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In This Issue
By Modya Silver
I’ve been thinking a lot these last 12 months about the role of community in my life.
When I think about our community here at The Mussar Institute, a community of well over 3,500 souls, it fills me with joy to think that we are all connecting at various levels, at various times in such a meaningful way. There is no higher calling than soul growth, and, as I’m coming to appreciate more, soul growth within community.
One of the founders of the Mussar movement, the Alter of Kelm, speaks about community when looking at all of creation. In “Chochmah U’Mussar,” he says “the individual creations throughout the entire world join together to fulfill the Divine Will.” It suggests that alone we can do great work, but to fulfill Divine Will we must be united. We couple that with a teaching from Reb Yisrael Salanter that says “my spiritual needs are the material needs of my neighbor.” Not only do I need to see the unification of my entire community as a necessary element, but I have to know that my concern for the material needs of my community is the appropriate focus.
The week before I spoke at Temple Beth El in Riverside, Calif., last month, the temple was picketed by neo-Nazis. How could people know they were neo-Nazis? It wasn’t hard to tell because the picketers were carrying banners with large swastikas emblazoned on them.
And the day after I spoke in Riverside, a synagogue in Sacramento, where our friend, student and colleague Nancy Wechsler-Azen is rabbi, was desecrated with anti-Semitic graffiti. Among other things it said: “Kristallnacht lives.” A fire was lit under the synagogue sign, which touched a nerve because it wasn’t long ago that another temple in Sacramento was firebombed.
Unfortunately, there is nothing particularly new in those two offensive events. Nor will we be surprised by the response we can expect from the institutions, which are defenders of our community. Jewish leaders will spring into action to hold meetings, to round up politicians from all levels, to speak through the press and to affirm our strength in the face of these threats.
Toms River Gets A “Lift”
Editor’s Note: Yashar welcomes contributions that inspire or teach fellow Mussar students. Our goal is to make space each month for guest articles. Please send your suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Congregation B’nai Israel of Toms River, NJ is getting quite a lift this fall. We are getting a “face-lift” and a “soul-lift”!
As our building is being beautified, our souls are being uplifted. For the first time ever, our Hebrew High School students are being introduced to Mussar. Rabbi Ellen Wolintz-Fields will be teaching Mussar to students and introducing them to the practice in their daily lives.
The Monthly Mussar Discussion Speaker Series began in late October. The series features Jewish Community leaders and Mussar practitioners of varying backgrounds and traditions. The discussion series is open to all, inviting them to become more familiar with the scope and depth of Mussar and what it can bring to the everyday life of the everyday person.
I continue facilitating our va’ad for Everyday Holiness: The Course, for 3rd session Mussar class members. Also, to keep things hopping, a book study based on the book “Everyday Holiness: The Path of Mussar,” by Alan Morinis began after the Holidays.
So it’s been a busy Mussar season. As the congregation focuses on its “spirituality of welcoming” with beautification of the physical space, so is it deepening the spirituality of the soul.
Toms River congratulates Beth Fleisch as she completes her Manchim program, further enriching the work of Mussar in Toms River.
Joanne Lancin in a Spiritual Director and graduate of the Manchim pogram of The Mussar Institute for group facilitator training. She can be reached at email@example.com.
Mussar Leaders in Our Midst
In the past I have convinced myself that it is fine to learn and practice Mussar on my own. I kept a daily Cheshbon HaNefesh (Accounting of the Soul) diary, chose a new middah (soul trait) every two weeks, established kabbalos (practices I took on to bring the middot home), and composed simple tunes for affirmative verses gleaned from related texts.
That seemed like enough to keep me in line. Besides, I’d taken most of the Mussar Institute’s on-line programs so I should know what to do by now and I was way too busy to initiate a group here in our small coastal community at the edge of the Jewish world.
Then someone from the community – a Rabbi, a Rebbetzin, a Hebrew teacher – would ask me to teach or organize a Mussar course and I jumped to respond as if my life depended on it. In a way, it does – my spiritual life that is. Once things got rolling I realized why. The learning that occurs in the company of other souls attracted to this type of inquiry is more powerful than anything I could ever do on my own.
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ALAN'S SPEAKING TOUR
Dec. 4th - 6the
Seeking Interview Subjects
Graduate student in counseling is seeking interviews with licensed (MFT, PhD, MD) practitioners of cognitive behavioral therapy for preparation on graduate research paper on the correlation between CBT and Mussar. Interviewees ideally will be familiar with Mussar teachings. Please contact: Laura Weissman at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would be willing to be interviewed either by phone or email, and/or if you are aware of any research done or being conducted in this area.