There has been no greater victim of recent events in public discourse than truth.
There is a midrash (Genesis Rabbah 8:5) that tells of God “casting truth to the ground,” and it seems that our contemporary leaders have been “walking in God’s way.” Truth has been ground under the heel of fake news, lies, anti-science, partial facts and a general disregard for what is verifiable. The most shocking (and saddest) recognition of the desecration of truth is the Oxford Dictionary declaring “post-truth” as its Word of the Year for 2016—an adjective defined as “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.”
The Jewish Spirituality Challenge: What Do You Need?
Have you been asking yourself questions such as:
- What would make my spiritual life more satisfying?
- What role might my Jewish community play in helping me develop my spiritual life?
If so, then please join us for The Mussar Institute’s first International Day of Study on Sunday, March 19, 2017 at 2 p.m. (Eastern). Hundreds of people from around the world will probe The Jewish Spirituality Challenge: What Do You Need? in va’adim and in virtual meetings.
The kickoff will be a live inspirational message from Alan Morinis, followed by Mussar text study in local groups, engaging discussion about the challenge, reporting back to the international audience and responses from TMI to the top challenges.
It will be a morning/afternoon/evening of fellowship, study and excitement.
For more information or to register, please click here.
I am grateful to be writing about truth, which has become seriously endangered in our current political climate. Within the media and in public discourse, “truth” nowadays seems, sadly, to depend more on one’s political preferences than on any objective reality. Many of our politicians and commentators slant the “truth” to promote a partisan position to such an extent that even indisputable facts are negated. Our values of honesty and integrity, and even evidence-based science, are under attack as never before.
BOOK AWARD: Congratulations to TMI faculty member David Jaffe, who received the Jewish Book Council’s National Jewish Book Award in the category of Contemporary Jewish Life and Practice. Jaffe’s book, Changing the World from the Inside Out: A Jewish Approach to Personal and Social Change, is available from Shambhala Books.
SAVE THE DATE – Spring Retreat: The 2017 Practice Retreat will be held from May 21 to 24, 2017, in St. Louis, Missouri. Learn more and register.
SAVE THE DATE – Fall Retreat: Mussar Kallah XV will return to the Capital Retreat Center, outside the Baltimore/Washington, D.C., area from November 30 to December 3, 2017.
The Practice Corner
The 19th century Mussar yeshiva in Kelm had a practice to contemplate actively before any conversation to try to discern what God wanted them to say. This historical Mussar practice suggests something we can do as well.
Make a habit of asking yourself before you speak: “What does God want me to say?”
There is a big difference between something that is simple and something that is easy. The practice is simple. The instructions are contained in one short sentence—but that doesn’t make it easy. Will you remember to ask yourself “What does God want me to say?” when the conversation is going on and all the normal pressures and pleasures of interaction are at work? Will you commit to being truthful in the face of possible shame, or admit the truth when you are mistaken? This practice will also force you to engage with the complexity of truth, because speaking truthfully (in the objective sense) is not always what God wants us to do.
Most importantly, pay careful attention to which middot may be influencing you to speak falsely or to speak in a way that God would not want you to speak. Taking this small pause before you speak will allow you to gain a measure of the self-awareness that is the true benefit of this practice and the most essential aspect of working on the middah of truth.
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