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By Gary Shaffer, Co-President
We are now in the midst of Counting the Omer, that period between Passover and Shavuot that has long been considered a time of personal reflection.
Having received our freedom from slavery, it is now time to consider our responsibilities. The Children of Israel were quick to accept the yolk of Torah during the exciting moments at Sinai (“we will do, and we will listen,” they said), but as we know, before Moses can even return with the final tablets of the law in hand, the people, nervous at Moses’ long stay at the top of the mountain, build a golden calf to worship. Often our Mussar practice can feel like this – inspirational breakthroughs followed by static troughs. It’s a process, though sometimes in the moment that’s hard to remember, and maintaining focus can be challenging.
Nissan is the first month of the Jewish calendar. Being new in my position, I used it as an excuse to review the prior calendar in an effort to see what has happened at The Mussar Institute.
I was aware of the simple beginnings of one course and a handful of people in 2004. I was curious how far TMI had come. To my astonishment, TMI has evolved into a dynamic robust organization. As I learned about the institute’s activities, once again the breadth and depth of offerings surprised me.
In my last column, I raised the issue of meditation retreats being held at Auschwitz. So many people responded with suggestions and comments that I have not even finished reading them, let alone thanking people or assimilating the many ideas that have been offered. I am impressed, grateful and inspired by this community that can deal with so sensitive and charged an issue with maturity and insight and that feels passionately not to look away.
I return to the Holocaust again in this column, but from a very different perspective. Today is May 1, which this year is Holocaust Remembrance Day. In recent months, partly spurred on by my feeling and analysis that told me that a spiritual retreat at a concentration camp is a perverse exploitation of horrific injustice, I started to do a different kind of research on events in Europe in the 1940s.
THIRD ANNUAL SEATTLE MUSSAR KALLAH
The third annual Seattle Mussar Kallah was held Sunday, May 1. The kallah was to inquire into Jewish tools that support creating meaning in the contemporary world. The kallah explored the middot (soul traits) of zehirut (self-examination/vigilance) and gevurah (strength/alignment with the Divine) and addressed the gulf between spiritual practice and engagement in the world.
Because Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) began that Sunday evening, the kallah was also scheduled to discuss how Mussar’s history and practice has responded to such moral madness. Those lecturing included Rabbi Ira Stone, Alan Morinis, Rivy Kletenik, Rabbi Jay Rosenbaum and Shirah Bell.
MUSSAR KALLAH IX
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