Over 40 years ago, when doing my doctoral research in India, I encountered a man who offered to share a piece of bread with me. I was walking along the bank of a river, and a poor man sat outside his small shelter of reeds and mud. When he saw me, he reached into the folds of the cloth that partly covered his chest and pulled out a sad, dry piece of bread that he proceeded to tear in half, holding out half to me.
How to foster the inner quality of gratitude has been high on my soul curriculum this year. Much over the past year has been negative, from family deaths, to personal illness, to conflicts that bombard me daily on television and online. It is easy to get bogged down in the negative and cry out, “Why?” But I have come to realize there is no good answer, other than my need to deal with life on life’s terms: death, illness and conflict are just a part of life. The question is, “How do I deal with what life throws me?” Do I get bogged down in the negative and let it dominate my mind, or do I rise above it, deal with it, and look for the good?
FUNDRAISER: To provide the “Jewish Values for Everyday Living: Mussar for Children” program free to Jewish schools, Miriam Goodman has launched an online fundraiser. All donations go toward providing the complete program for preschool through second grade to help nurture communities in Jewish values. For every $20 donated, you earn a raffle ticket for a chance to win a painting by Miriam.
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. Topic: The Holiness of Engagement.
VIDEO BLOG: Need a short Mussar inspiration? Watch one of Chaim Safren’s Mussar video messages uploaded each month. Check out this talk entitled “I Heard That One Already.”
PIRKEI AVOT WEBINARS: TMI’s final chapter in a series of six free webinars on Pirkei Avot, Chapter 6 with Lisa Bock, will be held June 4 at 12 p.m. Eastern. Register here to receive a link to attend live. Recordings of the first five chapters are all available here.
NEW MUSSAR BOOK: Mind Over Man: The Climb to Greatness, a sefer based on the Mussar va’adim of Alan Morinis’s teacher, Yechiel Yitzchok Perr, is available for purchase from the Yeshiva of Far Rockaway, N.Y.
The Practice Corner
The classic Mussar text Orchot Tzadikim stresses that generosity can take three forms: money, body, and wisdom.
Look for opportunities to give that include not only money but also your possessions, your time, your caring, etc.
“Money” can include loans, expenditures for mitzvot, as well as donations to charity. Making daily contributions to a tzedakah jar would count toward this goal.
“Body” includes doing something for those in need. Examples would be praying for others, being joyous with them in their celebrations or suffering with them through their hardships, visiting the sick, and caring for the deceased.
Generosity of “wisdom” includes sharing your knowledge with others (specifically your Torah knowledge), and helping to guide others in their spiritual growth. In helping to guide others, often what is needed is listening to them, which is also a form of generosity.
Choose two acts to perform daily from among the forms of giving listed above.
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