This week’s Middat HaShavuah is taken from our Torah portion, Parshat Toldot. The Middah is: 

Key Verse: וַיֹּאכַל וַיֵּשְׁתְּ, וַיָּקָם וַיֵּלַךְ; וַיִּבֶז עֵשָׂו, אֶת-הַבְּכֹרָה 

(בראשית כה:כג) 

Middah: Take time to think before you act

In this week’s Parsha, we are introduced to the sons of Yitzchak and Rivkah, twin boys named Eisav and Yaakov.  In the narrative, Eisav returns one day from his hunt famished and exhausted. In his haste to eat and drink, Eisav sells Yaakov his birthright. By all measures, it is evident to us that Eisav did not think before he acted.  

Thinking before you act relates to the character strength of self-control (also referred to by some people as “self-regulation”). Self-control is one of the most difficult and complex character strengths to master. It has to do with controlling your impulses and emotions and regulating what you do. Self-control helps keep a sense of balance, order, and progress in life. Research findings on the benefits of the strength of self-control found people with high self-control report fewer symptoms of anxiety and depression, are better able to control anger, and generally get along better with people. Children who are most successful at delaying gratification early in life are more successful academically and socially, and that success is long-lasting. Self-control is linked with better personal adjustment, such as having fewer physical and psychological problems and having a greater sense of self-acceptance and self-esteem in relationships. As with all character strengths, self-control is like a muscle. It can be fatigued by over-exertion or strengthened with practice. Scientists tell us that it can take only 7 minutes in a laboratory setting to deplete this vital character strength. 

In the Jewish tradition, Rabbi Ben Zoma asks:

אֵיזֶהוּ גִבּוֹר, הַכּוֹבֵשׁ אֶת יִצְרוֹ

(פרקי אבות, ד׳, א׳)

“Who is strong? One who conquers his/her inclinations.”  In other words, there are many ways to define strength, but the strength of self-control is greater than them all.

As a school, we recognize the importance of teaching our students to think before they act. This important character strength is essential for the long term academic success, personal and professional satisfaction, and social-emotional well-being of our students. And, as with all of these personal growth qualities, the school cannot “teach” this alone. Let us work together as a community to help our students prosper and thrive by “strengthening” their self-control muscle. In doing so, we will help our students excel and reach their greatest potential!

Shabbat Shalom U’Mevorach!

Moreh Alan