Category Archives: RYS’s 13 Middos

Yahrtzeit of Rabbi Yisrael Salanter and his 13 middos

From Mikor Baruch pg 1111 (

This Shabbos Kodesh, the 25th of Shvat, is the yahrzeit of Rabbi Yisrael Salanter zt’l.  This was prepared in zechus of a refuah shelayma for Reuven ben Tova Chaya and Miriam Orit bas Devorah.
A downloadable pdf version is available here.

 Middos of Rabbi

Yisrael Salanter


זריזות Alacrity

חריצות Diligence


מנוחת  Tranquility

נחת Gentleness

נקיון Cleanliness

סבלנות Patience

סדר Order

ענוה Humility

צדק Justice

קמוץ Thrift

שתיקה Silence

אמת – שלא להוציא מן הפה דבר שאין הלב מעיד על אמיתותו.

Truth– Never speak a word unless your heart can testify to its truth.

Do the words we speak to others clearly reflect the feelings in our heart?  It is vital that when we talk with our friends or family members we open up ourselves and show them who we really are.   Our heart serves as a witness to what we say and who we are.  The gemara in Yoma 69b states that Hashem’s “seal” is אמת, truth.  By committing to speak the truth in all matters, we are connecting to Hashem in a very powerful way. 

זריזות-שלא לבטל רגע לבטלה. כן לעשות מה שדרוש לעשות.

Alacrity– Never waste a single moment; do what has to be done.

Do you grab moments in life or do they slip away?  This middah is about grabbing the opportunities that Hashem puts in front of us when it comes our way.  When it comes to doing what has to be done, it’s all about priorities.  Some things are clearly not as important to do as others.  The sefer Orchos Tzaddikim says that we learn alacrity from Avraham. Before the Akeida, he “woke up early in the morning” (Bereishis 22:3).  We are not just talking about mitzvos, though.  We have to approach daily tasks with this same energy.  It can be emails in your inbox, dishes in the sink, an assignment in school, or laundry.  Things need to be accomplished in a timely fashion.

חריצותלעשות מה שהוחלט לעשות בשקידה וברגש.

Diligence– Do what you have determined to do and do it with feeling.

How long is your “to do” list?  If you are like most people, just when you take one thing off your list, two more are written down.  While the previous middah dealt with doing what has to be done in a timely manner, this is different. This middah is more about actualizing your decisions by following through.  We can make plans to exercise, start dieting, or even to learn more Torah, but for many these are just “plans”.  Making up my mind is only step one.  Step two is to make it happen.  Rabbi Yisrael teaches us the secret to following step two.  He says, “Do it with feeling.”   To take an idea or make a decision and bring it into this world is a powerful thing.  When we are passionate about what we try to do, we are that much closer to success.

כבוד – להיזהר בכבוד כל אדם ואפילו של זה שאין אנו תמימי דעה עמו.

Honor: Be careful to treat all people with honor, even those with whom you have little in common.

Do you treat everyone you know with honor?  The idea behind this middah is that everyone is created in the image of Hashem, even if we don’t like them.  This means that we have to recognize that their neshama (soul) is connected to Hashem.  We all know sometimes it’s easier to be nice to strangers in a store than it is with those that we live with.  To be known as a nice person on the street isn’t a big deal.  Being a nice person when we enter the front door of our homes is much more difficult.  There are people you meet in life that you simply find it difficult to connect with or even get along with.  They might be more or less observant than you, daven somewhere else, or have totally different values than you do.  We can’t forget that they are also created by Hashem.

מנוחה – מנוחת הנפש, לבלי היות מבוהל ולעשות כל דבר במנוחה.

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

Do you find time to relax and chill out?  The middah of menucha, or tranquility, is an important and overlooked trait.  We are all so concerned about staying connected and running from place to place that it’s easy to forget that we need to have a feeling of calmness within us.  Rabbi Salanter urges us not to get overwhelmed with life, especially with problems that arise.  If I start out with a sense of balance within me, then it’s easier not get overwhelmed and panic stricken.  When we feel the pressure of having too much to do, we find it difficult to make decisions.  This is why it’s suggested to “always act with deliberation.”

