Weekly Musar Lecture

Last week I started participating in a weekly musar lecture by Rabbi Naftali Weinberg in Jerusalem ("musar" means '(Jewish) ethics' in Hebrew). The lecture itself is fascinating, and the topics discussed there touch my soul deeply, but the way I got acquainted with the rabbi is no less interesting.

Every shul, including ours, receives copies of various weekly Torah bulletins. It did not take me a long time until a bulletin called איש לרעהו caught my attention; it is different from many other bulletins I have read in that it focuses on one aspect of Judaism that is often neglected even by otherwise frum Jews and is not covered by many other bulletins - Jewish ethics, or issues of interpersonal relationships from the Torah perspective. About a year ago I finally got acquainted with the author of this bulletin in our shul, and about a few months ago I found myself sitting in front of him to consult him about some serious problem in interpersonal relationships I had been experiencing with a certain group of native Israelis. Since then I had been corresponding with him by email, until I was invited to participate in his weekly musar lecture last week.

Until I joined his weekly lecture, I was feeling that the positive spiritual energy I had saved in the yeshiva on sabbatical last year was running out. Having started in participating in this lecture, I feel that I have been reconnected to a source of positive spiritual energy on a regular basis. I also benefit from this lecture at least in two other ways in addition to its thought-provoking content.

Both Rabbi Weinberg himself and his lecture neutralize the negative effect brought about upon me by the insensitivity of so many native Israelis with whom I have to cope constantly now that my sabbatical has ended and I cannot live any longer in an English-speaking ghetto.

Another benefit is that I know that I have someone knowledgeable about Torah and human psyche whom I can consult on a regular basis when necessary. I have come to a conclusion that the root of many of the problems I have been experiencing in the Israeli society is the insensitivity of many native Israelis, which manifests itself in various, sometimes, totally unexpected, forms. I simply do not want to react to these manifestations of insensitivity in an equally insensitive way, thus becoming like one of these insensitive people myself. And the lecture itself is meant to develop, among others, sensitivity to others, including insensitive people.

What I would like to develop through this weekly muser lecture by Rabbi Weinberg is becoming a source of positive spiritual energy for myself, in addition to positive character traits, so that my internal light may not be weakened by most insensitive people.

PS: Any Jewish man in Jerusalem who is interested in participating in this lecture is welcome to email me for further details. The lecture is in Hebrew, though the rabbi himself is a native speaker of English.


How to Make the Best Use of Slack Time

One of the main causes of my frustration in Israel is that I cannot rely on the timetable of buses, both inside the city and between cities; they are generally late, but sometimes they also arrive earlier. While waiting for a bus that did not arrive even after 30 minutes of delay in Jerusalem, I calculated how many hours I waste a year because of the unreliable timetable of buses. I was stunned to find that I waste as many as 100 hours at least and 200 hours at worst a year, which amount to about four and eight days respectively, waiting for buses!

Having found the sheer amount of this slack time, I have told myself that I have to plan to do something systematic to make the best use of it. One of the main problems in using slack time systematically is that when I wait for buses that do not come on time, I can never know for sure until when this slack time will continue. If I knew in advance, I would take a seat at the bus station and do some work that requires concentration and creating thinking as I often do when I am already inside the bus.

Having thought of and even tried several things, I have decided to broaden my intellectual horizon by reading introductory ebooks on other academic disciplines that are not related to my research interests and on practical issues. I finished my first ebook during slack time this week. This has also become my first use of my hybrid computer as a tablet on a regular basis. The tablet part of the computer is rather heavy, but this new arrangement seems to be working very well.

I also observed how other people waiting for their bus used their slack time. Few people seemed to be making any clever use of it. This is not surprising to me if I consider that fact that quite a few people in Israel do nothing special even while they are sitting in the bus between cities for more than an hour.