I recently completed two weeks of travel to the United States to meet with The Mussar Institute board and to speak about Mussar in several places. Even with so many wonderful highlights to my trip, there’s still no place like home. I was excited to return to Israel. I was excited to see my children’s shining faces, especially when they opened their presents. I was excited to see my wife, who is my inspiration, my teacher and my best friend.
I am also excited about the many opportunities that stand before The Mussar Institute. Feedback from our programs has been enthusiastic, and our greatest challenge is keeping up with the ever-increasing demand for soulful nourishment to the many neshamot who seek our help in guiding them to authentic Jewish practice and meaningful spiritual growth.
As the Chaburah program I am enrolled in has just completed a month-long unit on laziness/atzlut, my awareness of this middah, and its counterpart, alacrity/zerizut, has been on high alert.
What I have learned through this practice and study is that my yetzer ha’ra is a cunning foe. He knows my weaknesses well after a lifetime of cultivating them in me. But I have learned a few tricks of my own to thwart him now and then. Mussar helps me first recognize the trap and then overcome it with zerizut. Bringing enthusiasm to my physical actions elevates my spiritual nature, and then approaching my spiritual practice with zeal pushes me to achieve even more in the physical realm.
I recently sat down with Rob Mass, a board member for The Mussar Institute, for an extended interview about his personal experience with Mussar. The interview appears in two parts. In Part I this month, Rob shares his Mussar Journey. In Part II next month, he will share stories from his professional life which illustrate the value of Mussar in his workplace on Wall Street.
There were 45 seconds left in the big soccer game, and Boston’s Gann Academy was up 1-0. The visitors kicked the ball out of bounds, and it rolled toward Gann’s Head of School. He had to make a decision: Should he let the ball pass and thus run down the clock or return the ball to the field and give the visitors a chance to tie? After he stopped the ball and returned it to the visiting team, a Gann student came over to him and said, “Wow, that was a real Behira point!”
Our theme this month is Laziness, and while the start of summer might be a great opportunity to invoke this trait, we all know deep down that it is probably Alacrity that is needed to bring us more into balance.
With so many activities and obligations competing for our time, where do we find the energy to overcome our Laziness? In his opening column, Rabbi Avi Fertig suggests that Joy will fuel this energy. But how, then, do we get to Joy?
This month The Mussar Institute is offering all of Alan Morinis’s talks on CD for half price.
Single CDs will be $6 and double CDs will be $10, plus shipping and handling.
Think of a situation in which you suspect you might be lazy and in which being unenthusiastic would not be the right approach. Then, imagine (or act out) putting yourself into the situation. Ask yourself: “What would I do in this situation if I were lazy?”
Keeping that image in mind, answer this question: “What would I do in this exact same situation if I were not lazy?” How would you act? How would it feel?
Now use that second image as your guide.
Through a Mussar Lens: Channeling Excitement – by Rabbi Avi Fertig
Welcome – by Jason Winston
My Mussar Journey: Interview with Rob Mass – by Kalinka Moudrova-Rothman
Around the Mussar World: Mussar at a Jewish Community High School – by Rabbi David Jaffe
Kallah XI: Getting to Yes – by Roann Altman
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