonder of our world and how we can sanctify our lives through the practice and experience of the Mitzvot.
To form an inextricable bond with the Jewish people - past, present and future - to foster a sense of commitment to the State of Israel, and to appreciate and master the Hebrew language as the language of the Jewish people.
To create a caring, moral community based upon the concepts of B’tzelem Elokim (each individual is created in the image of God) and Derekh Eretz (ethical decency) in which members respect uniqueness and preciousness and are responsible for each other and the community.
To be passionate about preserving God’s world and making it a more compassionate, just and peaceful place through individual and collective commitment to programs of social action and public policy.
Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School 1901 East Jefferson Street Rockville, Maryland 20852 WWW.CESJDS.ORG