So we ignored those exhortations to “do t’shuva now — avoid the holiday rush” and allowed Elul to slip by underutilized. Rosh Hashana has come and gone, and the precious opportunity that the Aseres Y’mei T’shuva represent has been largely squandered.
Standing, as we are, one day prior to the Yom Hakadosh (as some European Jews, too awed to enunciate its proper name, would refer to Yom Kippur), is there anything left to do that can make a significant difference? The true answer to that question is, of course, that every seemingly miniscule tear of sorrow at the shambles of our spiritual selves, every change of heart, thought of remorse, resolve to improve, albeit imperceptible to all but oneself, is of inestimable significance.
Yet, there’s nothing like a concrete step that evinces a real change of heart and direction, a act that unequivocally conveys, to us and Him, a deep striving to at last, this coming year, get it right. And what if there was such a concrete step to be undertaken not merely in regard to a particular aspect of our spiritual landscape, but, rather, would impact upon that which the Vilna Gaon adjudged to be the sum and substance of our respective individual missions on this earth.
The Gaon states that if one doesn’t maximize his or her earthly sojourn for the goal of tikkun hamiddos (refining one’s character traits), then– to quote the Gaon’s pithy, plaintive phrasing — “lama lo chayim?” (what’s the point of living?) And, as Maran Harav Schach, zt”l, observed: That’s the Vilna Gaon speaking, the towering figure of hundreds of years of Jewish history both prior and subsequent to his lifetime, whose days and years were filled with Torah study and mitzvah performance of qualitative and quantitative levels that are inconceivable to us. But when it came to identifying our essential mission, it was, for him, none other than tikkun hamiddos.
If anything I’ve written here resonates with you, please take a few moments to read the following e-mail sent to me by a dear friend, Alan Morinis, whose extremely important work with countless Jews throughout this country and beyond deserves a lengthy post of its own (yet to come). Please feel free, as well, to bring it to the attention of family and friends; no particular level of Jewish affiliation is necessary:
A new session of THE COURSE IN MUSSAR begins October 30, 2005. Here’s what it’s about…
MUSSAR provides practical tools for soulful living. Recently, hundreds of people have been rediscovering the beauty, power and wisdom of Mussar teachings and practices, under the guidance of Alan Morinis (author of “Climbing Jacob’s Ladder”) and Shirah Bell.
The goal of Mussar practice is to foster a personal sense of “shlemus,” “wholeness.” The Course in Mussar guides you step-by-step through the cultivation of key inner traits — patience, generosity, gratitude, trust, silence, and more — that make up your personal spiritual curriculum. Sharpening awareness and mastering these traits is how you move closer to the inner wholeness that is your potential and your calling.
Rabbi Eliyahu Lopian (1876-1970) defines the work of Mussar as “Making the heart feel what the mind knows.” Rabbi Shlomo Wolbe (1914-2005) calls it “building your interior world.”
A new session of this highly regarded Distance Learning program begins October 30, 2005, offering practical Jewish spiritual wisdom to transform your life. There are no prerequisites of any kind.
For more information on THE COURSE IN MUSSAR or if you have questions, email [email protected] or visit our website http://www.mussarinstitute.org/learning-course1.htm, where you can also register online or download a registration form.