The level of disrespect that is considered acceptable in public discourse continues to rise and, in consequence, expectations of respect decline. Insult has become the coin of the realm. Disrespect flies in all directions. Where there is no respect for the individual, there is also now no respect for the office. Too often, it seems that even the critic and incumbent alike have no respect for the high offices of the land.
Remember when your comfort with Mussar vocabulary first emerged and you began peppering your speech with words like equanimity, bitachon, and savlanut? Words that weren’t just flat and stagnant but came alive with your imprint?
Think back to the beginning of your Mussar journey—when Mussar was so new to you that you were still figuring out what space it would hold in your life. Was the potential for change dramatic and palpable for you? Perhaps there was a quickening pace in your heart and flutters of anticipation as you imagined your soul receiving renewed breath. At what point did the true meaning of Mussar touch your soul?
We live in a time of tremendous social upheaval. We are regularly bombarded by dramatic accounts of momentous political news and analysis. Internally, we may have strong reactions to the news, to our political leaders, and to the many people who weigh in on highly polarizing issues. Our nervous systems are constantly assaulted, and it is difficult to be our best selves as we converse with friends, family and community members and navigate our roles as American citizens. How can our Mussar practice orient us during these highly contentious times?
JEWISH SPIRITUALITY CHALLENGE: Happening on Sunday, March 19, at 2 p.m. Eastern and at various times around the world. Learn more and get involved.
REGISTER NOW: The 2017 Practice Retreat will be held from May 21 to 24, 2017, in St. Louis, Missouri. Registration is now open. Learn more and register.
SAVE THE DATE – Fall Retreat: Mussar Kallah XV will return to the Capital Retreat Center, outside the Baltimore/Washington, D.C., area from November 30 to December 3, 2017.
PIRKEI AVOT WEBINARS: TMI’s series of six free webinars on Pirkei Avot began with Micha Berger’s discussion of Chapter 1. That was followed by Meredith Cahn's discussion of Chapter 2. Coming up: Chapter 3 with Rivy Kletenik on March 26 at 12 p.m. Eastern, Chapter 4 with Yaakov Feldman on April 23 at 12 p.m. Eastern, Chapter 5 with Chaim Safren on May 7 at 8 p.m. Eastern, and Chapter 6 with Lisa Bock on June 4 at 12 p.m. Eastern.
The Practice Corner
Throughout your day, you will encounter ample opportunities to show honor (kavod) to others, including strangers. Consider taking on one or two of the following practices to exercise this muscle.
- Choose a 15-minute time period each day in which you will do whatever you can to express honor to anyone with whom you interact during that time.
- Pirkei Avot (4:20) urges us to “take the initiative in greeting any person you meet.” When you encounter another person, say, “Hello, nice to see you.”
- Rise from your seat to greet people, particularly the elderly (“In the presence of an elderly person you shall rise” Leviticus/Vayikra 19:32), as they enter a room.
- Focus on one way you can honor your spouse, significant other, parent or child each day.
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