נחת – דברי חכמים בנחת נשמעים, ולכן השתדל לדבר כן.

Gentleness: The wise speak in a gentle manner; always try to speak softly.

When do find yourself shouting?  The Ramban, in his famous letter, instructs his son to, “Get into the habit of always speaking calmly to everyone.”  Speaking to others gently allows you to not only be heard, but to listen to another person.  When we get aggravated and raise our voice, usually someone will do the same.  We end up yelling so loud that we can’t even hear the other person or their side of the story.  Rabbi Yisrael Salanter is teaching us that that our words are powerful.  Everyone has been hurt by something that someone has said to them. While physical abuse is outwardly more apparent, verbal abuse hurts us on the inside. Sharp words hurt.  Softly spoken words can hurt too, but might be better received.

ניקיון – ניקיון וטהרה בגופו ובבגדיו.

Cleanliness: Attain cleanliness and purity in body and clothing.

How do you appear to other people?  This isn’t a lesson in my hygiene and appearance.  It’s about how the outside world views me.  If I recognize that my neshama was given to me my Hashem, then that needs to be reflected in how I present myself in the world.  If we look in the mirror and are happy with what we see, it means something.  Our outer appearance needs to reflect our inner appearance.  The type of Jew we are at home should also be the type of Jew we are when we are not at home.  If we really are children of the King of Kings, then how we carry ourselves and dress should reflect that honor.

סבלנות – לסבול במנוחה כל מקרה וכל פגע בחיים.

Patience: Calmly confront every situation and absorb each occurrence in life.

Is there someone that eats away your patience?  The root of the Hebrew word for patience means load or burden (based on Alei Shur by Rabbi Shlomo Volbe zt’l).  Being a patience person means that see the whole picture, the parts we like and parts we don’t like.  We might not like the person we are dealing with or a specific situation, but we carry that with us.  Sometimes I’ll notice myself getting impatient and just stop what I’m doing and count backwards from 30 to 1. That usually helps me.  We have to remember that challenges and difficulties are like a computer virus.  If you stop them early, you can save your operating system.

 סדר – לעשות כל מעשה ועניין בסדר ובמשטר.

Orderliness: Carry out your responsibilities in all aspects in an orderly fashion.

What happens when you don’t follow your GPS directions in order?  We all know it is important to follow the correct directions or we’ll get lost.  No matter if it’s a school report, project for work, a recipe for dinner, or the way to perform a mitzvah, there’s an order that has to be followed.  It’s easy to get frazzled quickly when responsibilities stack up. This is why we have to have to know what needs to be done first.  Pirkei Avos (5:7) states that one of the seven characteristics of a wise person is that, “He responds to first things first and to latter things later.”  This is a simple, yet practical application of the middah of orderliness.

ענוה – להכיר חסרונות עצמו ולהסיח דעת ממומי חברו.

 Humility: Recognize your own shortcomings and disregard those of your fellow man.

Do you know anyone that thinks they are always right?  According to Rabbi Salanter, the first step in attaining humility is realizing our own strengths and weaknesses.  We all excel in certain things and there are other areas that we need to work on.  It’s important to remember this when dealing with others.  We all need to learn to see the positive things in others.  Each time we deal with someone, we need to stop looking at their shortcomings and see the positive things that we can learn from others. By doing this we can grow into the person we are meant to be. 

צדק – כפשוטו וכדרשתו: ‘וותר משלך’.

Righteousness: In its most basic form; and also to be to “forgo your own interests”.

Are justice and righteousness the same thing?  Both can only be measured by a set standard.  In our lives, that standard is Hashem’s Torah.  Doing the right thing isn’t always easy.  Rabbi Yisrael Salanter says that we have “to be willing to even give up things that can benefit us.  This could include:  a parking spot, your seat in shul, the last delicious brownie, giving a smile or a kind work to another person.   Rabbi Salanter’s great-grandson, Rabbi Eliyahu Eliezer Dessler zt’l, took this concept of giving and taught that there are two types of people in the world, givers and takers.  Being a giver is truly a righteous thing.

קמוץשלא להוציא פרוטה שלא לצורך.

