Sedra SeLach 120 Words [X2] Who Says Gd Hates Us?
Mussar derives from the word Sar. Sar means to turn away. Moshe Rabbenu says, when he first sees the burning bush that is not consumed by its fire, “Assurah Na VeErEh” I must turn away [from my present course] and inspect this amazing phenomenon”.
Mussar therefore is the process, an intellectual and emotional process, to turn away from whatever it is that presently occupies our minds and hearts in order to review and modify our lives and our ambitions and the manner in which we perceive and evaluate them.
It is a programme of self improvement and self re-evaluation. Its earliest proponents took what was sprinkled throughout our traditions and collected these ideas into a cohesive and coherent study and introduced into the Torah Study Academies, powerful methods for implementing these self improving modifications. In today’s business world and the arena of personal lifestyle enhancement, these would be known as motivational schemes and secrets, marketed as “Get to know your true potential – Be the Person You always Wanted to Be”
The proponents of the Mussar movement, as it became known, would draw their moral teachings from the Torah. And I should like to draw attention to this week’s Sedra, in such a vein.
The verse 14:1 reads – “And the entire Congregation arranged that they should wail that night.” This was in consequence of the ill tidings brought home by the spies, who foresaw the destruction of the People if they were to engage in battle to conquer the Land of Israel.
Who are these people who weep the entire night, who create the momentum for a revolt against Gd, who argue that Gd must hate us and is trying to get us annihilated in one fell [=savage] swoop?
It is not the mixed multitudes, blamed for so many other ills that befall us; it is not the ordinary people who perhaps have not a reinforced unbending trust in Gd; no, Rashi tells us it is the Sanhedrins, the courts who represent the most prestigious amongst us – they were the ones who organised this revolt.
And now back to Mussar – one of the key notions within the process of Mussar is to recognise ones own fallibility. But that is next to impossible, so we draw attention to the human foibles of those who are great – and conclude – Dos Is Der Mentsch – this is what people are capable of – and let us thereby learn about ourselves.