straight • upright • righteous

newsletter of  The Mussar Institute


July 2012



Each person is due honor and respect just by virtue of being human. Those you love and don’t love, those who wish you well and those who stand opposed to you, each (including yourself) is worthy of honor, embodying a divine soul made in the image and likeness of God. Because we are only human, we are scarred and marred, bent and bruised, but the blemishes exist only superficially. Looking deeper reveals the glowing radiance of a holy soul. Develop eyes to see the soul, and bow down in honor.

– Alan Morinis

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Alan MorinisThrough a Mussar Lens:
Moving from Anger to Honor

When we probe the tradition for its lessons,sometimes we need to look not only at the teachings themselves but also at the juxtaposition of teachings. Take, for example, the verse in Pirkei Avot (2:15) that reads, “Rabbi Eliezer said: ‘Let the honor of your fellow be as dear to you as your own. Be not easily moved to anger.’”
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Gary ShafferWelcome

We’re all aware that the Torah tells us to love God, but honor our father and mother. It seems like a strange contrast. Why doesn’t the Torah place a similar demand on us to love our parents? Aren’t they the ones who most directly gave us life, supported us, helped us learn right from wrong?
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YirahCome to the Mussar Kallah. Here's one of the great teachers you will learn with.

Rabbi Yaakov Feldman has been offering his deep wisdom in Mussar to students of The Mussar Institute for years now -- as a well-received teacher at previous Mussar Kallahs and, in his frequent offerings of special webinars on Mussar topics, among others.
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Len FelsonMy Mussar Journey

My journey onto the Mussar path resembles that of so many other students. I heard about a talk at my local synagogue about the discipline of Mussar, with which I was only vaguely familiar. Someone named Alan Morinis had written a book about his own journey called Climbing Jacob’s Ladder.
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At Last! Duties of the Heart is to be republished!!

Few texts of Mussar have touched the Jewish core as long or as deeply as Bachya Ibn Pakudah’s immortal The Duties of the Heart (Chovot HaLevovot). And one of the most cherished and sought-after translations and elucidations has been that of Rabbi Yaakov Feldman. Sadly, though, Rabbi Feldman’s well-loved and long sought-after edition has been out of print for a number of years.
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Vancouver MussarniksAround the Mussar World: Vancouver

In 1998, when his book Climbing Jacob’s Ladder was about to be published, Dr. Alan Morinis was leading a group of approximately ten students in Vancouver through the classic text Tomer Devorah (Palm Tree of Deborah) by Rabbi Moshe Cordovero. It could be said that this was the first group of The Mussar Institute, although TMI had not yet been formalized. Now, thanks to the courses developed by Alan and his colleagues at TMI, there are approximately 400 Mussar students in Vancouver. It has been a slow and steady process of building momentum.
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Leader & groupBecome a Mussar Group Leader

Manchim: Mussar Group Facilitators Training begins October 21
Are you ready to train to lead Mussar groups? Do you want to develop tools and techniques to guide groups in the unique, traditional processes of Mussar va’adim? Do you see leadership experiences and Mussar study as a way to enhance your personal spiritual growth?
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newborn & motherThe Practice Corner

The Mussar masters understood the power of contemplation. We can draw a contemplation to develop kavod / honor from Tomer Devorah (Palm Tree of Deborah), Rabbi Moshe Cordovero’s 16th century classic Mussar text. He says:

Even if a person cannot find a reason for showing love and compassion to his fellows, he should say, “There was surely a time when they had not yet sinned, and in that time or in former days they were worthy.” For their sake, he should recall the love of “... those just weaned from milk and torn away from the breast” (Yeshayahu 28:9). This way, he will not find a single person unworthy of kindness, prayers or compassion.

What a remarkable psychological insight to recognize that we can develop understanding for a person by considering their formative experiences and envisioning them in that state of innocence.

Engage this practice by doing exactly as Rabbi Cordovero suggests. Let any negative appraisal of people trigger in your mind the thought: “He was once a baby” or “She was once a baby.” Bring to mind their innocence, for surely it was there.

As you contemplate their original innocence, bring to mind the innocence of the present as well. The soul is innocent. In Hebrew, the word tamim conveys a sense of both purity and innocence. Somewhere and in some measure, every soul is possessed of innocence. Can you adjust your vision to perceive that quality in others?

Newsletter Home
Through a Mussar Lens: Moving from Anger to Honor – by Alan Morinis
Welcome – by Gary Shaffer
Kallah 2012: YIRAH – The Beginning of Wisdom
My Mussar Journey – by Len Felson
At Last! Duties of the Heart is to be Republished!
Around the Mussar World: Vancouver, BC – by Shelley Karrel
Become a Mussar Group Leader
The Practice Corner

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