18. Introduction to Developing a Torah Personality
18.9. Torah Personality Appendix 3
A MENSCH AND A BEN-TORAH
Thus, our specific Jewish commitment rests on our universal commitment, and one cannot address oneself only to the specific elements while totally ignoring the general and the universal ones. Therefore, in delineating what a ben-Torah should be striving for, the initial level of aspiration is a general one: to be a mensch, to hold basic universal values, to meet normative universal demands.
This point has no bearing upon the question of the temporal sequence via which a person attains his values. I mentioned before that Chazal say there was a period stretching over millennia during which the world had derekh eretz and didn’t have Torah. This does not mean that, moving from the macrocosm to the microcosm, one therefore should practice the same while educating his children, saying, “We’ll devote the first ten or so years to making a mensch out of him, and then when he is bar-mitzva we will see to it that he becomes an observant Jew as well.” Obviously, with- in the world in which we live, this is not an advisable option. If you want your child to be a ben-Torah and a shomer mitzvot, you have to imbue him with values of Torah and yirat Shamayim from a very early age. But this still means that as he grows and matures, he must be given to understand that he needs to address himself to various levels of obligation, one being universal and the other specific to him as a Jew.