straight • upright • righteous

newsletter of  The Mussar Institute


January 2013



“An unceasing inner gaze toward one’s responsibility leads to remembrance, remembrance leads to concern, concern leads to confidence, confidence leads to strength and strength leads to serenity and wholeness, internally and externally, in thought and in deed.”   
–  Rabbi Avraham Elya Kaplan

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My Mussar Journey

Rick DinitzEvery day brings tests that can teach us how to grow. Sometimes it takes a bigger test to show us how far we have already come in our Mussar journeys. For me, one of those larger tests arrived with a bicycle crash. A punctured lung and fractured ribs kept me in the ER for an entire day, and then homebound for eight weeks. It was an extended exercise in patience, trust, responsibility and, perhaps surprisingly, gratitude. Patience waiting for help to arrive. Patience bearing pain. Patience with the slow pace of healing. Trust that Hashem would heal me. Trust that I would learn something of value from the experience. Responsibility to do everything I could to promote healing—following doctors’ instructions, and heeding my body’s warning signals. A parade of visitors asked about the crash, and the prognosis.

At first I did not even realize how my heart overflowed with gratitude—but it soon became obvious. Listening to myself retell the story, I did not hear a narrative of pain and suffering (though the pain was undeniable), but rather a refrain of gratitude to Hashem. Grateful to still be alive. Grateful that I landed on grass, and not on pavement. Grateful for medical care and insurance. Grateful that my body would heal without invasive treatment. Grateful for TLC from my family and friends. Grateful that I could expect to return to work, with my job waiting for me. Grateful for the stream of visitors, and their acts of kindness for me and my family.

After noticing this attitude of gratitude, I made it a deliberate practice and a guiding principle throughout my convalescence. I found more reasons each day to thank HaShem, and shared them with everyone who would listen. Focusing on joy made the difficult aspects recede. Waiting patiently became easier as I gratefully acknowledged every step in the process of healing. (“Grateful that now I can stand up without assistance.”) Gratitude created a more pleasant atmosphere for my family. (Imagine what weeks of complaining would have been like.)

Bikkur cholim [visiting the sick] is a mitzvah. After receiving many visits, my responsibility in this mitzvah has grown. Gratitude compels me to act, to seize more opportunities to do bikkur cholim and acts of chesed. Although I’ve focused here on gratitude, this episode in my Mussar journey tested several middot —proving their strength and providing opportunities to stretch even further. Years as a Mussar student transformed my response to my injury and recuperation—and for that I am grateful.

Newsletter Home
Through a Mussar Lens: The Masters Teach Us Responsibility Through Their Actions – by Alan Morinis
Welcome – by Jason Winston
World of Mussar: Seattle, WA – by Shirah Bell
My Mussar Journey – by
The Practice Corner

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