Friday, October 20, 2006

The Fire Within

Here's a book I've been rereading, for the I-don't-know-how-many-times-I've-read-it.

R. Hillel Goldberg: The Fire Within: The Living Heritage of the Mussar Movement
(Artscroll/Mesorah Publications, Brooklyn,NY, 1987).

A quick check on the web shows that it's now out of print,but other book by R. Goldberg are not. Perhaps Artscroll will reprint it one of these days. (Artscroll, are you listening?) But if you find a secondhand copy, it's well worth the purchase.

It is essentially a depiction--not a history, but a slightly impressionistic portrait--of the Musar movement from R. Israel Salanter down to our times. Sometimes it's a bit too impressionistic and poetic. But it expounds the teachings of Musar, and does it in a way that is very fitting for Musar: as exemplified in the lives of those who made its challenges the center of their lives, principally R. Salanter, his disciples, and the disciples of those disciples. Musar is explained not as a theoretical system, but as a way of life which is lived and applied to everything in daily life, and in showing how these men tried to live Musar, Goldberg shows us how we can live it. Perhaps not on the high plane of the Alter of Kelm and others, but still better than we live it now. For instance, here are ten resolutions--written out goals--from R. Zvi Broide, the third head of the Kelm Yeshivah, as paraphrased by Goldberg (pp. 80-81).

"1. Truthfulness--to take care to speak truth; to exclude untruth from one's affairs, for the more one rids oneself of falseness, the more that which remains stands out.
2. Love--to practice chesed or kindness with all Jews, especially with the sick and depressed, and always with a smile and understanding words.
3. Thought--to put the afterglow of the Sabbath to work in self-analysis; to identify, on Saturday night, the failures of the past week and the discipline of the coming week. In planning lies the sucess of man.
4. Contemplation--to search all deeds deeply.
5. Constancy--to raise to conciousness the obligation to be an even Hashem, a servant of G-d; from the moment of awakening, to serve Him body and soul.
6. Restraint--to curb pleasures, to break desires in times of suffering.
7. Five shemuros: to guard the tongue, for all restraints are unequal to its force; life and death are its power.
to guard the eye
to guard the heart
to guard my prayers, lest they be lost to me
to guard time, more precious than gold; to be a true eved Hashem,
not to be lackadaisical.
8. Review--to read this list continually; at the very least, weekly.
9. Deliberation--not to act on impulse. Stop, think for a moment. what is the right course of action according to Jewish law and Musar in any undertaking, spiritual or worldly.
10. Teaching--to teach Musar daily. The purpose of Musar is to search one's business dealings, commitment to truthfulness, planning (or panic), eating, and lust in the heart."

Now, is not all of that something all of us could not adopt as our own goals?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


I am fascinated with different belief systems than my own. I’ve had zero exposure to Judaism, so I am glad I found you. I found you through the Personal Development Carnival. I’ll be back frequently.


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