Les Mis and mussar

Last week we saw the movie “Les Miserables,” and this week I’m reading Parashat Shemot, the first chapters of Exodus. They both shed light on the practice of order, which is one of the middot, or attributes, of mussar, Jewish ethical development (see rivertonmussar.org).The liberation of the Hebrew slaves is going to disrupt the order… Continue reading Les Mis and mussar

Honor your neighbor

The middah* of honor is an essential part of “Love your neighbor as yourself,” which in turn is essential to the command to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and substance. If we don’t honor the people around us, can we really claim to honor the God who made them? Honor… Continue reading Honor your neighbor

Doing the Shema

Judaism doesn’t put the same kind of emphasis on creeds or statements of faith that Christianity does. A true-blue conservative Christian worries first about what you believe and whether it’s orthodox. Only after he settles that, does he get around to what kind of person you are. Jews tend to consider whether or not you’re… Continue reading Doing the Shema

Positively concrete

These days I’m refocusing on the Shema as the first and greatest commandment (Mark 12:28ff) and as foundational to my work in mussar. A few weeks ago one particular of the Shema got in my face: “You shall bind these words as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your… Continue reading Positively concrete

Ears to Hear

In my mussar work for the coming year, I'm going to focus on the Shema. (Mussar is a Jewish spiritual path that emphasizes ethical transformation. Check out rivertonmussar.org.) The first ethical or character trait that we're working on is humility, so I'm thinking about how humility relates to the Shema, and I decide that Listen… Continue reading Ears to Hear

Silence, Shofars, and Elul

When the Lamb broke the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for what seemed like half an hour (Rev. 8:1, CJB). This week, our Mussar group is working on the virtue of silence (see http://www.rivertonmussar.org), but silence is the last thing you’d expect in heaven. Heaven's the scene of unending, and loud, worship and… Continue reading Silence, Shofars, and Elul