I am the rabbi of Beit Hashofar synagogue in south Seattle and co-founder of Riverton Mussar.
Many thanks to all who attended our recent intro to Mussar at the summer 2014 UMJC Conference. Rabbi Paul Saal and Rabbi Jason Forbes (aka. rav rafael) presented this class to a packed room. As requested, here are the slides used. Once we get the recordings we'll publish them here too.
Due to the amount of interest at this conference, we plan to start a new year cycle after the fall holidays, on October 19th, 2014. Sign up on our email list to the right. In the meantime, we recommend you get started learning with the book Everyday Holiness.
If you want something done, ask a busy person to do it. The more things you do, the more you can do. – Lucille Ball
There’s never a dull moment around our house. As I’ve been preparing to write an article about the middah of awareness, my wife has found two stray ladybugs in our kitchen. She has made it her personal mission this Sunday to make sure they are fed and watered before she sends them off into the wild world. She has an acute awareness of so much around her. Even the little bugs in our home get her attention. At the same time, I’m considering a verse from Torah that teaches the principles of caring for our neighbor’s property and having a general concern for other.
Around our home, Jewish holidays are elaborate affairs. While I tend to be focused on the ritual and teaching aspects of the holidays, I observe that each time they come around my wife turns into a full-time caterer.
And the Lord God called to man, and He said to him, "Where are you?" And he said, "I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I am naked; so I hid." And He said, "Who told you that you are naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?" And the man said, "The woman whom You gave [to be] with me she gave me of the tree; so I ate." And the Lord God said to the woman, "What is this that you have done?" And the woman said, "The serpent enticed me, and I ate." – Bereishit 3:9-13
'The kindnesses of the Lord I shall sing forever; to generation after generation I shall make known Your faithfulness, with my mouth. For I said, "Forever will it be built with kindness; as the heavens, with which You will establish Your faithfulness."' -– Psalms 89:2-3
The lessons of kindness coming from the scriptures are as boundless as the kindness Hashem used when He formed Creation. The midrash teaches us that the Torah begins with kindness (the clothing of Adam and Eve) and ends with kindness (the burial of Moses). It seems that chesed is a fundamental force of the universe.
I tend to be a quiet guy, always desiring to choose my words carefully. I suppose part of this is influenced by people I've met journeying through life who have a lot to say but tend not to deliver.
When the ever-unfolding drama of the last chapters of Genesis comes to a climax, Joseph has drawn his father and entire family down to Egypt to weather the remainder of the famine. This wasn’t exactly what Jacob had in mind after all the years he spent in Padan Aram with Laban, building his family. But, this seems to be the story of the Jewish people. Exile upon exile has befallen us since our departure from the Garden of Eden.
It seems like whenever I turn to one of the cable TV news channels I see “Breaking News” scrolling across the bottom with some detail I used to think I shouldn’t care about. But now I sit and stare as the details slowly scroll across the screen. It’s amazing what constitutes breaking news nowadays. We see the same thing on Internet news sites. That special red box appears at the top of the page telling us what is breaking on the news scene. But, over the last few years, I have found myself more and more desensitized when I see “BREAKING NEWS” plastered across the screen.
Jacob settled in the land of his father's sojournings, in the land of Canaan. These are the generations of Jacob: when Joseph was seventeen years old, being a shepherd, he was with his brothers with the flocks, and he was a lad, [and was] with the sons of Bilhah and with the sons of Zilpah, his father's wives; and Joseph brought evil tales about them to their father. And Israel loved Joseph more than all his sons, because he was a son of his old age; and he made him a fine woolen coat. And his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, so they hated him, and they could not speak with him peacefully. – Genesis 37:1-4