 Thrift: Do not spend even a penny unnecessarily

Do we purchase what we need or what we want?  This is a very different middah than the previous ones, because it directly related to so something material.  How we spend our money gives us is an indication of what we value.  We need to realize that every dollar and every penny is ultimately given to us by Hashem and we should be careful about how we spend it.  There is nothing wrong with working hard and owning things that you feel you deserve.  However, affluence isn’t everything.  It’s what we do with our money that demonstrates the quality of who we are.  As it states in Eruvin 65b:  A person is recognized through three things – his Kos (how he acts after drinking), his Ka’as (anger), and his Kis (wallet or how he spends).

שתיקה – יחשוב את התועלת שבדבריו קודם שידבר.

Silence: Think about the benefit of your words before you say them.

How often do you say something without really thinking about it?  Words reveal our thoughts and allow us to connect with others.  We talk, text, email, constantly, connecting with others.  We need to think about what we say and how those words can help another person.  A kind word or show of thanks is an extremely powerful force.  When praying, we also are using the power of speech.  Rabbi Yisrael Salanter’s final middah challenges each of us to think about the gift of speech.  When we communicate with someone, we need to realize that we are revealing part of our neshama, that which is connected to Hashem, the source of all truth. 

This publication was written in merit of a complete recovery for Reuven ben Tova Chaya and Miriam Orit Bas Devorah and in conjunction with the yahrzeit of Rabbi Yisrael Salanter zt’l (25th of Shevat)

The Hebrew text for the 13 middos is based on written accounts about Rabbi Yisrael Salanter printed in the sefer Mikor Baruch by Rabbi Baruch Epstein zt”l, page 1111.

My thanks to Rabbi Micha Berger for his essay and chart regarding the 13 middos.  Available here:

For additional copies or a pdf file, please send an email to

© 2012 Neil Harris

Rav Yisrael Salanter’s 13 Midos- #13

Silence: Deliberate on the ramifications of your words before uttering them

Let’s get down to business. If you read my last posting then you know that there are times when we don’t need to speak. There are times when we’re tired, or upset, or we’ve had one to many l’chaims and we just say whatever pops into our head. This is the worst. It’s only the worst because the person we’re speaking to thinks that we’ve put hours of thought into, what we know, is an off-the-cuff remark.

“If you can’t say something nice, then don’t say anything at all.” How many times did my parents say that to me? I know, sometimes, I feel an urge to put my two cents in, just to be heard. At times, you truly show how intelligent you are by knowing when to keep your mouth closed.

Rav Yisrael says that we need to deliberate on the ramifications of your words before uttering them. How often do I say something without really thinking about it? How often do I daven without really thinking about what I’m saying? How often to I talk to family members without really thinking before I speak?

As I wrote when I first started this series, the gadlus of Rav Yisrael’s 13 Midos is that they have applications on both the Bein Adam L’makom and Bein Adam L’chavero levels (which are really equal levels).

Words reveal our thoughts. It doesn’t make a difference if we’re talking to a friend, writing an email, posting a blog, or even commenting on one. I need to think before I speak. I remember once posting a comment on a blog and the admistrator deleted what I wrote. I had criticized another comment posted by someone else. I was polite when I made my criticism, but there was that underlying tone, that came through loud and clear in what I had written.

Rav Yisrael’s last midah challenges me to think about how powerful the gift of speech really is. When I communicate with someone, I need to realize that I’m revealing part of my neshama. The part in me that is connected to Hashem, the source of all truth.

This brings us back to the first midah
Truth: Never speak a word unless your heart can testify to its truth

Before I write about Rav Yisrael’s final Midah…

The following was recently posted on the “Daily Salanter” by Prof. Yitzchok Levine:

Rabbi Israel used to say that both the hasid and mitnagid ought to be reproved: the hasid for saying “Why do I need a book for religious study, when I have a rebbe?” The mitnagid for saying, “If I have a book for religious study, why do I need a rebbe?”

There are things that we do that we shouldn’t. There are thing that I do that I shouldn’t. There are also things that I don’t do that I should. Things that would help my neshama and my family. That is what Rav Yisrael is saying. Everyone has room for improvement, and not just during the month of Elul.

