Since the dawn of time, man has asked himself three iconic questions:

  1. Why are we here?
  2. Is there life after death?
  3. How do I know whether I’m a mensch?

While we’re still grappling with the first two questions, I think I can help out a bit with the third – how do I know whether I’m a mensch?

First, a definition:

Mensch (Hebrew/Yiddish: mentsh, cognate with the German word Mensch meaning a "human being") means "a person of integrity and honor". ... A "mensch" is "someone to admire and emulate, someone of noble character.

The key to being "a real mensch" is nothing less than character, rectitude, dignity, a sense of what is right, responsible, decorous. (Rosten, Leo. 1968. The Joys of Yiddish.)

The dilemma is who gets to determine who’s a mensch? I mean, it all seems so subjective. I suppose that ultimately God decides. But until then, what? Shouldn’t there be some esteemed person who weighs in, or an international certifying institution, or at least some website, blog or podcast with mensch-awarding guidance?

In the absence of any of those determining factors, however, I’ve decided to become proactive. I’ve created the following 100% Unofficial Quiz to Determine if You’re a Mensch (or Menschette). Is it definitive? Not by a long shot. Scientific? Absolutely not. Will it hold up in court? What, are you kidding? But, hey, it’s a start. Let me know how you do.

Quiz to Determine if You’re a Mensch (or Menschette)

You sit down on a park bench and notice a wallet someone has left on the bench. You open it to find the owner’s license, registration, credit cards, and $200 in cash. What do you do?

  1. Return the wallet and everything in it – except the cash. Hey, that’s your reward for returning the wallet and almost everything in it. Then take your significant other out for a fancy dinner, telling her you came into a sudden inheritance.
  2. Steal the person’s identity and start living a better life than yours. Okay, so it will take some convincing for his wife and kids to believe you’re him. But if and when you do so, just think of the level of achievement and confidence you’ll acquire. And you can’t get in trouble, because you’re not yourself anymore.
  3. Return the wallet and all its contents to the owner. Refuse to accept any reward. Then excuse yourself because you’re late to your weekly Mother Teresa Appreciation Society luncheon meeting.

In honor of your birthday, your husband has just treated you to the most delicious and expensive meal you’ve ever enjoyed. It was so satisfying and filling that you could only eat half. But you’re already drooling at the prospect of diving in to the leftovers tomorrow night. Walking to your car afterwards, you notice a street person sitting against a storefront, holding a sign saying, “I haven’t eaten in four days”. You immediately:

  1. Inform the street person, “If I were you, I wouldn’t brag about that. Why not get a high-paying job so you can have delicious food anytime you want? Problem solved. You’re welcome.”
  2. Call the police and rat the guy out for spoiling your birthday mood. “Just because he’s had some bad luck, he’s got to go and harsh my mellow?” And just to get even, you proceed to eat the leftovers in front of him.
  3. Graciously offer him your leftovers. While he’s enjoying them, you give him a back massage and direct your husband to give him a foot massage. You then invite him home with you and let him live there for six months while he gets back on his feet.

Your wife returns from her doctor’s appointment, distraught. She’s just been informed that due to her rare disease, she has, at the most, three months left to live. You…

  1. Immediately move out. Life’s tough enough without being around some whiney, depressed person day in and day out.
  2. Pack her suitcase and send her to live with her mother. Why should your life be spoiled just because her life is? Start checking out the online dating sites.
  3. Take your wife on a round-the-world trip of a lifetime and treat her so wonderfully that her disease starts reversing itself until it eventually disappears.

Your vet informs you that the beloved pet dog with whom your family grew up has a rare liver disease that will require multiple operations and cost ten to fifteen thousand dollars to treat. You…

  1. Unholster your pistol and put Wally out of his misery. Later, you explain to your kids that Wally died suddenly on the vet’s operating table. Which, after all, is kind of true.
  2. Drive Wally to the Greyhound Bus station and sneak him into the luggage compartment just before they close the door. Hey, what dog wouldn’t enjoy North Dakota in February?
  3. Take out your credit card and inform the vet that nothing’s too good for Wally, even if it cost a hundred thousand dollars.

Exiting a shopping mall, you happen to notice some guy in the parking lot, attempting to break into one of the cars. You immediately…

  1. Inform him that you won’t turn him in if he agrees to split the proceeds with you from the sale of the car and/or its contents.
  2. Leave to go home. It’s none of your business. And you could possibly be hurt or injured for interfering.
  3. Put the perpetrator in a choke hold, using your high school wrestling background. With your other hand, you call for the police. While waiting for them to arrive, you lecture the punk about turning his life around and living ethically.

Okay, by now I feel with your answers here, that you should know whether or not your life is in mensch territory. And if you’re a mensch, I of course can trust you to grade these yourself. If it turns out you are one, congrats. You are a good person. One to be admired. And celebrated. If, however, you are not even close to being a mensch, for the love of God, get with the program, Shlomo or Rivka. Nothing personal.