A MUSSAR GEM
“The fact that you may have greater abilities than someone else does not mean that you are better and that you can claim credit for your endowment, but only that you bear responsibilities because you have received gifts, and that obligates you.”
–Alan Morinis, from his forthcoming book, With Heart in Mind
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Save the date for the 2014 Mussar Kallah
Nov. 13–16 at the Illinois Beach Resort in Zion, IL.
Available August 2014
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- David Abramson
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Every day between Passover and Shavuot, we walk one of 49 steps on the ancient path that leads from enslavement to redemption. The opening act was the physical emancipation from debased servitude in Egypt and the climax is the spiritual liberation marked by the receiving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai. The pathway remains open to us today, and is traversed through the counting of the Omer these seven weeks.
Counting each day is meant to foster spiritual preparation and anticipation. We see that preparation modeled by Israel as they approached Mt. Sinai, when they had prepared so well to receive the spiritual gift of the Torah that they proclaimed: “We will do and we will hear” (Exodus /Shemot 24:7), in effect agreeing to obligation even before hearing the details!
The theme of this month’s Yashar is “receiving,” and when I considered what “receiving” has to do with my Mussar practice, what came to mind was Rabbi Hillel’s famous dictum, “That which is hateful to you, do not do to another. That is the whole of the Torah. The rest is commentary.” The question this brought up for me is: If one of our sages describes this as the central message of the Torah, how have I received it and acted upon it?
I am blessed and honored to have had the opportunity to facilitate the Jewish Ethics classes at the California Institution for Women (CIW) for the past seven years. When I began my work at the prison as the Lead Volunteer Chaplain of the Jewish Community of CIW, it seemed that a class in Jewish Ethics was the perfect class for the women. And it has been!
How has the practice of Mussar impacted your life, and what has that meant to you?
The practice of Mussar has changed my attitude, how I see the world and others, and how I react to things . It is like there is a part of my brain that has developed, that has grown. My Mussar brain.
As we consider the theme of Receiving this month, have you thought about where the benefits from your Mussar study and practice come from? Certainly from The Mussar Institute course materials, most of which have been developed by Alan Morinis. And then the contributions from others in the TMI world, to say nothing of the wisdom that has come down to us from the Mussar masters.
In the Mishnah (Berakhot 9:5) we read, “A person is required to bless for the bad just as one blesses for the good.” The rabbis explain this challenging teaching by saying that one must receive everything that happens in life with equal wholeheartedness. This is a practice of radical receptivity that you have the opportunity to practice every day, since what we would classify as good and bad happen to us every day.
Through a Mussar Lens: Receiving Spiritual Gifts – by Alan Morinis
My Mussar Moment – by Jason Winston
Everyday Holiness in Prison – by Shayna Lester
Deepening Your Soul's Journey – by Roann Altman
A New Mussar Student's Perspective – by Rhonda Mautner
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