*note to male readers: even though this starts out talking about the greatness of women, you'll soon see this one's for your benefit too.
The lesson of the week was focused mostly on the role of a woman because the Torah portion was Chayei Sara, the life of Sara. There were many other people mentioned during this portion but, the focus was on her life. The Torah portion was named after her. Sara was the wife of Abraham. Mostly, that was her identity. She wasn't known for who she was or what she accomplished, without Abraham. We only get to know her greatness, through her role as the wife of Abraham.
Years before we started learning Mussar, most of us coming from a secular value system, might have looked at this from a tainted perspective, as to the role of a woman. Certainly, the women's liberation movement of the 1970's wouldn't have approved. Maybe, some secular career women of today, probably wouldn't approve of it either. Enter the Torah perspective. The wisdom of our Sages that provide us the ability to look beyond what appears "on the surface" which teaches us the deeper meaning towards everything superficial. We learn beyond what's "on the surface." This can't be saying what it appears to be saying.... a wife is only identified for her role as a wife?? You're absolutely right. Of course, it isn't saying that.
As we learned this deep, soulful lesson from Rabbi Miller, the role of a woman- be it a wife or a mother, is a very powerful one. When we view the role of a woman from a Torah perspective, we learn that the role of a woman is exactly the way she was created to be, as she was blessed by Hashem. Sara received the blessings of a woman. A women has the ability to bring blessings into the lives of others. When a woman realizes this and connects to it, as a blessing, everything is different. It is a very moving and empowering experience!
All the blessings Abraham received, came through Sara. For a woman to realize, be aware of and live connected to her role as the one who blesses others, as she was blessed to do so, brings the role of a woman to incredible spiritual heights. To carry out her responsibilities, chores, errands, work load and constant giving to everyone around her with this wisdom brings all the tasks and the all the giving to new spiritual heights. Usually, we go through our day, physically and on automatic. We perform all our tasks, taking care of business and trying to do the best we can, maneuvering around all the obstacles on our path. BUT NOW, .... all of it is a blessing!
Think about it and how you can now look at the role of a woman from a completely different perspective. And a realistic one. Woman were created to create, not only children, but to create blessings. And to bring blessings into the lives of everyone she touches. This has nothing to do with how many children a woman has or what her career is- it has to do with how she views her role. Our lives have become overwhelming. We are in over-drive, constantly multi-tasking and oftentimes, not being present in most of what we do. When we instill this lesson into the core of our being, we can connect to the source of the blessing and bring it into our busy, over-driven, multi-tasking lives. We can touch those we love, those we care for and those we care about... from the source of this blessing.
We create, we give, we touch the souls of those who are in our lives.
We were blessed to do so, it is how we were created.
First, we must believe and connect to this lesson. As we inculcate it into our being, we will realize how we effect others. The blessing comes out in the way we think, speak and act towards others. When we begin to feel this, we are spiritually empowered to know the importance of our role as women and the powerful effect we have on everyone in our lives.
If we live connected to this lesson, we can build up a human spirit just as quickly as we can knock it down. We can teach important lessons through words of loving-kindness instead of through loud voices and harsh words. We can multi-task and mange responsibilities- and still maintain our spiritual composure- so that we are careful to not harm those in our path. May our war paths turn into peace paths. We can experience our days, as days of blessing. We can mange our tasks on automatic, physical mode but now add in this soulful awe-inspiring spiritual insight. We bless the ones we love with our thoughts, our words and our behavior towards them.
All we have to do is remember at all times... that whenever we think, speak and act towards others- we have the power to lift a human spirit. We can bring a blessing into their lives by the way we treat them. The way Sara treated Abraham and how she conducted herself as she revolved around him, independent yet close-by, teaches us how powerful it is to be capable of such an awesome task. We can carry it with respect, honor and dignity towards others and ourselves. We have spiritually elevated those around us, as we have elevated ourselves. We can touch the souls of others with our goodness and still accomplish our goals.
Our words carry blessings.
Our thoughts, our speech and our actions can come from this blessing.
