In the current difficult economic times Chaim Yankel was having a tough time finding a job. He couldn’t even get an interview. Finally, he secured an interview and, needless to say, he was trying his best to impress. The interviewer said, “In this job, Chaim Yankel, we need someone who is responsible.” “I'm the one you want,” Chaim Yankel replied. “At my last job every time anything went wrong, they said I was responsible.”
One of the most difficult things to do in life is to accept responsibility for something that we have done wrong or to accept that we have hurt someone else. This inability to accept responsibility is intrinsic to the human condition. When God confronts Adam for transgressing the one commandment that he had, not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge, Adam immediately responds that his wife was responsible (sound familiar?). When God confronts Eve, she, too, tries to shift the blame.
Today I was late for Torah Study. Again! Only about two minutes, but late is late. I had tried to get all the laundry done so I could visit my hospice patient later in the day. I’m a hospice volunteer and spend as much time as I can with my patient, who is in a nursing home and gets very little individual attention. I often overschedule myself trying to do everything I want to do for myself, while meeting my self-imposed obligations to others.
I want to eat healthy, get enough sleep and exercise, learn Hebrew, attend Torah Study, leyn Torah at the Shabbat Minyan, observe Shabbat (in a Reform sense) and keep up my Mussar practice. And I’m going to the Kallah next month. I also want to spend time with my husband and friends. When I’m not doing all of this, I’m on several committees at my shul, and I’m involved with our local community organizing group working on criminal justice reform.Read more
The world today is certainly providing us with many lessons and opportunities for working on our soul curriculum. Although we might prefer that life were easier and less problematic, all we can really do is take responsibility for our own behavior.
I am grateful that so many of you stepped up to attend this year’s Mussar Kallah. We will begin on Thursday evening with Dr. Alan Morinis and Rav Dovid Nussbaum studying Trust. Then on Friday we will study Responsibility with R’ Avi Fertig and Rav Dovid, and on Saturday afternoon we will study Justice with R’ David Jaffe. As always, we will meet in va’adim and with chevrutas, do some chanting, and have opportunities for journaling. And, of course, just being together in our Mussar community with all of you is pure delight.Read more
Middot Cards — a great gift
Middot cards are here! You may have noticed that, for the past several months, we have been offering middot cards for sale. These cards were designed by TMI and by artist Rafi Metz. They were inspired by Alan Morinis in his book Everyday Holiness, and actualize his suggestion to make cards to serve as reminders of the basic concepts of Mussar.
The 20 cards in the deck are each a short meditation on one of the middot (character traits or attributes), covering, for example, “truth,” “patience,” “enthusiasm,” “silence,” “generosity.” The flip side of each card is adorned with the TMI logo.
The cards are a great way to enhance your Mussar practice. They also make great gifts for others on the Mussar path. You may order them HERE at a cost of $11.96 per set, with discounts available for bulk purchases. To learn more about Rafi Metz, go to rafimetz.com.
PRESCRIPTION FOR REST: In her new book, An Oasis in Time, Marilyn Paul explores the benefits of a weekly day of rest for improving quality of life through a ritual act of renewal.
PROGRAM FOR RABBIS: Are you a Rabbi or do you know a Rabbi who is looking to nurture and develop his or her spiritual practice? Nefesh HaRav is a year-long program for Rabbis, starting with a retreat in the Los Angeles area in January 2018 and continuing with distance learning. Registration is now open.
SAVE THE DATE – Mussar practice retreat: Could your spiritual practice use a charge? Looking for ways to connect to a greater good? Seeking community with other souls on your path? Awakening Hearts and Minds: A Musssar Practice Intensive is a three-day workshop that will boost your spirit and send you home with new practices to sustain your growth for months to come. The dates are May 6 – May 9, 2018 in St. Louis, Missouri.
VIDEO BLOG: Chaim Safren wrestles with Mussar questions and lessons in his short weekly video blog. Check out “Where's the Good,” a discussion of what makes humans different from the rest of creation.
NEW MUSSAR BOOK: Mind Over Man: The Climb to Greatness, a sefer based on the Mussar va’adim of Alan Morinis’s teacher, R’ Yechiel Yitzchok Perr, is available for purchase from the Yeshiva of Far Rockaway, N.Y.
The Practice Corner
Rabbi Eliyahu Dessler wrote, “I am responsible for everything that happens in the world because I was created to fix the world. Even if others neglect their duty, as each person is required to fix the world, I must act as if there is nobody else beside me [to do it].”
List five things that you are uniquely suited to do in your life. Each of us has been given distinct talents and abilities, and it is our responsibility to share these talents in a positive way. Others may share similar qualities, but our focus is only on us. It is our responsibility to improve ourselves, and it is our responsibility to improve the world.
What are your unique skills? What are your unique talents? What are your unique roles in life? What are your naturally strong positive middot?
Once you have your list, spend some time contemplating what you can do today to realize your potential and to fulfill your purpose in the world.
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