COUNT THE OMER 5782
WEEK SIX OMER MATERIALS
Each week, we focus on topics oriented on middah in the way that Tomer Devorah indicates, as such:
YESOD - SILENCE by Alan Morinis
Tomer Devorah says:
Needless to say, one should not speak obscenities, But, even if the words themselves are not sinful but pure, if they give rise to licentious thoughts, one must be on guard against them. These words bring to sin, even though they themselves are permissible.
Yesod means “foundation” and speaks to the place where the spiritual and the physical meet. Because we are human, we have base instincts, but because we are human, we also have spiritual aspirations. In order to reach up toward holiness, we need to develop ways to deal with our baser instincts so that even the most mundane areas of our lives become infused with the spiritual. Speech can be used in a base way and it can also be a vehicle for spiritual ascent. Silence can be a tool to sanctify speech.
KABBALAH - EXERCISE OR ACTION
Rabbi Nachman of Bratzlav, a Chassidic teacher who died in the same year Rabbi Yisrael Salanter was born (1810), provides the basis for a kabbalah for silence by recommending that every person set aside a daily “dead hour” during which to be “dead to the world.” This meant being unavailable for business or social obligations or family duties or small talk – or cell phone or email or FaceBook or anything! He said that by spending time devoted to silent introspection, to quiet probing, to contemplation in utter stillness, this dead hour would make the whole day worth living by giving space for the ordinarily repressed soul to come forth.
Set aside a period of the day to be your “dead hour.” The practice does not require that you be mute, just sufficiently disconnected from the ordinary chatter that fills most of our lives so that the mind is freed from intrusions. One of the keys to Mussar practice is to start out with a challenge that is manageable for you: if an hour seems too long, you could do 10 minutes the first day, 15 the second, 20 the third and so on, for as long as you are engaged in the practice of silence.
In order that this unusual part of your day not get squeezed out or forgotten, set yourself a specific time of day and a place in which you will engage in this practice. It’s like you make a fixed appointment with silence that you would no more overlook than you would any other committed engagement on your calendar.
What to do in that set-aside time? Well, the principal guideline is what NOT to do. As fasting is a withdrawing from eating, so is this fast defined by withdrawal from any sort of verbal interaction. Don’t “receive” words either, by shutting yourself off from television, radio and even reading in this time. If you have some experience meditating, you may want to meditate. Or if you have not meditated before, this may be your opportunity. Whatever you do, just be quiet with yourself.
CHESHBON HA'NEFESH OR ACCOUNTING OF THE SOUL
Are there areas of your life in which you could practice more restraint in speech? Do you have a tendency to gossip? Or is there a context where you are regularly exposed to damaging speech? Is there a relationship where you tend to say too much, and it does not work toward the good?
Consider these and other possibilities that apply to you, and then set down your intention to restrain your speech, or your exposure to the speech of others, and then use your journal to record your experiences in this area.