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Chodesh Elul:
The Golden Opportunity and its Demands

Lesson 2: August 28 / Elul 6

Rabbi Yisrael Salanter (1810-1883) was the founder of the modern Mussar Movement that began in Lithuania in the middle of the nineteenth century. His disciple, Rabbi Yitzchak Blazer, collected many of Reb Yisrael’s writings and letters and published them in 1890 under the title of Ohr Yisrael / The Light of Israel. He writes in letter 7:

What will be the first cause to arouse a person to examine his/her deeds and to study Mussar in the month of Elul? In contrast to material things, there is no natural desire for this. The sages of earlier times literally shook in trepidation at the approach of Elul. Relying on the teaching from Pirkei D’Rebbe Eliezer (ch. 46), they enacted a decree to blow the Shofar in Elul. This was the first cause to awaken a person from sleep and from vain pursuits in order that they examine their deeds…

[However,] the blowing of the Shofar is the first cause for the type of individual who is totally immersed in the service of God. Only a minor cause is required to awaken such an individual to a thorough self-examination. However, “what can we reply and what can we do” (Selichot prayer) now that we are completely immersed in the vanities of the world? Our hearts are unfeeling and hard as stone. Will a minor arousal make an impression in the hard stone?

Yet if we will not be drawn after the deceptions of the negative impulse, which induces us to unwittingly transform light into darkness by asserting that the easy is difficult, then there is hope. It is clear that going occasionally to the Beis HaMussar (house of Mussar study) in Elul is a very easy matter. Despite life’s burdens, there is ample time for this – with minimal effort, either by day or by night. The blowing of the Shofar will sufficiently serve as a cause to awaken us [to go to the Beis HaMussar.] Then, when a person goes to the Beis HaMussar, it serves as a mighty cause that has the capacity to yield significant and vital results.

Consider in your journal what you can do today to make the most effective use of the month of Elul.

Your practice for this week is to establish a consistent Journaling practice.

When this fundamental Mussar exercise is understood and implemented, it provides an essential tool for you to gain access to your inner life. Self-knowledge and heightened awareness of one’s inner life is the starting point for a meaningful Elul and is a life changing experience for everyone who commits to this daily exercise. Click this link to access your practice instructions for this week.

Click this link to access this week's video. Click here to access an archive of our Elul material.

If you would like to sponsor a day or week in Elul in memory or honor of somebody, please contact Steven Kraus: steven@mussarinstitute.org


Today’s learning is sponsored by Jeff Agron, in memory of his father, Dr. Norton Agron, a man of great integrity.

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