I know, for myself, that I am far from where I need to be. This was, as I’ve written previously, the impetus in blogging about Rav Yisrael’s 13 Midos. It’s my online Chesbon Hanefesh. I reread all of twelve of my midos postings tonight. The look great on my monitor. They sound great when I read them to myself. When it comes to real life application of the 13 Midos…I feel that I’m further away from where I should be after blogging about them. This isn’t a statement of false-humility. It’s just much easier to read about how I want to act, than it is to put it all into action at times. That’s probably why Rav Yisrael listed them as 13 different midos, so people could work on them one at a time instead of taking on an “all-or-nothing” attitude.

The last Midah #13 is SILENCE. If all goes well, it will be the topic of my next posting. I recently chose not exercise this midah during a conversation and ended up not looking like a mensh. I probably should have blogged about our next midah a lot sooner. The lesson I learned is that I always need to keep myself in ‘check’. I made a mistake.

I could rationalize that “we all make mistakes”, but a quick read of the second chapter of Mesillas Yesharim kills that rationalization in an instant:

THE IDEA OF WATCHFULNESS is for a man to exercise caution in his actions and his undertakings; that is, to deliberate and watch over his actions and his accustomed ways to determine whether or not they are good, so as not to abandon his soul to the danger of destruction, God forbid, and not to walk according to the promptings of habit as a blind man in pitch darkness. This is demanded by one’s intelligence…One who walks this world without considering whether his way of life is good or bad is like a blind man walking along the seashore, who is in very great danger, and whose chances of being lost are far greater than those of his being saved. For there is no difference between natural blindness and self-inflicted blindness, the shutting of one’s eyes as an act of will and desire.

The RAMCHAL says it all. For there is no difference between natural blindness and self-inflicted blindness, the shutting of one’s eyes as an act of will and desire. I am quick to close my own eyes to the worst aspects of my own personality. I close my eyes to the inconsistencies that creep up every once in a while. While I try to be constistant with what I blog about and how I act, there are times when I mess up. There are times when I get hot-headed, stressed out, or just forget that we are all created b’tzelem Elokim. Either I notice it myself or, more often than not, Hashem sends a sheliach (messenger) to let me know.

Rav Moshe Weinberger mentions on his “Inspired Parenting” shirum that the ikar nachas (the essence of happiness) for a parent is to see their child fall and get up again. The comfort in knowing that I can bring nachas to Hashem, my father, gives me strength to get up again after I fall.

To be concluded…

Rav Yisrael Salanter’s 13 Midos- #12

Thrift: Do not spend even a penny unnecessarily

This is a very different midah that all of the previous ones I’ve written about. Take a look back and you’ll see that each of the other midos are character traits concepts that don’t involve material items. This midah directly discusses something very materialistic, money.
The following might shed some light on why Rav Yisrael thought that the concept of “thrift” was so important in midos development:

A person is recognized through three things – his Kos (how he acts after drinking), his Ka’as (anger), and his Kis (wallet or how he spends).- Eruvin 65B

How we spend what Hashem give us is an indication of what we value. I remember my parents always telling me not to spend my money on foolish things. As l think about the things that I still own from when I was growing up I really only have a few books (literature) that belonged to me while I was in high school and maybe half a dozen cassette tapes (yes I still have them). All the other things that I bought when I was much younger are long gone.

Rav Yisrael says, “Do not spend even a penny unnecessarily.” If we realize that every dollar and every penny is ultimately given to us by Hashem, then shouldn’t we be careful how we spend it? Our salaries at work, what money we make selling things on Ebay, what (if anything) we get back after taxes are all decided for us by Hashem. There have been times in my life when I went to Starbucks every day of the work week. There have been times when I’d be happy to have enough money for (I dread to even write the next two words) instant coffee.

We also need to cheshbon out how we spend our money. Until this past week gas prices were out of control. I constantly heard on the radio that Americans were drastically changing their spending habit due to high prices at the gas pumps. Every cent we spend is important, especially towards Shabbos Kodesh.

