I had some time over Shabbos to read something I honestly hadn’t looked at for a number of years, Rabbi Yisrael Salanter’s Iggeres HaMussar, most recently translated by Rabbi Zvi Miller. I didn’t get very far before I came across this:
Our Sages, of blessed memory, state (Yoma 9b): “Why was the First Temple destroyed? Because of the follow three sins that occurred there: idol worship, immorality, and murder. Yet, in the period of the Second Temple, they were involved in Torah study, mitzvos, and acts of kindness-so why was it destroyed? As a result of the baseless hatred that was there. Rebbi Yochanan and Rebbi Eliezer both said, ‘Since concerning the First Temple, their trangressions were revealed-their time of redemption was revealed. In the Second Temple, where their sins were not revealed-their time of redemption was not revealed.’”
I must admit, it got me thinking. With the three weeks approaching, where was I holding in terms of my bein adam le chaveiro? I know the answer, I’ve got room for improvement. Today I saw a rusty gear. I connected to it. I know that I need to be moving in a certain direction, but when one slacks off in midos managment, one gets rusty. I quickly thought of Yisrael Salanter’s 13 Midos (strongly influenced by Benjamin Franklin). I thought it might do me some good to write a little about them. My goal is to have all the postings finished by Tisha B’Av. Heads Up: This is not directed at anyone, except myself. Like the intro to Mesillas Yesharim, I’m not writing anything that people don’t know. In fact, one of the amazing things about Rav Yisrael, was that the whole Mussar movement really was just to give emphasis to aspects of Yiddishkeit that had become commonplace for most people. That’s real the gadlus of his 13 Midos. Each one is directed toward the self, yet key for our relationship with others. I’ll start of briefly, with the first one:
Truth: Never speak a word unless your heart can testify to its truth
The first thought that comes to mind is how often do I put my heart into what I say? Rav Yisrael doesn’t say “never speak a word unless you can prove what you say”, he says that one’s heart has to be able to testify that what we say is emes. One must be passionate when one talks. I need to be alive when I say something and I need to give over that passion. Obviously the first step is to be truthful to yourself, then to others. Based on this first midah, our heart serves as a witness to what we say and who we say it to.
I know mussar isn’t a favorite topic for most of us, but comments are welcome.