Developing Middos: Learned Or Experienced?

When Hillel was asked to summarize the Torah in one sentence, he proclaimed: “Di ’ lach sani, lechavrach lo savid — What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor; the rest is commentary.” This is the minimum level of chessed: do not harm others. A higher level is expounded by Rav Akiva in his famous statement: “ ‘Ve’ahavta lere’acha kamocha , zeh klal gadol baTorah – Love your neighbor as yourself’; this is the great principle of the Torah.” It is clear from this that violations of mitzvos bein adam lechaveiro (mitzvos that govern interpersonal relationships) are at least as objectionable, as those bein adam laMakom (between man a nd Hashem ). Parents who are sensitive to this point put in a great deal of effort to teach their children middos (ethical character traits). It is the purpose of this essay to determine the most effective means by which we can develop positive character traits in our children.

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