The two classmates had not seen each other for several years. Each had moved from the neighborhood and built families and careers that were quite different. Now, as they sipped their coffee, they reminisced about “the good old days” and caught up on the latest news about each other.
“You know,” Jerry said, “when I first saw you, I thought you really hadn’t changed much, but after our chat I see you’ve really grown in more ways than one.”
“You, too,” Donald said. “It wasn’t easy, but I’ve gotten to a good level now.”
“I don’t think I would agree with that,” Jerry said cautiously. “I was taught that whatever level one is at, one should not become satisfied. Striving for perfection is a lifelong task.”
“I find that when I study mussar I become unhappy,” Donald said. “I’m feeling good now and I don’t want to upset the apple cart.”
Rabbi Yerucham Levovitz taught that the study of mussar doesn’t hinder achieving happiness. To the contrary, studying ethics helps one communicate with oneself at a deep soul level. Such “conversation” raises awareness of one’s weaknesses and opens the door to self-improvement. Ignoring one’s flaws puts the conscience to sleep and causes one to be self-satisfied when dissatisfaction would be more productive.
Enlightenment brings joy, and self-awareness brings improvement and growth. Sadness, he says, comes from a failure to strive for betterment. Sincere efforts to reach a higher level will yield growth and true joy. Inspect, detect and correct: a true formula to achieve the elusive commodity called happiness.
One More Second: Another Thought for The Day
Just as a primary aspect of the mitzvah of hachnasat orchim is to clean the house of all inappropriate and contemptible things, and to take out the garbage, so is the starting point in ahavas Hashem and clinging to Him the removal from one’s heart of what is inappropriate yet is implanted in one’s mind. And after one’s heart is empty of the masses of other likes and vanities and it is clear as a sapphire, then one can see and enjoy the pure glow of the Shechinah. (Rabbi Yaakov Krantz, Sefer HaMiddos, Shaar Ahavah, Chap. 11)
Rabbi Raymond Beyda serves in the Sephardic Community in Brooklyn, N.Y. He lectures to audiences all over the world. He has distributed over 500,000 recorded lessons free of charge. He is author of the book 1 Minute With Yourself: A Minute a Day to Self-Improvement, Sephardic Press, 2008.