straight • upright • righteous

newsletter of  The Mussar Institute


October 2012



Yirah is not anguish, not pain, not bitter anxiety. To what may yirah be likened? To the tremor of fear which a father feels when his beloved young son rides his shoulders as he dances with him and rejoices before him, taking care that he not fall off. Here there is joy that is incomparable, pleasure that is incomparable. And the fear tied up with them is pleasant too. It does not impede the freedom of dance … It passes through them like a spinal column that straightens and strengthens. And it envelops them like a modest frame that lends grace and pleasantness … If a person is sure that the “bundle” of his life’s meaning is safely held high by the shoulders of his awareness, he knows that this bundle will not fall backwards, he will not forget it for a moment, he will remember it constantly, with yirah he will safe keep it. If every moment he checks it—then his heart is confident, and he dances and rejoices …
In the Footsteps of Yirah, Rabbi Avraham Elya Kaplan

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Alan MorinisThrough a Mussar Lens: Understanding and Experiencing Yirah

A few weeks ago, the Torah portion contained this verse from Deuteronomy / Devarim 10:12:

And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you but l’yirah the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul (etc.)

That word I left in Hebrew–l’yirah–is not an obscure Hebrew word that scholars debate that has no practical importance. Yirah is one of the great teachings of Judaism, and understanding it is hugely important to spiritual life.
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Jason WinstonWelcome

Amid the crazy cat pictures and political diatribes of Facebook, a friend posted something recently with deeper significance. It was, simply, a photograph of sand. Beach sand. Magnified hundreds of times.

I have walked across sand on countless occasions without giving it any thought at all. I have spent far more time trying to remove it from my body, clothes and shoes than pondering what might be awesome about it.
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Become a Member of The Mussar Institute

As we begin a new year, a new era is dawning at The Mussar Institute. From our early days of offering one course to today, where we offer distance and local courses, beginner and more advanced courses, our community has grown. We started with one teacher, and today we have a collection of group facilitators and teachers who are counted among the leaders in the Mussar world. This year we will be hosting our 10th Kallah!  Our earlier kallot were one-day events. Today, the kallah is a weekend retreat with visiting scholars and great community building. We have come so far, but we have much work to do!
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Yirah: The Beginning of Wisdom

shooting star from space Mussar Kallah X:
10 Years Together
October 26–29, 2012

On the shores of Lake Michigan, north of Chicago
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Jacob WeenMy Mussar Journey

Reishit Chochmah Yirat HaShem:”

“Wisdom begins in awe of the Lord:”

Seichel Tov Lechol Oseihem;”

“All who fulfill [His commandments] gain good understanding:”

Koren Siddur, pages 10-11

I came to Mussar believing the above to be true. After four years of Mussar practice, I appreciate the truth of it all the more. 
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Gary ShafferA Mussar Perspective

We are at the beginning of the Jewish New Year, nearing the end of this year’s Torah reading, and getting ready yet again to ponder beginnings and growth. We joyfully celebrate the glory of the Torah at Simchas Torah and then, just a few days later, will be immersed in Parsha Bereishit, where the glory of the universe unfolds. It is a short lived glory—humans are soon banished from Gan Eden, the first murder occurs, and by the end of the parsha, we read that God regretted His creation and decided to blot out mankind and start over. Quite a beginning.
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A pair of wise chevruta partnersMussar Kallah X: Special price for chevruta!

Meet your chevruta at the upcoming Mussar Kallah X in Zion, IL (just north of Chicago), October 26 – 29, 2012.

Come and spend time learning and sharing with your partner. To encourage you to do that, we are offering a special incentive to you and your chevruta.

When you and your chevruta register for the Kallah, you can each take $25 off the already low registration fee of $450. For some of you, this may be your first time to meet in person.

When you and your chevruta both register for the Kallah, please notify Jeff Agron at, and you will each receive a refund of $25.

Alan Morinis will be joined at this year’s Kallah by scholars-in-residence Rabbi Yaakov Feldman and Rabbi Aryeh Wolbe, two experienced and highly regarded Mussar teachers. The theme of the Kallah this year is “Yirah—the awe, reverence and fear of heaven.”

Register now.

The Practice Corner

perfect raspberryHow do we cultivate yirah? The awe-struck, tremulous feeling that opens our hearts to spiritual insight is actually available to us at every moment, if we make the effort. The Psalm (16:8) —“I place God before me always”—teaches us this lesson by requiring of us that we be active in seeking yirah. You must do something to “place” God before you. But what? To gain a yirah-inducing glimpse of the transcendent, you must sharpen your inner awareness to perceive divine Oneness wherever you look. You can practice shifting your inner vision to apprehend the scintillating divine presence in an apple, a table, a car, a baby’s eyes, anywhere in this world. When you make that choice and adjust your perception in this way, you have placed HaShem before you and yirah is sure to overtake your heart as if the floor beneath you had suddenly fallen away.

Newsletter Home
Through a Mussar Lens: Understanding and Experiencing Yirah – by Alan Morinis
Welcome – by Jason Winston
Become a Member of The Mussar Institute – by Jeffrey Agron
Kallah 2012: YIRAH – The Beginning of Wisdom
My Mussar Journey – by Jacob Ween
A Mussar Perspective – by Gary Shaffer
Mussar Kallah X: Special price for chevruta!
The Practice Corner

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