The truth behind this midah is that Hashem provides exactly what we need (I can’t write this enough). Part of the draw of the Haskallah was that you could be cultured, intelligent, affluent, and accepted into non-Jewish society even if you were Jewish. Have thing changed all that much?
Rav Yisrael, I believe, wanted to remind Jews that affluence wasn’t everything. It’s what you do with your pennies that counts.

There’s a story in Holy Brother that come to mind. It’s about how we spend money…
The summer before Reb Shlomo Carlebach zt’l was nifter he was in a coffeeshop in Liberty, NY. He had ordered a soda to go. He was told that the price was only $.50. He gave the cashier $2.00 and told her to keep the change. The person Reb Shlomo was with whispered to him, “Shlomo, when you order to go, you don’t give a tip, and certainly you don’t give a $1.50 tip for a $.50 soda.”
He smiled at the person he was with, Yitta Halberstam Mandelbaum (from the Small Miracles series of books), and said, “Holy sister, Yitta, I know, I know. But I’m trying to make up for unzer tierla yiddalach (our sweet Jews) who don’t give tips, and consequently make a chillul Hashem (defame God’s name).”

It’s truly amazing how we can use everything that Hashem give us. Good Shabbos Kodesh!

Rav Yisrael Salanter’s 13 Midos- #11

Righteousness: In the normal sense of justice; and also as the sages interpret the term- give up what is yours even when not required to do so

Earlier this morning in shul I (along with anyone else who went to shul) heard:
“Justice, justice shall you pursue, that you may live and possess the land the Lord, your God, is giving you.” Devarim 16:20

As I enter Elul, I wonder what is the true meaning of “Righteousness”, justice, or Tzedek?
There are mitzvos that seem to make since based on how things run in a society that is governed by basic human rights (Rav Hirsch dedicates a great deal to this concept in his commentary on Chumash and several chapters specifically in Horeb and in the Nineteen Letters, but a discussion about his views will be for another time). Maybe this is what Rav Yisrael means by “in the normal sense of justice”?
I think it means that we all have certain thing that we are entitled to. When I say that we are entitled to certain things, I really mean that Hashem gives me what I need at a certain time. Ultimately, Hashem deals with me in a way that my needs are fulfilled based on my merits. There are exceptions to every rule, and some people do seem to get more in life than we may think that they merit. Reb Nachman has a whole teaching about this (the Treasury of Unearned Gifts).

Rav Yisrael goes on to give us a better definition of Tzedek, “give up what is yours even when not required to do so”. To me, it doesn’t get more practical that this. Just because something is “yours” you can still give it up.
A few examples come to mind: giving up your parking spot, giving up your seat in shul (putting aside the concept of “makom kevuah” for a minute), your kids giving up their room for a guest, not taking the last brownie, , giving up a smile or a kind work, or (and this just happened to me) giving up on taking the credit for a great one-liner during kiddush after shul (I’m only using this as an example. When my line was used by someone after they heard me say it I was, truthfully, kind of upset, but then decided that it really wasn’t worth it only because the goal of what I said was to bring a little humor and levity to the kiddush, and not to show how witty I could be).

I find it interesting that Rav Yisrael’s great- grandson, Rav Eliyahu Eliezer Dessler took this concept of giving and taught the Torah observant world that it is giving that leads us to love, not love that leads us to giving. Rav Dessler, in fact, devided the world into two types of people: Givers and Takers. To quote from Rabbi Aryeh Carmell’s translation of Michtav Me-Eliyahu, “Man has been granted this sublime power of giving, enabling him too be merciful, to bestow happiness, to give of himself.” (Strive For Truth! Volume I, page 119)

As each day brings me closer to Rosh Hashanah, I hope I can be a giver, and not a taker.

If anyone is interested in viewing what Elul was like back in the day, please feel free to read Elul in Slabodka.

I’m sorry for not posting too much last week, but I decided to greatly reduce my online time and blog reading/commenting. Last week was a difficult exercise in self-control, but I managed. I’m still reading/commenting, but I’ve set aside certain time at night to do so (and not every night). Going online and checking email throughout the day is something of a habit for most of us. I found it, in some ways, conciously controling my urges to check email/blogs much more difficult that some of the things I stopped doing when I became frum.

