Walking the spiritual path requires a mind that sparkles with awareness. Without that bright quality of mind, the road ahead is like a dark and winding track on a moonless night. And the farther along the path we get, the higher up the mountain, the steeper the drop and the more challenging the bends we need to navigate. Without a clear and illuminated mind, danger lurks.
I recently visited the Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. I, like many, was entranced by the Gems and Minerals exhibit, particularly the Hope Diamond. It is truly remarkable to explore how light plays through that unique diamond.
One can only imagine how thorough and extreme the security is around the Hope Diamond. I know it is surrounded by three inches of bullet-proof glass. I am sure that is just the tip of the iceberg. Who would be foolish enough to own such a precious item and not protect it?
Alan Morinis approached me with great excitement last fall. He had been contemplating a new type of Mussar retreat, inspired by the Mussar Houses that Rabbi Israel Salanter founded in 19th century Lithuania and by the retreats of the Novarodok yeshivot, where students of Mussar withdrew to rural settings in order to dig deeply into their souls, while in a safe environment supported by others. The purpose was to identify and work on the middot that were high on their spiritual curriculum.
A committee of dedicated Mussar facilitators has developed a retreat based on the concept of intense middah work, with an added emphasis on deepening the practice of the various transformative Mussar techniques, with which many students struggle. The committee is excited to invite you to a three-day retreat on the beautiful Brandeis-Bardin Campus, in Simi Valley, CA (just north of LA), May 4-7, 2014, designed to encourage and challenge both sophisticated and recent Mussar practitioners.
This year we continue our temple-wide learning initiative focused on Mussar, or as we have labeled it, “Jewish values for everyday living.” Our focus is on one Jewish value (middah) each month, with banners proudly displayed throughout our Temple Adat Elohim campus in Thousand Oaks, California.
Adult Mussar programs are being offered for all levels, special readings are being published in our temple newsletter and on our website, and our auxiliaries, committees and boards are even engaging in this study and practice. However, what is most unique and exciting about our program is that our teachers are integrating these values (middot) into the Religious School curricula and into our Early Childhood Center.
In Chapter 2 of Path of the Just, Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto isolates one factor as being a major obstacle to the trait of illuminated awareness that is zehirut. That factor is “Relentlessly burdening yourself with tasks so that you haven’t the time to reflect upon or consider where you are heading ….”
Picking up on that idea, a good practice for cultivating zehirut is to identify one way in which you can be less busy in your life, perhaps by dropping an activity or in some other way. Then commit to reducing busyness in this way.
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