The beauty of Rabbi Miller's mussar lessons is that they give us the exact how-to, as he teaches us how they are applicable in all our inter-personal relationships, all day.
Here's the how-to:
1) slow-down. If we can't slow down our busy days, at least take some time during the day to slow down your thoughts. When we live in hyper-speed, we lose our ability to fight the yetzer-hara. The evil inclination is constantly there and waiting to appear at any given moment. When we live too fast, we have lost control and it jumps out from our thoughts, out of our mouths, becoming hurtful words and into our actions. Rabbi Salanter calls the method of learning mussar, becoming the master of your emotions. Slowing down, learning to PAUSE, help us to master our emotions instead of giving into negative, impulse reactions. Living in hyper-speed causes more negative reactions in all our relationships. Slow down to avoid harming others, as well as ourselves. Our bodies suffer greatly from the stress of fast living.
2) let PAUSE be your first reaction to everything- When we pause, we can allow the evil inclination to pass. Since PAUSE is an active state, we can then replace our negative thoughts with positive mussar wisdom. (Active state meaning we are busy working to turn our thoughts towards our holy inner goodness). We can come from our goodness in our actions, thoughts and speech. We can turn our hearts to pure goodness and take a moment to realize the next word out of our mouth, can lift this person up or tear them down. Life and death is in the tongue! We can kill relationships, someone's confidence or value with our words. Even our thoughts of others cause tremendous damage. Probably, even more damage than our words. For when we think negative of others, everything related to them becomes negative.
3) Practice mussar. Learn more mussar everyday and actively practice it throughout your day. When alone, while driving, exercising or doing tasks, think about the lessons. Keep your favorite quotes in front of you. Fill yourself with mussar wisdom. Talk to a friend about the lesson. Run dress-rehearsals for your stressful situations with a mussar perspective. Even if you don't succeed, keep striving, keep practicing. Little by little, slowly, it will sink into your subconscious and one day..... it will appear as your first reaction! When it happens you will know it immediately, it is a moving experience that touches your soul.
4) Respect, honor and dignity!!! Treat others with respect, even if we disagree. Honor the other person and dignify their presence in your life. The more we treat others with honor, respect and dignity the more honorable, respectful and dignified we become.
Men, rejoice! If you are fortunate enough to have a woman in your life that can practice this lesson, you are the recipient of the blessings. (If not, may Hashem bless you with one soon). Your life will be successful and long, as was the life of Abraham. When you conduct yourself as Abraham did, with constant kindness, your life can be filled with blessings. When you start living mussar, you will also begin to feel the hard edges soften and realize you can still be as effective in all your important responsibilities. The physical stress you may be feeling will be relieved. You don't have to be tough to get the job done. As we all thought we had to be, before mussar learning. When we open our hearts and minds and begin to practice living mussar, we will realize the power we all possess. We are all so powerful each in our own way, be it man or woman, to effect another human being. We are all connected and we touch each other from our souls with our thoughts, which appear in our words. Realize this and connect to this and you will see how you too, can illuminate another human spirit.
Rebbe Yossi said, "Never once in my life did I refer to my wife as 'my wife'. Rather, I called her 'my home'." Not too flattering, you might think at first glance. But, of course, we know that he realized her greatness. She was his everything. She was his home. Everything in his life was blessed because of her. He appreciated the awesomeness of her work, as a woman. He appreciated everything she did for him. He valued it constantly and spoke about her, with this value in mind, at all times.
Everyone wants to be appreciated and feel loved. We want it from others. Others want it from us. When we realize the power we each have, we can appreciate and love each other. When we take time to think about how much others do for us, instead of just expecting it and taking each other for granted, we will have richer more meaningful relationships. The experience of living with joyful, inner peace becomes constantly present in our lives. We will treat others with value and make them feel valuable. What a tremendous power we all have! Each and every one of us.
This lesson already included the text and the avoda.
May we all be blessed to touch the lives of others, like Abraham and Sara.... with loving-kindness! May blessings flow into our lives and the lives of the ones we love.