Mem

Yashar

straight • upright • righteous

newsletter of  The Mussar Institute

   

January 2013

Responsibility


A MUSSAR GEM

“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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World of Mussar: Seattle, WA

Shirah BellI moved up to Seattle from the San Francisco Bay Area five years ago. I had been working with The Mussar Institute since the beginning, facilitating TMI courses, developing programs with Alan, and studying a lot. But I felt frustrated at the small impact I was having on the community, with Mussar study particularly lacking at my shul. I wanted everyone to study Mussar and wasn’t even coming close.

When my husband and I decided to move to Seattle (precipitated by my husband’s receiving an invitation to start a new business), we went up to check out the synagogues, so we could choose a place to live that would be within walking distance of shul. We went to Congregation Beth Shalom for a Shabbat service. I knew no one there. The service was very lovely, much like our beloved shul in Berkeley, Congregation Netivot Shalom. During the announcements, I suddenly heard, “After lunch, the Mussar reading group will meet in the Beit Midrash.” I nearly fell off my chair. A Mussar reading group? In the shul I was going to join? Too good to be true. When I went to the group, who was the first person I met but a student of a TMI course that I had directed. I certainly felt HaShem’s hand in this move.

My kavanah in going to Seattle became bringing Mussar fully into the community. Seattle was very responsive.  I was fortunate to have a small group of people at my shul already on board. They were studying Rabbi Ira Stone’s book A Responsible Life. I offered a TMI course—Season of Mussar—and 12 people signed up. What a joy.

But then something interesting happened. People started taking sides: who was teaching the better Mussar, Alan Morinis or Rabbi Ira Stone? It reminded me of the Jewish joke about the man on the desert island who built two shuls, one he went to and one he wouldn’t set foot in. Seattle was too small to be having opposing Mussar camps. I called up Rabbi Stone and Alan and told them of my concern and asked them to think with me. They both graciously offered to come to Seattle and have a small teaching session where we would discuss their approaches and give people an opportunity to join together. So many people got excited about this idea that in the end we had a panel of five teachers, including orthodox and conservative denominations, and 130 participants from all denominations as well as unaffiliated. All in the same room, all committed to refining their souls. The theme was Mussar as a bridge, which it surely was and continues to be.

Since that time there have been three large gatherings (kallot) and many courses at almost all the local synagogues as well as in people’s homes. At my synagogue a group meets monthly after Shabbat lunch to discuss one middah from Everyday Holiness and explore related mitzvot. It is heartwarming to be with people on their spiritual journey.

 


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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