This week, we learn the middah “Think before you act.” It links with this week’s parshah, Toldot, which focuses on Rivka and her twin children Esav and Ya’akov.

Esav, the firstborn, impulsively sells his birthright to Ya’akov for the sake of some soup. By contrast, Rivka’s carefully thought out plan helps Ya’akov receive the blessing of the firstborn, and he thus becomes the leader of the Jewish people.

In rabbinic literature, Rivka and Ya’akov are presented as thoughtful people who seek understanding through contemplation and learning.   

In classes this week, we discussed the many ways we can think before we act; for example, by thinking carefully before we speak, considering which strategy to use when solving a math problem, considering the consequences of our actions, and playing safely on the playground.   

Executive function is a term used to refer to a person’s ability to reflect before acting and it is key to being a successful learner. At Heschel, we help our students strengthen executive function through mindful practices, including mindful approaches to Tefillah. We use mindful breathing and movement techniques, and we include focusing exercises in our prayer practice. By integrating mindfulness and meditation practices into our Tefillah services, we provide students an opportunity to begin the day in a relaxed, calm way. 

The Middah this week is a simple one, yet it is the one upon which the leadership of the Jewish people is determined. This Shabbat, may each of us take a few extra moments to be mindful before we act.

Shabbat Shalom,

Moreh Greg