Category: Tools

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Hispa’alus, or: Yismach Moshe

One of the critical tools of Tenu’as haMussar is hispa’alus, “learning ‘with lips aflame.’” Literally, the word is the reflexive of “to work”, in other words “to work on oneself.” Hispa’alus is such a useful practice it even became part of their davening, tefillah behispa’alus.What is hispa’alus? The Alter of Kelm describes a four-step process: Intense and single-minded concentration on...

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Yismach Moshe II

As an example for explaining the idea of tefillah behispa’alus, I raised a number of questions about the meaning of the phrase “Yismach Mosheh“. I wrote: Yismach Mosheh — Moses will be happy bematenas chelqo — with the giving of his portion, ki eved ne’eman — because a reliable servant qaraso lo — You have called to him. The line...

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“I have a dream…”

I mentioned twice recently the connection between dimyon (imagination and the ability to recreate experiences) and desire, and the number of rishonim and acharonim who therefore associate it with the yeitzer hara, as in the sense of “and you will not veer after your hearts or after your eyes, which you often stray after”. (See this entry on the role...

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I have a dream… part II

This morning I read an article I printed off Time Magazine‘s web site that relates to a similar topic as my previous entry. The author addressed the impact of imagination or recollection on the brain, not the soul. But given my position that the form of the brain is the “shadow” cast by the soul, different manifestations of the same...

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The Tools of Mussar

There is a comment of the Vilna Gaon’s on a line in Mishlei (Proverbs) 4:26 that is included in an introduction to Cheshbon haNefesh. Here’s a translation, any errors are mine: פַּלֵּס, מַעְגַּל רַגְלֶךָ;    וְכָל-דְּרָכֶיךָ יִכֹּנוּ. Straighten the path of your feet, and all your paths will be established. I already wrote that there are two kinds of middos,...

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Book Announcement: Every Day, Holy Day

Now available. Alan’s newest book! (assisted by Rabbi Micha Berger) “You shall be holy,” teaches the Torah, and the masters of Mussar have always taken that command very seriously. Mussar is a system of introspective practices that help you identify and break through the obstacles to your inherent holiness, using methods that integrate easily into daily life. Every Day, Holy...

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Tefillah Behitpa’alut

These are notes from a talk I gave in Zion Il at the 8th Mussar Kallah. As a favor to those who asked me to publish notes, as the talk was given on Shabbos, I tried to use a more Israeli-sounding transliteration scheme than I’m used to. The result is probably sadly inconsistent. Defining Tefillah Our forefather Jacob, lying on...

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Shechitah as a Guide for Personal Evolution

I found the following on R’ Mordechai Torczyner’s blog “The Rebbetzin’s Husband“, in a post titled “Shechitah: A Guide for Evolution“. I thought that was a little confusing, like perhaps the topic would be about how to shecht animals that evolved from our current ones, so I bowlderized the title for this post. One might be forgiven for thinking of...

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Teaching Mussar

I recently commented on a post on Cross-Currents by R. Jonathan Rosenblum (RJR), an article that originally appeared in Mishpacha Magazine on July 30th 2011, titled “Dr. Middos is not Just for Kids“. A good article, worth reading, a discussion of the centrality of middos to the entire Torah. Despite the subject line, RJR concludes, “I would like to hear...

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Vayiqra 2

A second thought on the first / title word of parashas Vayiqra… וַיִּקְרָא אֶל מֹשֶׁה וַיְדַבֵּר ה אֵלָיו מֵאֹהֶל מוֹעֵד לֵאמֹר. And He called to Moshe, and Hashem spoke to him from the Ohel Moeid, saying. – Vayiqra 1:1   “וַיִּקְרָא אֶל מֹשֶׁה” – (יומא ד’ ת”כ) הקול הולך ומגיע לאזניו וכל ישראל לא שומעין יכול אף להפסקות היתה קריאה...

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Experimental Evidence of the Efficacy of Hispaalus

Scientific American just (June 24,2013) put up a podcast titled “Teaching People To Be Nice” by Christie Nicholson on their “Mind & Brain :: 60 Second Mind” series. To quote (in full): Can you train someone to be a nicer person? A recent study using meditation techniques shows that it might be possible. (The research is published in the journal...