Middat Hashavuah is an ethical practice that helps each of us—students and teachers alike—treat one another (and ourselves) with respect. The word “middah” literally means a “measure,” and students learn that the middot are a guide as to how we “measure up” ethically. Measuring ourselves involves self-reflection, self-understanding and practising how we interact respectfully and thoughtfully with others. We are able to measure ourselves through reflection on our interactions with others and our own responses.
Each week, a middah that relates to the weekly Torah portion is posted prominently in every classroom and around the school, and we focus our attention on finding ways to practise it throughout our school day. In class, we practice the middah by taking an extra moment to think before answering a question, to consider before saying something to a classmate, or to strategize before trying something new on the playscape. Weekly middot help students to learn self-regulation, self-advocacy, and how to relate to others in a healthy and productive manner through a Jewish ethical lens.
Middot examples include “Think before you act,” “Be generous,” “Be compassionate and slow to anger,” and “Make sure everyone counts,” to name just a few.
Last week’s middah was “Be Welcoming.” This relates to Parshat Vayera, where Avraham and Sarah act as courteous hosts to three guests who have come upon their tent. Classes explored ways in which they can and should be welcoming, not just when meeting someone new, but on a daily basis. One class practised language of inclusion and welcoming of others and recognized language that is excluding. Another discussed the importance of being “open” vs. “closed” when approaching people and learned about how both words and body language can send a clear message of welcoming or exclusion by practicing each stance and engaging in role play of how to welcome someone new or to a group activity. Students observed the importance of saying the new person’s name, asking how they are feeling, physically opening their bodies to welcome the person, and facing them rather than walking away or turning their back after the initial invitation. Moreh Greg’s Dvar Torah from last week is an excellent illustration of how we live this middah at Heschel year-round.
Ask your children about the weekly middah, its connection to the weekly Torah portion, and how they might practice it at home.