straight • upright • righteous

newsletter of  The Mussar Institute


December 2012

Kallah Recap


To what may Awe be likened? To the tremor of fear which a father feels when his beloved young son rides his shoulders as he dances with him and rejoices before him, taking care that he not fall off. Here there is joy that is incomparable, pleasure that is incomparable. And the fear tied up with them is pleasant, too. It does not impede the freedom of dance.
Rabbi Avraham Elya Kaplan

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Save the Date: Mussar Kallah XI is coming October 1821, 2013, Illinois Beach Resort and Conference Center, Zion, Ill.


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Gary ShafferThis year we celebrated The Mussar Institute’s 10th Mussar Kallah, and the featured topic—Yirah—turned out to be more relevant and enticing than perhaps any of us could have imagined. There was much discussion about the different aspects of Yirah, including the difficulty of translation and the fact that a single word unpacks into seemingly different concepts that then require integration. But by the end of the Kallah, with Hurricane Sandy battering the East Coast, we were starkly presented with forces beyond our immediate control that required the exertion of a controlled response, which helped us adapt and help others as best we could.  

We were fortunate to have some wonderful teachers at the Kallah. Rabbis Yaakov Feldman, Aryeh Wolbe, Avi Fertig, and Micha Berger—a Mussar All-Star lineup—led several interesting discussions, as did Alan Morinis and Shirah Bell. There were early morning meditations led by Roann Altman and Rob Barris. In late October, the sun rises around 7 AM over Lake Michigan, and the meditations both calmed and stimulated, capturing different aspects of Yirah

I think many of us wondered before the Kallah whether Yirah was a winning subject for the event. Fear and Awe: Was this something we really wanted to spend four days on, schlepping to Chicago, losing time from work? Most of us who have studied Mussar have tackled Yirah at some point, but over the four days of the Kallah, my understanding and appreciation of this middah began to deepen. In some ways it was a Mussar journey of moving from intellectual to emotional understanding, and I came to a new appreciation of how Yirah compels us to both face and try to create our own destiny. Life is filled with responsibility and possibility, and we must embrace both. The majesty of the world provides beautiful sunsets but also challenges that can scare us and inspire us. 

But there was something else that stood out for me at this year’s gathering, namely the growing personal relationships that people began to develop. This was the third year we have met at the Illinois Beach Resort. It’s a pretty spot, and for those who had attended before, there was a comfort level with the surroundings that further enabled people to pay attention to one another and engage in conversation. Each person at the Kallah was paired with a chevruta, and as the days unfolded and we studied, talked, ate and meditated together, we also increasingly had personal conversations that covered not only particular presentations and texts, but our lives. We listened to wonderful teachers discuss the different contours of Yirah, but also engaged in Mussar practice with our partners, which as many of us have discovered is where much of our growth and understanding develops.

There is only one Mussar retreat. It has become a place to meet people we may see only once a year, or make some new contacts among those who share this unusual but compelling journey. The hurricane was frightening and disruptive for some, but those from the Chicago area helped out, we all kept one another informed, we extended our discussions of Yirah, several drove back together as the weather cleared, and others finally got flights out. I can’t wait to come back.

Gary Shaffer is President of the Board of Directors of The Mussar Institute.

Newsletter Home
Through a Mussar Lens: Moving Forward after 10 Kallahs – by Alan Morinis
Welcome – by Gary Shaffer
October in Zion – by Jeff Agron
My Mussar Journey – by
13 Middos – Neil Harris
New “Middah a Month” Program for 2013
Special Offer for Kallah XI
The Practice Corner

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