When he lived in Indianapolis, he used to like to go to the schvitz, where he would sit and schvitz. Frequently, sitting on the bench and schvitzing next to him was Jack, a man who had been in the military and had a lot of stories to tell. And so the two of them would pass the time sharing stories, getting to know each other and schvitzing.
When Jack's mother, Rose, died, Rabbi Stein officiated at the funeral. After the funeral and shiva were over and the two men were back in the schvitz schvitzing, Jack told Rabbi Stein that before the funeral, he'd forgotten to tell him one important thing about his mother.
Before Jack headed off to begin his military service, his mother had told him that he'd encounter many different types of people and situations in the world. No matter what he found, however, she urged him always to remember this bit of wisdom:
Zyyan ʼa ʼyd.
Be a Jew.
Zyyan ʼa mʻntş.
Be a mensch.
Zyyan ştʼarq.Wisdom, indeed...for the Confirmands, for any young person heading out into the world, and for us, too, as we approach the High Holidays.
Inspired by Ima on (and off) the Bima, this post is one in a series marking the days of the Hebrew month of Elul, which precedes the Jewish High Holidays and traditionally serves as a time of reflection and spiritual preparation for the new year.