As the end of the year approaches, we come to the conclusion of the series of explorations we have done here in Yashar on what might be called public virtues, as seen through the lens of Jewish values, and Mussar in particular. We felt compelled to explore qualities such as truth, compassion, and kindness this past year because our world has taken a sharp turn away from these perennial markers of goodness, led by public figures who scorn the very qualities Judaism elevates as the highest ideals for human living.
Now as we come to the end of this series, we need to dig down to a deeper level to expose the root from which all these virtues sprout. The Mussar teachers never saw the point as being just to behave in a kind or generous or compassionate manner, but rather to have these qualities emerge as inevitable imperatives because you experience the profound reality that exists at a deeper level.
Live with Alan Morinis
Mark your calendars and join us for a first—Alan Morinis on Facebook Live.
On Sunday, December 10, at 1:00 p.m. Eastern, Alan will present a Hanukkah teaching on Facebook Live. Our tradition is to light a Chanukah candle for every person in the house. Why not one menorah for the whole household? The Mussar teachers’ answer to this question unlocks a great spiritual message of this very special holiday.
Be sure to register* for the event on Facebook and invite family and friends to watch this presentation designed to put us in the proper spiritual mood for Chanukah.
*You must have a Facebook account.
How do you measure the greatness of a human being?
My favorite Midrash surrounds the question of how Moses became Moses. As Moses was walking around in Midian, he saw a burning bush, burning but not being consumed. He stopped and looked very closely. At that very moment, he heard God announce that he, Moses, was chosen to lead the Israelites out of slavery. Moses protested: I cannot do such a great task. I have a lisp and speak poorly. I have killed a man. I was not raised among the Israelites. And he begged God to choose a greater man. But God responded: Moses, I chose you because you stopped and noticed that the bush was burning but not being consumed. Hundreds of others have walked past this burning bush and no one has ever stopped to notice, to observe, to care.Read more
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 6–9, 2018 in St. Louis, Missouri.
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.
VIDEO BLOG: Chaim Safren explores the joy of just being and having gratitude in this video blog, Smile You Exist.
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.
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.
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.
The Practice Corner
There are Mussar practices that have as their purpose to help you internalize the self-image that you are the embodiment of Tzelem Elohim (i.e., the image of God). Since this is not an image of the kind that can be visualized or imagined, the classic Mussar practice that applies here is hitpa’alut (alternatively pronounced hispailus), which involves the intense and single-minded repetition of a phrase.
There is no single way that the phrase must be repeated to count as hitpa’alut. It can be spoken over and over, chanted with a melody or harangued at oneself. You can use whatever method works for you to accomplish the goal of imprinting the desired message vibrantly on the heart. This practice enacts Rabbi Elya Lopian’s definition of Mussar: “Making the heart understand what the mind knows.”
The phrase that we suggest is: I AM MADE IN THE IMAGE OF HOLINESS.
That phrase is an adaptation from the verse in Leviticus / Vayikra in which God says: “You shall be holy, because I your God am holy.” Since God is holy, and since we are made in the image of God, then it follows that we must also be holy.
That’s the concept (i.e., what the mind knows). By repeating the phrase over and over, perhaps with a tune but certainly with passion, you will succeed in making your heart understand this truth.
Transitions, Blessings, Memories, and Gratitude
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