On a more serious note, please, if you can, continue to daven for Reuven ben Tova Chaya. The health of any child is a true Bracha from Hashem.

Rav Yisrael Salanter’s 13 Midos- #10

Humility: Recognize your own shortcomings and disregard those of your fellow man

Ahh, the time-honored debate between anavah and ga’avah…well not really according to Rav Yisrael. He takes a different spin on what everyone from the Ramchal to Rabbi Dr. Twerski says about humility, in my humble opinion (no pun intended).

Recognize your own shortcomings and disregard those of your fellow man.” This is a classic example of how bein adam l’atzmo (how we relate to ourselves) can flow into bein adam l’chavero (interpersonal relations). The first step in true humility or anavah is to know where we are lacking.
I think that I need to be very aware of where I fall short. I know, since I started blogging about the 13 Midos, I’m much more sensitive to what my own shortcomings are. It’s important to know what my accomplishments are, but even more important for me to know what areas I need to work on.

An idea attributed to the Baal Shem Tov comes to mind. It’s said in his name that when we see negative midos in others it’s really a reflection on those same midos that are lacking in ourselves. For example, let’s say you look in your spouse’s van and notice that it’s not so clean. And you happen to say something to your spouse about it (hypothetically, of course). The odds are that your car isn’t too clean either! It’s easier to say or think something negative about someone, but that’s exactly why we shouldn’t (more on this idea in a future posting). It’s just bad manners (which is different than bad midos) to point the finger at the other guy. It’s also hypocritical.

“…disregard those of your fellow man” is the tricky part. There’s a great line by Rav Kook that I love. He said that he would rather be guilty of baseless love, than of baseless hatred. Most people have some quality that we can admire, even beyond the “Yiddishe Neshama” factor. It’s really a sensitivity training issue. On the most basic level, there’s always something that someone else can do better than we can. Looking at that one thing instead of what someone is lacking is a good start. Each time I deal with someone, I need to stop looking at their shortcomings. There’s so much to gain by finding traits in others that I can grow from. That helps me come to grips with my own shortcomings.

But what about the person who took my parking space on the street? Or the person who is always interrupting me? Or the obnoxiously loud family at the park on Shabbos? Or the person who shoved me just get that last copy of Orchos Tzadikim that was on sale? Those people only have “shortcomings”.

Alright, sometimes when dealing with others we need a little creativity in the “dan l’kof zechus” department. I constantly tell myself enough that how I treat others is directly connected to my active relationship with Hashem.

By not focusing on others’ shortcomings I’m fulfilling the mitzvah of Ahavas Yisrael, which is a pretty good thing, in my opinion.

Rav Yisrael Salanter’s 13 Midos- # 9

Orderliness: Carry out your responsibilities in all aspects in an orderly fashion

When I first read years ago, I was fairly organized. I use to keep tons of lists all organized by levels of importance and somehow over the years I’ve come to slack off a lot in this department. Family and work demands seem to have over-shadowed the importance of order, sadly. Perhaps blogging about this Midah will re-ignite my organizational skills (it would sure make my life easier in every aspect). At casual glance, it’s obvious why we had to learn about patience first. Calmly confront whatever circumstance presents itself. I know for myself, that I need a sense of clarity before I can have order.

An organized mind functions better than the opposite, so I’ve been told. In terms of mitzvah observance, ones’ daily seder is of the upmost importance. However, most things in life has a set order. For example: my cup of coffee. There’s a simple order to how it’s made. First I put the sugar in so that when the hot coffee is poured over it, the sugar dissolves right away, then I add, preferably, fat free half & half.

As I mentioned above, I know that over the years I’ve slacked off on the is Midah. I find that I get too frazzled quickly when I let my responsibilities stack up. This is a major lacking on my part. Rav Yisrael says I should carry out my responsibilities in all aspects in an orderly fashion. Order at the workplace is important. Even if one is disorganized, knowing what needs to be done first is key. Lack of order at home…yikes!
I’m always catching myself when I think about telling my son to clean up after himself. How many times am I guilty of what I expect him to do?

