Day 6: Mussar+Halachah=A Powerful Antidote
I had to pay a shiva call today, and to tell you the truth, I really dreaded it. I knew that Joe had been particularly close to his father and that losing him would be a terrible blow. He has two brothers and a sister, too, and I expected the entire household to be inconsolable.
As I walked into the room, I was truly surprised. Joe's siblings, as I predicted, were having a tough time. But Joe, though obviously mournful, seemed calm and meditative. You could see that he had some kind of inner strength the others lacked. He noticed my reaction, and he turned to me, asking why I seemed puzzled. At the risk of being rude, I told him.
"Joe, I know how sad you must feel, yet you seem to be taking it in stride - to be honest, better than I expected you to." He smiled faintly. "What's the secret?" I blurted. He thought for a moment.
"Well, for the past ten years, Dad and I studied Mussar together. We had a regular chavrutah once a week. At first, it's imperceptible, but eventually Mussar changes your whole perspective. I feel that I'm in touch with a level of reality that's very comforting. It's kind of hard to explain, but it's very real to me."
"Mussar did that?"
"That and more. It's not only helping me through this experience, it has put me in touch with real joy, too. I can honestly say it's helped me deal with tough challenges as well."
"Your father was very wise to teach you all that."
"He saw it as preparing me for life. We learned halachah together too. He let me choose the topic, depending on what I needed to learn at the time."
What a legacy! As I left, I couldn't help thinking that Joe's father had given him a priceless gift.
These e-mails are excerpts taken from the book "Windows of the Soul" by Rabbi Zvi Miller of the Salant Foundation.