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Changing of the Guard
About five years ago, Alan Morinis called to ask if I would be editor of Yashar, The Mussar Institute’s e-newsletter, which you’re reading right now. He knew I was a working journalist and a student of Mussar. It seemed like a good fit, he explained. I was honored. But I hedged. My gut reaction was that I was just too busy.
It was a volunteer position, and I believed that I had enough on my “volunteer” plate, that my arbitrarily set quotient of volunteer work was at its limit. I was active on synagogue committees and on the board; I chanted Torah; I devoted what I thought was a fair amount of my time to my Mussar class. Outside the Jewish world, I also gave of my time. And then, of course, I had a full-time job and a family that demanded my energy as well.
February 19 – 24, 2012
Open Your Hands 18 Times in Six Days
“Generosity is one of the lofty traits,” Rabbeinu Avraham ben HaRambam writes in The Guide to Serving G-d. “It is one of the objectives of the Torah and a quality ascribed to G-d.”
The Mussar Institute will inaugurate a week of building “generosity muscles” this month from Feb. 19 to 24. The exercise is intended to open your heart by opening your hand to others, an act which in turn cultivates generosity in your heart.
We may be inclined to give, but walls around our hearts can keep us from giving freely. That’s why Generosity Week can change that pattern.
At the Mussar Kallah in November 2011, Rabbi Yaacov Haber told a story about a rabbi he had invited to come teach at his synagogue when he lived in Buffalo. Before the event took place, there had been a lot of discussion back and forth about how much the rabbi would be paid, and it was finally agreed that there would be an admission charge and the entire amount collected at the door would go to the teacher. After the event, Rabbi Haber handed over an envelope containing $2,900.
As Rabbi Haber walked the visiting rabbi to the car, a man approached and asked to speak to the teacher. He told a painful story about how his life at home with his family was so disturbed because he was out of work. The visiting rabbi took the envelope Rabbi Haber had given him and handed the entire packet of cash to the unemployed man, then got into the car.
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