Moving towards Elul – Friday evening we are brought into Elul. Shoftim refers to our judges. What are the qualities that we look for in our judges? Judges must not have their judgment perverted by bribery because “a bribe will blind the eyes of the wise and make just words crooked.” And then we read, “Tzedek, tzedek, tirdof.” Righteousness, righteousness, shall you pursue. All of us.
How do we apply this command to pursue righteousness particularly in the month of Elul? The rabbis teach us that we should not just seek righteousness – we must do so honestly – with righteousness. Elul is a time of deep introspection, a time for us to search within ourselves honestly. A time, if you will, for our inner housecleaning. Searching for spiritual shmutz is not just for Pesach, as it turns out, but an ongoing process. During Elul we reach for that spiritual mop and dust cloth and really clean our inner bayit, our bodily soul-home.
And we pursue those important questions: What is my personal conduct? How can I improve on some of my character flaws? We have in our tradition, a spiritual practice called Mussar. One of this tradition’s teachers is Alan Morinis who lives in Vancouver. You may want to watch this short clip he made about Mussar: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LlqgEvE-EMc
And here is another link about Mussar: https://mussarinstitute.org/
One of the teachings that Mussar brings forward is choose one aspect of Mussar, one middah, (ethic) and really focus on bringing that quality forward in your practice. Judaism is really not a do everything at once, all or nothing practice! For example, if you are trying to be a more honest person – within yourself and with others – learn about honesty, focus on honesty and practice being scrupulously honest for a month.
Here is one more link from Reform Judaism: https://reformjudaism.org/learning/sacred-texts/learn-about-middot
Give Mussar a try – see if each of us can bring one of these middot into our daily consciousness and practice during Elul – and beyond,
Kein yehi ratzon,