Rav Yisrael Salanter’s 13 Midos – #5

Tranquility: Find an inner calmness; do not be overwhelmed; always act with deliberation

Ah, finally peace and quiet…or at least menucha, as Rav Yisrael would like to call it. I should keep this in mind at work when I feel overloaded, or better yet…erev Shabbos Kodesh (when the Yetzer Hora number one plan is to attack Shalom Bayis). This “inner calmness” is probably more that just chilling out. I think, for me, it means being “b’seder” with things, knowing that things will be fine. Even if a job interview doesn’t work out, or you get a dent in your car, or you kids spill paint on the floor, or decide to use a permanent marker on your computer monitor and several keys on your keyboard (this really happened once). Don’t lose that “inner calmness”. You can be vocally upset, but it need to be external. Rav Yisrael use to say to himself, “External anger, only” before rebuking others.

I, personally, know that there are times when I get overwhelmed and it seems like there’s just too much to do. As you can tell, the three phrases listed above are all connected. If I start out with a sense of balance within me, then it’s easier to keep my equilibrium. It could also mean some form of meditation. I won’t go into that, although Rav Salatner had several techiques he used. (I found Rabbi Kaplan’s Jewish Mediation to be rather user-friendly book on the subject. The last chapter actually is based on some mussar techniques.) Rav Yisrael was quoted as saying:
All worries are forbidden, except when one worries about his worrying.
From this I realized that when we get overwhelmed or panic stricken, I need to figure out what is the root cause of the lack of menucha. What am I really worried about? Once that is isolated, then it’s easier to go forward.

If I’m overwhelmed and my head is going in a thousand directions (which happens at times) how can I “always act with deliberation”? I can’t. Most people can’t. I must have that calmness and clarity when making decisions. The big decisions in life shouldn’t be made in haste, nor should I speak in haste. Whenever I do that, I tend to get in trouble with someone. Once again, these techniques are best exercised within the home. If you’ve got kids, they record, file, and cross-index everything they see you do. There are times when my kids, whom I love, seem to push the wrong buttons. I’ve been working on not getting too upset to quickly with them. This world operates on a Midah K’neged Midah basis.

8 thoughts on “Rav Yisrael Salanter’s 13 Midos – #5

  1. Pragmatician

    Terrific post, I believe that this middah is supremely important.
    Things we say in anger we may never be able to take back.
    Decisions we make in a haste we may regret dearly.

  2. Rafi G

    honestly, I did not really understand this post. I get the point about being tranquil, but not much more than that. I am slow today I guess. I will re-read it again later…

  3. socialworker/frustrated mom

    Wow just what the doc ordered. How did you know? This is my hardest struggle and I yearn for the tranquility. Now for once I feel it in a certain sense by the decision I made. I love this post thanks. Now I am psyched for the day:).

  4. FrumGirl

    I started reading Jewish Meditation but never finished it, now Im curious about the last chapter maybe I will pick it up again… isnt it mostly based on sefer hayetzirah? It seems to me now after reading your series so far that Rabbi Yisraels 13 midos are really a recipe for good mental health for a time pre-psychotherapy… very cool!

    Its so true about the yetzer hora on erev shabbos… thanks for this post!

  5. Neil Harris

    Prag: Very true.

    Rafi: I took out the last part, someone else in RBS didn’t get it either.

    SWFM: Glad to help you start your day.

    FG: Jewish Med is more on basic meditation. I usually get all foggy-headed when I read any of the “kabbalah” stuff that Rabbi Kaplan produced, but I found this book to be super useful, especially for davening.
    Friday afternoons are killers!

  6. Pes

    I never could master that “outward anger only” excercise. I can relate to the Pirkei Avos: slow to get angry/easy to pacify, but anger feels painfully internal in nature. Any suggestions on a Rav Salanter primer?

  7. Neil Harris

    Yeah, “external anger” is kind of an unusual technique, in the sense that it’s good for us not to get angry on the inside, but if you’re dealing with a child who won’t eat dinner or breaks something on purpose, then the child only sees you being angry externally. The kid has no clue that your “chilled out” internally.
    Pirkei Avos has it more on target (it is a Mishna-more kedusha). I try, and I slip a lot) not to get too angry with my kids. This way, when I do show external anger they know that I’m really uspet. As I look around at other people, it seems that during the three weeks, and especially the 9 days, people get angrier a lot easier. That probably why we are told NOT to hit our children during this period.
    I found the book “The Fire Within” (Artscroll) by Rav Hillel Goldberg to be a good book on the mussar movement, and he’s extensively on Rav Yisrael.
    Thanks for coming by the blog.


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