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By Len Felson, Editor
Welcome to the June edition of Yashar, The Mussar Institute’s monthly e-newsletter. Usually this space is reserved for either of TMI’s co-presidents. But in the spirit of transformation, we’re opening up the space for additional leaders and teachers in our Mussar community. I’m the editor of Yashar and a student of Mussar. Like many of you, I was first introduced to the discipline when Alan Morinis came to speak at my synagogue several years ago. I was fascinated by his talk. As a professional journalist, not only was I interested in Mussar as a personal spiritual practice, but I was also intrigued by the possibility that this phenomenon in the modern world was a story worth reporting on. I went on to write about it for The Jerusalem Report, Reform Judaism and other publications. But enough about me.
Last month I wrote about the growth of The Mussar Institute from a single course in one location to 11 programs in 55 cities across five countries in two languages.
This growth is both wonderful and exciting. At the same time, we want to make sure we help build a broader Mussar community. After all, Mussar is a powerful tool that brings us together, regardless of our background or knowledge. It helps create a sense of belonging in a supportive environment.
On the evening of the second Passover Seder we started counting “the Omer,” initiating a 49-day journey of ascent, which began with the dark degradation of slavery in Egypt and which rises all the way to the luminous events on Mt. Sinai, where we received the Torah. We mark that peak event with Shavuot, which we celebrate later this week (June 7-9/ 6-7 Sivan). This seven-week period has long been identified as the path that can lead to revelation, purity, spiritual elevation and closeness to God. Jewish communities and seekers have observed this period as a time for spiritual intensification and elevation, crafting a perennial framework for approaching God’s holy mountain in our own lives.
Last night, we counted Day 42 of the cycle as we draw closer to the culmination of this seven-week journey to revelation.
TORAH THE MIDDAH WAY
Every weekly Torah portion 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, which Alan Morinis led May 1 at the Seattle Mussar Kallah. You can listen to the talk here or go to http://db.tt/rUoOMGC.
MUSSAR KALLAH IX
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