Shake Off the Dust (study of Mussar)

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Imagine if you were given the task to clean a live, dust-filled, barnyard chicken. It would be a great challenge, both for you and the chicken. As soon as you approach with the water hose, she would run in the other direction. Even if you managed to squirt some water on her, it will probably just turn the dust to mud. And how are you going to find and clean those hidden spots way under the feathers?

Believe it or not, one of our greatest Prophets gave the answer (Ishaiah 52:1): “‘Shake off the dust and arise’ – Rebe Acha said, This is like a chicken which shakes itself f ree from the dust.”

The best – and easiest – way for the chicken to be cleaned is for the chicken to clean herself. She will shake, twist, and flap; with hardly an effort, the dust will fly off her in a matter of seconds.

The parable of the chicken alludes to the cleansing of our own souls. If another person attempts to “clean us” though constructive criticism, most people will react with resentment and defensiveness. If the criticism is delivered in a harsh way, it surely will backfire.

Rather, the best way for a person to cleanse their soul is to initiate their own cleansing process. As soon as we are motivated to spiritually awaken ourselves, we can accomplish our goal quickly and easily. Spiritual self-correction is a natural and efficient process, just as highly effective as our chicken shaking off the dust.

The daily study of  Mussar is a non-invasive approach. Rather than being berated by an external source, we willfully engage in Mussar study to stimulate and cleanse our own souls. We enhance our spiritual growth at our own pace and within the protective privacy of our own thoughts. May HaShem help us in our efforts to “Shake off the dust and arise!” (based on Da’as Chaim of  Rebe Chain Walkin, Shlita).

Today: As you study Mussar, envision all the impurities being released from your heart and soul.

 Copyright © 2010 by Rabbi Zvi Miller and the Salant Foundation

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