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By Len Felson
It was late October, the Sunday following Sukkot and Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah and Shabbat. In short, the end of what felt like a long Jewish holiday season. I was taking down our sukkah, and I got to thinking. If we celebrate our spiritual harvest on Sukkot, celebrating all the work we’ve invested over the year on being better people, what happens after the harvest?
If I were a farmer, the answer would be easy, as the work never lets up. There’s always something that needs to be done on a farm. So, too, there must be work for us to do, and here I’m talking about our Mussar practice. Now is the time to begin building those muscles or habits that we’ve committed to over the month of Elul and between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Now is the time to make real the changes, the teshuvah, that we said would make this year different from last year. That’s what I began thinking about as I disassembled our sukkah.
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Wall Street occupied; 700 arrested. London erupts in leaderless and apparently aimless riots. Greece is shut down by a general strike on the cusp of defaulting on its credit. Arab dictators fall faster than leaves in autumn. Israel is paralyzed by mass public outrage over the price of cottage cheese.
What is going on? These could be isolated incidents, but they are not. These populist outbursts and so many other contemporary events and statistics reflect the negative consequences of a world that has become ever more besotted with the material realm, in which collective well-being is measured in gross national product and personal success is equated to the balance in your bank account.
MUSSAR KALLAH IX
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 email@example.com. 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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