A line from Lecha Dodi come to mind: סוף מעשה במחשבה תחלה
sof ma’aseh bemachshavah techilah translated as “last in deed, but first in thought ” or the final outcome has been thought out at the beginning. This is a powerful concept that, in truth, might deserve its’ own posting in the future. If I know what my goal(s) should be then it’s easier to carry out any responsibility.

If you look at Pirkei Avos (5:7), it states that one of the seven characteristics of a wise person is that: He responds to first things first and to latter things later. This is a simple, yet practical application of the Midah.

True confession time. This post has taken me a few days to compose. Several parts were, in fact, written at different times. I thought that writing about Zerius was difficult, that was nothing. (Now what I’m about to say might be repeated in a future posting, I apologize in advance.) One of the purposes of blogging about the 13 Midos was to engage in a long over due Cheshbon HaNefesh. I hadn’t really done a serious one in about 5-6 years. I figured that using Rav Yisrael’s 13 Midos would be a rather good platform for tackling basic areas of improvement. While my writing has, B”H, been fluid with the other 8 midos, this one got me stuck. I guess the realization that I’ve lost my grip on the midah of seder hit me in the face. As this blog has helped me my own Avodas Hashem, having to write about this particular midah is a step for me in Tikun HaMidos. Thanks for tagging along.

Rav Yisrael Salanter’s 13 Midos- #8

Patience: Calmly confront whatever circumstance presents itself; absorb each blow that life brings

I should probably tape this to my rear-view mirror. I’ll explain…
As a general rule, I’m fairly patient. At times, my two Uberdox kids do grind my nerves, but I love them, and usually that love over-rides any impatience I might have. I use to be the opposite. This is a midah that I work on constantly. Sometimes I’ll notice myself geting uptight, or impatient and just stop what I’m doing and count backwards from 30 to 1. That usually helps me. I find that when I’m driving someplace and I can’t control the flow of traffic, or a red light, or someone not using their turn signal, is when I feel that lack of patience creep in.

Rav Yisrael implores us to “calmly confront whatever circumstance presents itself“. I guess I need to review my notes on Tranquility (Find an inner calmness; do not be overwhelmed; always act with deliberation). If I go into every situtation with true menucha then a direct result should be savlanus. No matter what difficulty arises I have the ability to approach it with patience.

Look, this might seem like fluff, but it’s true. At least, for me it is. I’m not anyone special. I struggle with tuition payments, have trouble waking up in the morning, and I’m blogging instead of getting of collecting laundry. I also believe in how Rav Salanter’s Midos can help change me and make me into a better Jew. Life is difficult, there’s no question. Sometimes our Yeter Hara works overtime. I wrote, very personally, about that in my last posting. The RAMCHAL, in Mesillas Yesharim, states that life isn’t meant to be easy. It’s suppose to be a challenge. I have, at times faced horrific life situations and ordeals. I also once really hurt myself building my sukkah. Life is not meant to always be a trip to Six Flags. When things don’t go right, I need to exercise patience. Patience is something that I can control and use to my advantage.

Absorb each blow that life brings. That’s our job in life. Relationships don’t work out the way we always plan them to. Our car doesn’t start in the morning. You put salt in your coffee on day instead of sugar (I did this once at work, it was December 1995. I will never make that mistake again). I need to be like a sponge or some NASA-spawned space foam that absorbs every difficulty. I don’t need to stop each blow that life brings (read challenge), but I do need to slow them down. If I let challenges and difficulties get buffered before I internalize them, it’s probably easier to cope.

There are some things that I’m impatient for. Today, listening and say kinos, I couldn’t wait for our Galus to end. I’m still waiting. I can’t wait for a huge cup of coffee (I can’t help it, I love coffee). I really didn’t really miss listening to music, although Piamenta will be played tomorrow at work. I also couldn’t wait to daven Mincha today. I truly missed my tallis and tefillin this morning. I felt a lacking. Maybe that was the point.

