Last week I officially learned what it means to “spill the tea.” No, I didn’t spill anything in the tea corner of my office, but I did learn that it is “what the kids say” these days when they are referring to gossip. Despite best efforts, gossip still rules the halls of middle schools, high schools, and probably office halls as well.
Like I said, this was last week, when some dedicated and kind 7th-graders made sure that Rabbi Max and I stayed “up” on our teenage lingo. The conversation inspired the small teaching I brought to them this week for our Club 7-8 event (a program where 7th and 8th graders gather once a month to hang out with friends and talk about the things that matter in their lives).
What was the magical teaching that opened the kind souls of our 7th graders to steer away from spilling the tea and into opening their souls? It was the study of Mussar. As one of my middle schoolers defined it, “Mussar is a spiritual discipline for the soul.” It’s a guide for living a meaningful life and well-intentioned life. This is no easy task during middle school years when hormones are raging, you’re trying to figure out who you are, and the pressures for a sense of belonging reign high.
Together, our teens talked about what values are most important to them, what they’re trying to work on, and how Judaism provides a framework to bolster their self-esteem and understand their self-worth. In the teenage world of social media likes, real life gossip, and a fast-paced world, these kids took the time to take a breath and describe their own self worth — that’s the power of Mussar, to open a spiritual conversation about the deep soul traits of the individual.
The adults of our congregation are also studying Mussar. In reflecting back to me the impact that the study of Mussar has had on her life, one congregant related that it has made her more charitable, she’s had a heightened sense of awareness to the needs around her, and she feels a calling to respond with charity. Another congregant shared that Mussar has brought to light the value of honor and the need to work toward honoring the opinions of others. One more shared that it has caused her to be more thoughtful, that she is more aware of the kindness around her and that in turn she wants to share that kindness with others.
We’re never too old to work on bettering ourselves so that we can better the world, and Judaism provides so many avenues to do this holy work. If you’re interested in exploring the transformative spiritual power of Mussar, join me next month on January 31st from 12:00-1:30.