Contemporary Jewish Practice for Responsible Living
- Commit yourself to the study of Mussar for at least thirteen weeks. Work on each of the thirteen middot outlined in Rabbi Mendel of Satanov’s Cheshbon ha-Nefesh for one week. Once you have finished the first thirteen week cycle, start again with the first middah.
- On awakening every morning, remember the middah on which you are currently working. Recite the phrase that you found to help you remember that middah.
- Set a specific time and place for daily Mussar work. Late at night or early in the morning, when most everyone else is asleep, is the time of least distraction. Whatever time you set, keep it consistently. Use the time to review your previous day in terms of your middah. Focus on how your practice of your middah affects others in your life.
- Use a checklist to keep track of your work on the week's middah.
- Find a phrase (a pasuk) that reminds you of your middah and repeat it (or sing it, if possible) to help in cultivating that character trait. For example, for the middah of Truth one might sing, V'tahayr libaynu l'ovd'cho be-emet, ("Purify our hearts to serve You in truth").
- Practice Mussar Chesbon daily. Keep a journal in which you record an incident or two from the day that showed when you did (or did not) apply the middah of the week.
- Keep a “commonplace book” in which you write quotable passages from books that you are reading along with your reflections on those passages. Record phrases that you find in your reading that you can recite to help you to keep your middah.
- Study Torah daily Tanach, Talmud, or the works of Jewish spiritual writers. Examine these texts through the lens of your middah.
- Engage in hevruta. Find a Mussar buddy (haver) with whom you can speak at least once a week. Exchange personal anecdotes of how the middah has played out in your life that week. Speak with your Mussar buddy in the middle of the week, after you have some experience with the middah, but still have several days left to apply the insights and inspiration that will inevitably come from your conversation.
- Add one mitzvah to your daily practice.