Structure is a key part of this middah, Seder. What is so good about structure?
While Emunah is usually translated as faith, in this session we focus on its related meaning – Trustworthiness. Emunah shares a Hebrew root with Oman, an artisan — someone who can be trusted or relied upon to produce a quality product. Emunah is that quality of reliability that we engender in others through our sustained honesty and consideration. A person or institution that acts with Emunah/trustworthiness is one in which you can have faith.
Bitachon may be one of the most difficult middot to acquire. The Hebrew root for Bitachon is .ח.ט.ב which means to be at ease, to trust and to be confident. In modern Hebrew the word Bitachon also means security and thus the Misrad HaBitachon is the Defense Ministry and Bituach Leumi is the National Insurance system. In classic Jewish literature the ultimate source of this sense of security is God.
In this month of Adar, we study the middah of Shtikah-Shmirat HaLashon—Silence and Mindful Speech. Rabbi Akiva, a great sage, praised silence, saying, “Silence is a fence for wisdom. (Pirkei Avot 3:13)
Wonder is the story of ten year-old Auggie, who is born with a severe facial deformity. In Augie’s words, “whatever you imagine, it’s worst.” He is homeschooled for many years because of his ongoing need for extensive surgery and his parents’ fear about how other kids might treat him. When his parents decide it is time for him to experience a traditional school, he enters fifth grade, “like a lamb to the slaughter.”
I was also concerned about being able to write a meaningful piece as I knew I would be missing the monthly meeting of the Tikkun Middot group. Studying in pairs, as we know, enhances learning, and that enrichment is multiplied when working with a group, especially one as respectful, intelligent, and safe as the mindful spirituality group of which I am so fortunate to be a part. How could I possibly impart wisdom to others before I had learned from this group and processed it? Moreover, we are only halfway through the Middot; and I am far from being enlightened.
This week our Tikkun Middot group met to reflect upon the middah for the month of Tevet (Dec 23rd to Jan 20th): chesed, or kindness. I can’t think of a more fitting middah (“soul-trait”) for these winter months, where we find ourselves going inside for warmth, light, and comfort. Chesed breaks us out of our isolation and self-absorption, out of the stillness of hibernation, as we take action to understand, pay attention and give to one another.
NOT A DAY GOES BY when we don’t face some sort of frustrating delay or obstacle, and too often our response is to strain against how things are. That tends to happen to me when I’m rushing somewhere in my car, but those feelings may suddenly sneak up on you while the water fills the tub ever so slowly, or as your child struggles with clumsy fingers to master the complexity of a shoelace, or on those days when nothing—not your Internet server, not your spouse, not the postman, nobody!!—does things when or how you want.
In this month of Cheshvan, we practice cultivating anavah–humility. A Jewish perspective* helps us recognize that true humility lies in the sweet spot on the continuum between self-deprecation on the one hand and arrogance on the other.
Temple Sholom has been awarded a grant to integrate the study of Tikkun Middot, also known as Mussar, into our congregation. This ancient Jewish spiritual practice facilitates the mindful exploration and deep cultivation of “soul traits” such as humility, patience, and kindness.