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By Gary Shaffer, Co-President
The Jewish calendar provides a primary structure for keeping us grounded in service toward God. As sacred events approach, and as we celebrate them, our spiritual awareness is altered. For most Jews in the Diaspora, sacred dates on the calendar are often mixed with secular matters. In New York City, for example, the alternate-side-of-the-street parking calendar reveals that normal parking rules are suspended on many Jewish holy days: Purim, Passover (first two and last two days), Shavuot (first two days), Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Succot (first two days), Shemini Atzeret, and Simchat Torah. Many people of all faiths have expressed their thanks to God for these holy days, though not always for the same reasons.
As Gary Shaffer mentioned in his Welcome, registration to The Mussar Institute Kallah IX is now open.
We continue to make upgrades and improvements to the Kallah. This year’s Kallah is a true retreat. It will provide comprehensive tools to introduce and guide us in the Mussar ways of cultivating the soul in the context of community, both inwardly and outwardly. Sessions will be experiential, include text study and offer practical lessons for enhancing and deepening our spiritual life and the practice of Mussar.
The theme is “Helping your friend as spiritual practice – The Mussar pathway to inner wholeness through service.”
This year’s Kallah will feature two special teachers. As I mentioned last month, we are fortunate to have Alan Morinis back with us this year. In addition, Rabbi Yaakov Haber, who last participated at our Kallah in Phoenix to rave reviews, will also be with us. As in past years, Rabbi Micha Berger and other wonderful Mussar teachers will also offer classes.
So, prepare to expand your mind and nourish your soul. Join us from Friday, Nov. 11 to Monday, Nov. 14. (The Kallah begins at 4 p.m. on Friday and ends at noon on Monday.) Register before Sept. 1 and save $50.
To study and practice Mussar is to be in an encounter and a dialogue with an old tradition. Indeed, the Hebrew term for tradition is “mesorah” [mem-samech-vav-resh-heh], which some take to have a common linguistic root with the word “mussar” [mem-vav-samech-resh]. Whether or not that is a valid derivation, there is no disputing that Mussar is a tradition and traditional.
I date the first work that focused on the unique question addressed by Mussar to the 10th century—Rabbi Sa’adia Gaon’s Sefer Emunot v’De’ot (completed in 933). That title is usually translated as The Book of Beliefs and Opinions, but it is equally correct to translate it as The Book of Beliefs and Soul-Traits, since medieval writers (including Rambam) tended to use the term de’ot where more recent writers would use middot [traits of the nefesh-soul].
MUSSAR KALLAH IX
MANCHIM: TRAINING FOR MUSSAR GROUP LEADERS
TORAH THE MIDDAH WAY
The Torah portion each week prominently features one or more middot (or soul traits). If you have suggestions or, better yet, if you have written a drash that relates the Torah portion to a middah, please send it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We will build a database and make it available so that members of the community can have access to resources to study Torah in a middah way.
LISTEN TO ALAN'S TALK ON STRENGTH, GEVURAH
The middah [soul-trait] of gevurah is central to a life of wholeness, but what is strength? And how do we grow stronger?
In Hebrew, a person who possesses gevurah is a gibor, which is the modern Hebrew word for “hero.” In Pirkei Avot (4:1), the question is asked, “Who is a strong person?” The answer to that question, along with other important insights and practices, were the focus of a session that Alan Morinis led May 1 at the Seattle Mussar Kallah. You can listen to the talk here or go to http://db.tt/rUoOMGC.
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