I was, thanks to technology, able listen to Rav Moshe Weinberger’s teleconference tonight before mincha. I felt a little guilty. I think I enjoyed it too much (Frum Idlealist knows exactly what I mean). One thing he said that really hit home was that then the Churban happened Klal Yisrael was hit with a moment of emes. We realized that we didn’t have our Father with us anymore. Rav Weinberger used the example of when a child is sent away from the Shabbos table. The child cries and cries because they miss their mom and dad… and they miss a chance for a bracha. We’ve been sent away from the Shabbos table, twice now.

Parashas Va’eschanan starts out with Moshe pleading to go into Eretz Yisrael. Hashem answers, “It is too much for you!” (pasuk 26). Rashi says that much more is in store for you (in Olam Haba). More that the land of Eretz Yisrael. Much is the goodness that is kept for you. (Sifrei)

We see from this that good things come to those who wait. It’s not just patience, it’s how we exercise it that matters. I hope you have a good Shabbos Kodesh.

Several of Rav Weinberger’s shiurim are available for free by clicking here. I found the “Judging Others Favorably” mp3 to be excellent. Check it out, if you have time.
I hope you have a good Shabbos Kodesh and a comforting one, as well. Thanks for reading.

Midah #7- A personal story

If you haven’t figured it out, I will not finish all 13 Midos by Tisha B’Av. It’s taken a lot more introspection that I thought it would to post on the Midos. I’m glad I’ve been doing it and will continue until they are completed.

I was going to tell this story in the previous comments section of Midah #7, but it deserves its’ own posting.

This is a true story and I only write it to emphasis Midah # 7 and the importance of trying to be a Mentch Yisrael. It isn’t meant as a rant or to cause friction between Jews.

Two summers ago, my family and I went to Upstate NY. We decided to drive into Woodbourne and get something to eat. I, of course, wanted to go check out the seforim store (which happens to rock). As I walk in, I say hello to the owner and ask if he’s having a nice day. “Baruch Hashem,” he replies.

We proceed to browse around and get a few items. A kippah for my son, a few kids books, a believe I got an Artscroll Mishnah, and a copy of the Chofetz Chaim’s Lesson a Day (a real deal for only $7.99). As I’m look around the store I notice a father with his two high school sons standing by the cash register. I see the father look at me and then hear him say, “People like him come in to a store like this? What would he want with seforim?”

Note: I was wearing a polo shirt and khaki pants.

Then the owner says to this man and his sons, “Yes, people like him shop here. And guess what? When he walked in, he said hello to me and asked how I am. When you came in you didn’t say a word to me. I’d take a customer like him anyday.” This guy is my hero.

What this man and his kids were wearing and where they fell on the hashkafa chart doesn’t matter.

You can look decent and be a mensch or you can go “casual” and be a mensch. Just be a mensch.

Rav Yisrael Salanter’s 13 Midos- #7

Cleanliness: Attain purity and cleanliness of body and dress

It seems a little weird writing about bodily cleanliness during the nine days, when one’s emphasis isn’t on our outward appearance. It’s much easier for me to focus on my neshama, instead of my guf. But the guf does house my neshama.
I can only guess that Rav Salanter, who was known for listening to medical advice, is referring to general hygiene and appearance. Now, health issues were rather serious back in the late 1800, as evident by the famous “cholera epidemic” on Yom Kippur in Vilna. This midah is about much more than just brushing your teeth. It’s about how the outside world views me.

My outer appearance needs to reflect my inner appearance. I try to reflect Torah values when I’m in my home and outside as well. Cleanliness of dress is an extension of what Rav Yisrael was trying to do with the Mussar movement. It was part of the refinement of character. Everyday Jews and yeshiva students alike could reach a higher level of self-worth. Teaching Jews to maintain a clean appearance and dress respectfully helped to counter the allure of the Haskallah. If one can look refined and still be Torah Jew, then all the better.

It’s really more of a mindset, for me, than anything else. If I really, truly, am a son of the King, then how I carry myself and how I dress should reflect that honor. This idea really holds true for most things in life. So why would Rav Yisrael stress cleanliness? Simply because I need to be happy with myself when I look in the mirror.

Do the clothes make the man? At times, yes. They also help make one into a Mensch Yisrael (to borrow a Hirschian term) and that’s my goal.