Last Friday, the study group began a new discussion protocol: participants identified what they considered their ONE most important takeaway from those chapters 21-23 in With Heart in Mind, and the ONE most important question (knot they like to see unraveled) that those chapters raise for them. Discussion was rich.
Among our most important takeaways were
the significance of not only being happy with our portion (our current circumstances), but also continuing to work towards future goals (i.e. not being complacent)
the appreciation and ongoing learning that brings about transformation of our lives as a result of the self-awareness generated by Mussar practice
having particular talents or abilities obligates us to do something with them that benefits others
the value of not taking credit for oneself for one’s accomplishments in light of research that shows that people who repeatedly receive/and acknowledge credit for their achievements are perceived by their significant others as being less mature.
acceptance of suffering has a corollary of vigorously rising above it with some kind of action plan
Even those of us who are most afflicted can learn from and rise above their suffering
Acceptance of evil, loss, hurt are part of the “design of the world” that connects us to truth and reality (even if we can’t make sense of these vicissitudes and try to alleviate them).
Among our most significant questions were
What are some of the ways in which we make fences around our activities and is this the same as making a fence around the Torah (e.g., by not eating chicken with dairy despite the fact that the Torah does not proscribe this dietary practice)?
How does the acceptance of suffering extend beyond the personal (e.g., to countless victims of famine/disease/war. Can we rationalize such punishment as just)?
Should we really believe that “If God wants you to have more, you will, and if not, you won’t”? Does all reward and punishment come from a deity?
How do we find good/benefit from limitations placed on us, especially physical limitations?
Is there a value connected to God’s withdrawal of part of Himself from the world (tzimzum)? Is there learning to be gathered from the vacuum this creates?
Can we accept the premise that all credit for our talents and accomplishments should be given to God?
This Friday, participants will explore chapters 29-34 (pp. 160-189) of With Heart in Mind dealing with issues that range from “Being Beloved” to “Distancing from Honor.” Those who wish to partake in the discussion should come prepared to identify what they consider their ONE most important takeaway from those 6 chapters, and the ONE most important question those chapters raise for them.