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A Chanukah Mussar Musing
As the external light of the sun is reduced during the winter, we are compelled to focus on expanding our inner light, namely our soul. One level of our soul is the nefesh—spelled “nun-fay-shin.” Those letters stand for ner (light), petil (wick) and shemen (oil), an obvious allusion to the light within us. The soul is an embodiment of G-d's light, and it is our job to find how to maintain and enhance the light that G-d kindled when we were born.
We can see with another teaching in a more concrete way that our job is to help bring more light into the world. In Proverbs (20:27), we learn that our soul is the candle of Hashem. In other words, Hashem uses our soul to search around our inner being in all the nooks and crannies of our essence to see how we are growing or not growing. Just as Hashem explores, so too we are asked to explore so that we can shine a light both within our beings as well as across the entire world.
Many things that kept me running this fall are now fading into the past. I’m able to look back at memories of my daughter’s wedding, my wife’s hip surgery and recovery, plus the search for an executive director for The Mussar Institute, compounded by an extraordinarily busy travel schedule that had me flying to and from the East Coast four times in six weeks, including three red-eye flights. I find myself now able to catch a mental breath for the first time in weeks, if not months, and as I take that step back, a question arises for me that I have to face periodically.
Why do I do this work? It’s a question that I come back to periodically, and especially at the end of a spate of busyness. What is my motivation for working as hard as I do to make the study and practice of Mussar more widely available in our generation?
Wrestling with Patience and God’s Will
A student in Everyday Holiness wrote, “I'm having trouble with what seems to be the core of the Mussar approach to patience. I find the notion that situations that try our patience are God's will to be not just hard to believe, but offensive. I think of children facing abuse or in concentration camps. I can't imagine God sending that challenge because the children are able to handle it or because it's God's will. I believe those situations are the result of human misuse of our free will, not God's control of the abusive parent or abusive government. Even in less drastic situations, I may be in a situation because of someone's misuse of their free will.”
Many people struggle with these questions. I asked Alan Morinis and Rabbi Micha Berger to respond and share their comments here.
ULTIMATE REFLECTION TOOL FOR THE MUSSAR PRACTITIONER
To enhance your Mussar experience, internationally-recognized clay artist Helene Oppenheimer has created this beautiful hand-sculpted Tree of Life Middah Holder with a choice of 26 Middah Tiles as found in Every Day, Holy Day by Alan Morinis.
This Tree of Life Tile Holder and accompanying tiles makes a practical yet unique and meaningful gift – to your own soul or someone else’s.
For further details click here.
With this issue, Yashar inaugurates a new feature, celebrating the simchas of members of The Mussar Institute community.
Mazal Tov to:
Chasya-Uriel Steinbauer, chair of the team running The Mussar Institute’s Manchim program, on the birth of her daughter.
Rob Mass, a TMI board member, on being elected to partnership at Goldman Sachs.
MUSSAR KALLAH CD'S NOW AVAILABLE
The 8th Annual gathering of Mussar teachers and students featured inspiring, informative, challenging sessions by Rabbi David Lapin, Rabbi Avi Fertig, Rabbi Micha Berger, Rabbi David Jaffe, Dr. Shirah Bell and others. Order yours today. To see the full list of available sessions, click here. CDs of past Mussar Kallahs are also available on our website at www.mussarinstitute.org/audio-kallah_8.htm.
MUSSAR PROGRAMS FOR CHILDREN
If you have been developing or delivering Mussar-based or middot-based programs for children, please get in touch with Alan at firstname.lastname@example.org. For a long time we have been receiving requests to create or make available material specifically for children, which we have not done. What we believe, however, is that others have filled that gap by creating their own programs. We would love to gather some of the outlines and materials you may have been using with children with an eye either to synthesizing the best into a program or creating a "materials exchange" where we can share what has been working in our different communities. Please be in touch if you have been working in the area of Mussar and children. We want to hear from you.
How to Get Your Ad in Yashar
Need a chevruta partner? Do you have a Mussar book for sale or one you are seeking? Whatever your need or want in the area of Mussar, you can advertise your need or request in Yashar by sending it to email@example.com. We'll be sure to include your ad in the next issue, as long as we get your ad by our deadline. The deadline is the 10th of each month.
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