A Mussar Gem
“Arrogance is a reprehensible trait that is the father of all other negative traits.”
– Alter of Kelm, Chochmah U’mussar, vol. 1
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This issue is dedicated to Bina Beaupain-Bax, mother of Daniel Beaupain.
The world seems to have taken a sharp turn toward being a harder, colder and less caring place. Virtues and strengths of character that the Jewish tradition has held out as ideals for millennia are under attack in the public square. Truth, compassion, humility, lovingkindness and generosity are being run roughshod by lies, hatred, arrogance and self-interest.
From my perspective, there is only one thing to do, and that is to stay the course. We must continue to be pursuers of virtue. My words sound to me like what a mutual fund manager says to clients when the market is in turmoil. The best investment strategy is to set long-range goals from which you do not deviate just because the market has hit a patch of rough weather. If that is the best investment strategy for money, how much more so is it the right approach when we are talking about the qualities of our very souls?
What does it feel like to be surrounded by individuals you’ve never met, who share a desire to come together in sacred community? Amidst towering trees in the hills of southern Pennsylvania, at a cloistered retreat center, the usual and formal barriers between people melted away in pursuit of living in a Mussar zone. As a first timer to the Kallah, I could not have anticipated the powerful impact of what it means to be “intensely present.” Over an extended period of time, my senses were harnessed together to listen, observe, take in, respond, be quiet, and totally be in community. That experience alone, even if nothing else occurred during the Kallah, was exquisite.
JEWISH SPIRITUALITY CHALLENGE: WHAT DO YOU NEED? The Mussar Institute will lead an International Study Day on Sunday, March 19, 2017, starting at 2 p.m. Eastern. Dean Alan Morinis will deliver a live kickoff message, followed by study in groups at individual sites around the world. For information on setting up a local group or participating, please contact Ruth Schapira at firstname.lastname@example.org.
SAVE THE DATES: The 2017 Practice Retreat will be held from May 21 to 24, 2017, in St. Louis, Missouri. Registration will open at the end of January.
FREE MIDDAH A MONTH: As a Chanukah gift, we are posting here for free the December issue of Middah a Month. The middah is Shmiat Ha'Ozen – Attentive Listening. Click here to get the downloadable zip file. You may like to sign up for Middah a Month.
AFTERNOON OF MUSSAR IN PHOENIX: “Strengthening Your Spiritual Connection,” led by Alan Morinis and Shmuly Yanklowitz, will be held Sunday, January 22, at Temple Chai in Phoenix, Arizona. Learn more or register.
SIMCHA: Mazel tov to our accountant, Amanda Bonifay, on her marriage to Bernard Waters.
The traditional Mussar practices for fostering humility tend to be kabbalot (practical exercises). That’s because ego is so strong and so entrenched in our perspective that we cannot get any leverage on the issue except through direct experience. This is the example par excellence of the Mussar teaching that “the heart follows the deed” (as Sefer HaChinuch puts it). We can learn so much from the way we position ourselves in our lives, and changing that can have the impact on ego we seek.
Through a Mussar Lens: Humility, the Primary Public Virtue – by Alan Morinis
How Do You Define an Exquisite Experience? – by Ruth Schapira
Practice Corner – by Alan Morinis
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