Mussar discussions of gevurah (strength) usually begin with the following observation by Ben Zoma (found in the mishnah, in Pirkei Avot 4:1). So who am I to break with tradition?
|Who is mighty? One who conquers their yeitzer [hara, their destructive impulse]. As it says, “Slowness to respond is better than a mighty person, and the one who rules their spirit [better] than the conqueror of a city.” (Proverbs 16:32)|
In his commentary on this mishnah, Rabbi Ovadia of Bartenura (Italy, 15th cent.) explains the quoted verse, “Good is slowness to anger that comes from the aspect of the might [involved in] conquering the impulse, and not from the [having] a soft nature.”
Our focus this month is on Gevurah / Strength, a great complement to last month’s middah of lovingkindness. The softness of lovingkindness needs to be balanced with form, which is the value of strength. Similarly, the severity of gevurah, the source of divine justice, needs to be tempered by Chesed / Lovingkindness.
Gevurah (strength) is considered the opposite of chesed (lovingkindness), the quality that drives many of us in our social action endeavors. But gevurah is also central to social justice. Everywhere you look, injustice cries out to be remedied, so much so that without the discipline and self-restraint embodied in gevurah, we would not attend to our own needs and other commitments because we were trying to save the whole world
The Mussar Institute has received a three-year grant from The John Templeton Foundation for its project Scaling Up a Compelling Mussar-Based Teen Curriculum.
During the course of the project, TMI proposes to provide Jewish teens with a solid foundation of meaning and values that will prepare them to lead fulfilling adult lives through the study and practice of Mussar.
ELUL PROGRAM: It’s not too late to join TMI’s five-week daily Elul study program and catch up on what you missed. Sign up now. The program includes an opportunity to sponsor a day ($236) or a week ($1,000) in memory of a loved one. Please contact Steven Kraus (firstname.lastname@example.org) to learn more about sponsorship opportunities.
MIDDOT CARDS: The Mussar Institute now offers sets of 20 Middot Cards that can be used as reminders of key concepts in Mussar. Inspired by Alan Morinis’s writings, each set costs $11.96, with discounts for larger orders.
PROGRAM FOR RABBIS: Are you a Rabbi or do you know a Rabbi who is looking to nurture and develop his or her spiritual practice? Nefesh HaRav is a year-long program for Rabbis, starting with a retreat in the Los Angeles area in January 2018 and continuing with distance learning. Registration is now open.
SAVE THE DATE – Mussar Practice Retreat: Could your spiritual practice use a charge? Looking for ways to connect to a greater good? Seeking community with other souls on your path? The Mussar Practice Retreat is a 3-day workshop that will boost your spirit and send you home with new practices to sustain your growth for months to come. The dates are May 6 to May 9, 2018 in St. Louis, Missouri.
VIDEO BLOG: Is there a connection between physiology and Mussar? Check out this talk from Chaim Safren titled, “Thoughts from the Cerebral Cortex.”
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
One of the core Mussar practices involves reciting aloud a meaningful phrase with enough voice and emotion to cause it to come alive and be imprinted firmly in your consciousness. To use that practice to cultivate gevurah, recite to yourself every morning for a week one of the following phrases:
- Self-restraint reduces suffering.
- A wise man is strong; and a man of knowledge makes strength greater. (Mishlei / Proverbs 24:5)
If you prefer a line of Hebrew, consider the same quote from Proverbs:
- Gever chacham b’oz v’ish da’at ma’amatz koach.
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