Malkah Forbes, born in Upstate New York, studied Computer Science at SUNY Oswego (B.A.), where she met her future husband, Jason. Soon after, they moved to the Seattle area where her husband could pursue his career in software engineering. In tandem, Jason was studying to become a rabbi. After Jason received his smicha (rabbinic ordination) from the UMJC, both he and Malkah became leaders of their current congregation, Beit HaShofar Synagogue in Seattle, WA. Currently, Malkah is an active rebbetzin and not only teaches Hebrew, but helps to oversee and spearhead new synagogue programs. Her latest project includes Riverton Mussar, which she and her husband co-founded in 2010. She has been a frequent contributor of drashes for the UMJC website, served on the board of the UMJC National Sisterhood, Achot, and has been a speaker for various sessions at the UMJC International Conference.
When Malkah is not writing for Riverton Mussar, she can be found enjoying her three teenagers, her two delightful cats, working on her interior and garden redesign business, knitting, and sporting a serious game of Mah Jongg.
Who is rich? One who is satisfied with his lot. --Avot 4:1
I can recall our second trip to Israel as a family, when our three children were 8, 6, and 6 respectively. We rented an apartment in Yemin Moshe for a week and soaked in Jerusalem like tenants.
Then they brought him children so he could place his hands upon them and pray, but his talmidim reprimanded them. Yeshua said, “Permit the children and do not withhold them from coming to me, because theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.” He placed his hands upon them, and he passed on from there. --Matthew 19:13-15, DHE
A woman died and left no money to pay for her funeral. She was an inhabitant of one of the Lithuanian twin towns of Kovno and Slobodka, which were separated only by a small river. A dispute arose between the burial societies of both towns as to which town was responsible for her burial, and would therefore have to underwrite its costs. This dispute erupted during morning prayers, disrupting the recitation of the Shema, the declaration of God's unity.
Rabbi Salanter and his disciples were present at the time. Rabbi Salanter saw the debate dragging on, with the body consequently being left unattended, an unacceptable desecration of the dead according to Jewish law. Rabbi Salanter therefore declared that since no one was ready to bury the woman she fell under the category of met mitzvah, a person who has no one to attend to his or her burial; the obligation to bury such a person falls upon every Jew in the vicinity at the time of death. He then removed his prayer shawl and phylacteries and instructed his students to do the same. He and his students attended to the woman and buried her.
It would not have occurred to most people to interrupt their prayers in order to take upon themselves the arduous tasks of preparing the corpse of a total stranger for burial. Only someone with Salanter's highly developed ethical sensitivity would conclude that the normal obligation of prayer was superseded by the duty to provide someone with a proper burial when no one else was willing to do so. --Cited in Hillel Goldberg, The Fire Within: The Living Heritage of the Musar Movement (Brooklyn, NY: Mesorah Publications, 1987), pp. 48-49.
Rav Yisrael Salanter was a leading 19th century sage who founded the Mussar movement which was dedicated to the study and renewal of Torah teachings and halachot regarding ethical behavior and character development. One early morning, a disciple of Rav Yisrael passed through a room full of sleeping people in order to get water for the ritual washing of his hands. Rav Yisrael later rebuked him, saying: “Washing the hands when you wake up is a mitzvah instituted by our sages, but robbing others of their sleep is forbidden by the Torah!” Rav Yisrael was reminding his disciple that the Torah's prohibition, “You shall not rob” (Leviticus 19:13), includes a prohibition against “robbing” someone of his sleep.
The disciple needed to realize that his action was mistaken for two reasons: It was wrong to violate this prohibition in order to wash his hands; moreover, the mitzvah to wash one’s hands upon awakening is a rabbinic mitzvah, while robbing others of their sleep is a Torah prohibition and therefore takes priority. --taken from “Sparks of Mussar” by Rabbi Chaim Ephraim Zaitchik
Many know of the mitzvah of giving charity and of its reward, but not of the greatness of the mitzvah of words. Have our Rabbis not said (Bavra Basra 9b): "One who gives a penny to a poor man is blessed with six blessings, but one who conciliates him with words is blessed with eleven." Therefore in speaking, one must clothe himself in righteousness to speak to the poor man's heart. His words must be gentle to the poor one; he must console him in his adversity and in his ill fortune, and he must honor and uplift him. --The Ways of the Tzaddikim, pg. 145
You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might. And these words which I command you today shall be upon your heart. You shall teach them thoroughly to your children, and you shall speak of them when you sit in your house and when you walk on the road, when you lie down and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign upon your hand, and they shall be for a reminder between your eyes. And you shall write them upon the doorposts of your house and upon your gates. --Devarim 6:5-9
R. Simon said: When the Holy One, blessed be He, came to create Adam, the ministering angels formed themselves into groups and parties, some of them saying, Let him be created, whilst others urged, let him not be created. Thus it is written, Love and Truth fought together, Righteousness and Peace combated each other (Ps.85, 11). Love said, 'Let him be created, because he will dispense acts of love'; Truth said, 'Let him not be created, because he is compounded of falsehood'; Righteousness said, 'Let him be created, because he will perform righteous deeds'; Peace said, 'Let him not be created, because he is full of strife'. What did the Lord do? He took Truth and cast it to the ground! -- Midrash Rabbah, Genesis 8:5
"It's a question of discipline," the little prince told me later on. "When you've finished washing and dressing each morning, you must tend your planet." – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince, 1943, translated from French by Richard Howard