Enthusiasm and Courage

Samain                                                                   Bare Aspen Moon

No more metaphysical presleep wanderings. Just to sleep, to dream, to wake again. Grateful each morning for that. Grateful too for the food in our fridge, the wonderful house Kate found, Kate, the dogs, friends near and far, Orion in the sky this morning, the bare aspen moon showing itself through a faint curtain of clouds last night.

Worked on middah summaries for Beth Evergreen’s newsletter, the Shofar. I’m honored to be asked to provide these but also a bit shy about it. A middah is a soul characteristic, an aspect of character itself. They can be identified, learned, then acted upon in measured ways. Here are the two unedited pieces I turned in yesterday.*

*Middah of the month Tevet (Dec. 19-Jan.16th

Zerizut=diligence, zeal, enthusiasm

Why focus on the character trait of enthusiasm?  “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men (sic) to do nothing.” Edmund Burke

Rabbi Luzzato in his Path of the Upright, studied by the Thursday mussar group for the past year, suggests a surprising antidote to the laziness which Burke adjures. Gratitude.

Alan Morinis, in the essay linked below says, “…recognizing the good in your life can dissolve the inner conditions that give rise to laziness. And when laziness falls away, the natural inclination of the heart is to be active and energetic can flow unimpeded.”

He suggests:

Spend five minutes writing down gifts received in the last few days
Keep a gratitude journal
Put insights in an Accounting of the Soul Diary

For more, follow this link: Mussar Institute Zerizut

Midah of the month Sh’vat (Jan 17 – Feb 15):  Ometz Lev = Courage (courage of the heart)

“It was the result of God’s wisdom that the Israelites were led about in the wilderness until they acquired courage.” Moses Maimonedes, Guide to the Perplexed, part 3 32:2

Middah require cultivation, perhaps especially in situations where fear and uncertainty predominate. We might think it took ometz lev to leave Egypt, but Maimonedes suggests it was the wilderness where the former slaves acquired courage.

“Who is the mighty one? He who conquers his impulse, as it says, “slowness to anger is better than a mighty person and the ruler of his spirit than the conqueror of a city.”” (Proverbs 16:32).  Pirkei Avot 4.1

Courage of the heart is an inner matter. “A man walking on the road saw a pack of dogs and felt afraid of them, so he sat down amongst them.” Genesis Rabbah 84:5

What fear could you face today?
Who do you know as an example of heart-courage?
Who do you know who needs ometz lev in their life right now? How might you encourage them? “Chesed is to ometz lev as rain is to a withering plant.” Rabbi Sid Schwartz in his sermon, Profiles in Courage.