A Mussar Gem
“If man would hold in his [mind’s] eye the sheer pleasure of his continued growth, not letting habit remove his sense of smell, or dull his taste, then, in every instance he would appreciate and sense the taste of all the pleasure and joy of all his levels of growth.”
– Rabbi Nosson Tzvi Finkel, the Alter of Slobodka, Ohr HaTzafon (The Hidden Light)
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This issue of Yashar is dedicated in memory of Millie Matis, mother of Michele Matis Jackman, 1922-2014, z”l
Through a Mussar Lens: A Wide World of Gratitude
Last winter break, my family and I were privileged to explore the Galapagos Islands. One afternoon, during a hike, our guide exclaimed: “This is a National Geographic moment.” She had spotted two albatrosses, engaged in what she called a “love dance.” Albatrosses virtually always mate with the same partner for life, which is rare among animal species. Each pair, though, performs this “love dance” only once or twice in a lifetime. Our guide, who sees albatrosses up close almost daily, had spotted this spectacle only rarely. The two albatrosses stood, facing one another, clacking their beaks against one another for longer than we were permitted to stay there and watch.
Each month, Yashar will send a question to one or two Mussar teachers on an idea, practice, text, middah, or other Mussar-related challenge that someone is confronting. Email your question to firstname.lastname@example.org .
This month’s question:
What is the best first step for one starting out on his or her Mussar path?
The Mussar Institute is growing, and for this we give thanks, to you — our readers — and the enthusiastic participation of so many of you in all of our programs. Just in the past year, The Mussar Institute has initiated:
- Derekh HaNefesh, a 6-month learning program and retreat for Rabbis and Cantors
- the first practice retreat, held on the West coast (with the one in 2015 scheduled to be held on the East coast)
- two workshops for Reform rabbis
- work with Jewish Federations in leadership training
- our first Mussar kallah in Europe
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What if you noticed and celebrated life with gratitude every day?
Our sages taught, al tistakel b’kankan, eleh b’mah sh’yesh bo: “Don’t look at the vessel, but pay attention instead to what’s inside.”
Be grateful for the people in your life. By peering beneath the unattractive veil, you may recognize the good in the people in your life. You may be enriched by living with others, with gratitude.
Be grateful for your body. Too often, we see only our physical imperfections. When you peer into the mirror, embrace the blessings of your body. See its beauty and power.
Be grateful for yourself. Do not dwell on your mistakes and failures. Be grateful for the person you are and the person you can yet become.
Say a prayer of gratitude each day for each of these blessings in your life.
Through a Mussar Lens: A Wide World of Gratitude – by Barry Block
Inquiring Hearts and Minds: Starting Out
Kallah XII: TMI's Gratitude – by Jeff Agron and Roann Altman
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