A Little Black Mark

A Little Black Mark

May 15, 2015 By Rachel Bovitz | Commentary | Behar | Behukkotai

In his autobiography, Benjamin Franklin describes a personal practice that involved daily focus on 13 moral virtues. Franklin’s memoir, translated into several languages in the late 18th century, became widely influential, reaching even Eastern Europe, where Rabbi Menahem Mendel Lefin of Satanov wrote Heshbon Hanefesh, published in 1808. Rabbi Lefin included justice and most of the other virtues in Franklin’s list when he created his 13 primary middot (moral virtues) to be focused upon in mussar practice (the Jewish approach to cultivating these virtues). Rabbi Lefin’s definition of tzedek (justice) paraphrases a classic Talmudic teaching attributed to Hillel: “What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor.”

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