Thursday, February 2, 2012

Rabbi Min on Yetzer haTov

Incline Toward the Good - Basic Jewish Value #18:  The mission statement of Jewish Family Service of New Mexico reads: “Guided by Jewish values, we offer targeted social services that help preserve and improve the quality of life for New Mexicans.” What are these Jewish values? How do they help guide the day-to-day work that we do at JFS? When new employees join the staff of JFS, they are introduced to eighteen of these basic Jewish values.

Jewish tradition recognizes that humans are not perfect, that all of us have the potential to engage in proper, caring and decent behavior while at the same time having the capability for wrongdoing. These are known as "yetzer hatov" (the inclination toward the good) and "yetzer hara" (the inclination toward the bad). Jewish wisdom and texts urge us to choose moral, virtuous behavior, acts of loving kindness toward ourselves and others, and recommends actions which support the community through mutual responsibility and compassion. This Jewish value acknowledges that we have choice, that we are accountable for our decisions, and that we can, and should, make a conscious effort to consider our actions thoughtfully, and then ‘incline toward the good'.

At JFS, staff members often create opportunities for clients to make good choices. The Health and Wellness Brain Fitness program, for example, teaches clients about healthy food choices. Care Managers often advocate with clients about community connections related to important life decisions. The Nurse Care Manager works with clients to manage their own medications and health care. At the same time, staff members are challenged to maintain appropriate boundaries with clients: clients may ask us to do personal care, act as Power of Attorney, lend them money or a variety of other actions which go beyond the appropriate scope of our jobs. Providing caring assistance, while maintaining appropriate boundaries, is one way we ‘incline toward the good'.

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