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Soul Trait Studio: Tishrei 5784
Practice guide for the Soul Trait Studio mussar practice for Tishrei 5784 (09/17/23) focusing on the soul trait of achrayut | responsibility.
Come when you can. All registrants for the month will receive the video the following day. The Soul Trait Studio for Tishrei 5783 is September 17, 2023 from 3-4:30pm ET on Zoom, registration required.
Devotaj Sacred Arts: Mussar Practice eBook with guides to each soul trait of the year
Register for this and upcoming sessions: devotaj.com/soultraitstudio
Note: we rarely get through all of this during the 90 minute session, so consider the entirety of it to be an invitation for your personal practice this month. This guide will remain available to all until the end of the month. Previous monthly guides are available to subscribers at the monthly, yearly, or beloved levels.
we are good, we are flawed
we are the breath of an imperfect G!d
~ Batya Levine
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Soul Trait of the Month
Now: Tishrei | Moon of Gathering | Achryaut (אחריות) Responsibility | Gevirah (גְבִירָה) Matriarch/Queen
AND… the year of Gevurah (גבורה) Strength, Boundaries, Discipline
Next Month: Cheshvan | Moon of Stillness | Kavod (כבוד) Honor | Mekonenet (מקוננת) Mourning Woman
Below are some recommended additional resources for exploring the soul trait of achrayut | responsibility. Sometimes also transliterated acharayut.
Mussar Practice eBook with guides to each soul trait of the year (Devotaj.com)
Achrayut Source Sheet (Sefaria)
The Torah Mussar Commentary, Rabbi Barry Block (Page 179)
Everyday Holiness by Alan Morinis (Chapter 21)
Exploring themes of Responsibility in Honi HaMagel (Sefaria Source Sheet)
Soul Trait for Year 2 of the Shmita Cycle: Gevurah
“The Eternal separated the water below from the water above.”
Know that boundaries are natural and essential.
(From Kesher Pittsburgh 5783 Rosh Hashanah Machzor)
What does gevurah (גבורה) strength, boundaries, discipline mean to you right now?
With the year ahead in mind:
Choose one that excites, enlivens, or feels comfortable
Choose one that challenges you
Pay particular attention to the response in your body as you ponder each soul trait.
Discuss/explore how these soul traits fit into your year and work with the monthly soul traits and gevurah, the macro soul trait for the second year of the Shmita cycle.
Explore how these soul traits might be keys to unlock the core soul traits of the Kesharim K’doshim approach or vice versa.
What does it meant to behave with gevurah she’be achrayut?
What does it mean to act with achrayut she’be gevurah?
Partnered text study. One per breakout room. What does this teach you or inspire you to discover about achrayut? Maybe also explore what it teaches you about simcha (joy), which is the soul trait on the opposite side of the year.
Shekhinah Adonai El rachum v’chanun erech apayim v’rav chesed ve’emet notzer chesed la’alafim nosei avon va’fesha v’’chata’ah v’nakeh
I am being, I am being I bring the world into being I am the bridge between worlds I am the wombful source I initiate all who seek me I tend the sacred fire over centuries I sustain the abundance of the earth I acknowledge the truth of loss I heal the bond with the ancestors and all life I set all upon the path, even when they are lost I honor all love, even when love has faults I accept with laughter the imperfection of all perspectives I am the Fountain of Life, and I make all things one
~ Yom Kippur Liturgy, English creative translation by Rav Kohenet Jill Hammer
Note: Often called the 13 Attributes of Mercy. Compare the above version to inherited versions of the liturgy and consider what it teaches you about the evolving understanding of achrayut.
יוֹמָא חַד הֲוָה אָזֵל בְּאוֹרְחָא, חַזְיֵיהּ לְהָהוּא גַּבְרָא דַּהֲוָה נָטַע חָרוּבָא, אֲמַר לֵיהּ: הַאי, עַד כַּמָּה שְׁנִין טָעֵין? אֲמַר לֵיהּ: עַד שִׁבְעִין שְׁנִין. אֲמַר לֵיהּ: פְּשִׁיטָא לָךְ דְּחָיֵית שִׁבְעִין שְׁנִין? אֲמַר לֵיהּ הַאי גַּבְרָא: עָלְמָא בְּחָרוּבָא אַשְׁכַּחְתֵּיהּ. כִּי הֵיכִי דִּשְׁתַלוּ לִי אֲבָהָתִי — שְׁתַלִי נָמֵי לִבְרָאִי
“One day, he was walking along the road when he saw a certain man planting a carob tree. Ḥoni said to him: This tree, after how many years will it bear fruit? The man said to him: It will not produce fruit until seventy years have passed. Ḥoni said to him: Is it obvious to you that you will live seventy years, that you expect to benefit from this tree? He said to him: That man himself found a world full of carob trees. Just as my ancestors planted for me, I too am planting for my descendants”
Babylonian Talmud Taanit 23a.15
The Netivah and middah (soul-trait) that is across the wheel of the year from achrayut (אחריות) and the G’virah (queen/matriarch/sovereign) is the Na’arah (Maiden) and the soul-trait of joy. I find this such a good reminder that it’s easy when we are in a situation where we feel responsible that we lose our sense of joy. This is when a responsibility becomes a burden. This sacred connection across the wheel of the year can serve as a reminder and a tool, to continue to infuse our leadership with joy and to find joy in our leadership.
Kohenet Ketzirah haMa’agelet
One way to understand allyship is through a Mussar lens. Mussar is a Jewish practice of self-refinement through focusing on and developing our middot or soul-qualities. When I think of allyship, the middah that comes to mind is achrayut, “responsibility.” The term is related to the word achar, “after.” We need to pay attention to what happens after we act (or refrain from action). If I ignore injustice or power disparity because I’m not the person being harmed, what happens after? If I speak or act (or fail to speak or act) in a way that causes harm, what happens after? Achrayut reminds us of our ethical obligation to keep impacts and outcomes in mind.
I will recognize my power and let it shine bright. I will use it for good not to give fright.
I am aligned, clear, and strong. I will be be accountable for all I do wrong.
I take responsibility for my actions and my words. I will not shirk my duty and fly off like a bird.🤖
Use these as a starter to create your own affirmation for the month, or entirely invent your own.
🤖 = written with an assist from Google Bard
*The term from inherited forms of mussar is “affirmations”. Feel free to think of them this way, if it’s more aligned and/or nourishing for you or try iffermations that frame the affirmation as a “what if?”
Use the miro board, or put the names of soul traits on slips of paper, and look at one at a time. Allow yourself to become aware of the response in your body as you think about, say the name of, and explore what the soul trait means to you.
As you review, separate your soul traits into different groups based on the impact on your body. Where do you feel it? What do you feel? Take it as information and try not to judge it. Experiment taking a soul trait from one group and connecting it to a soul trait in another group - does it increase the positive or negative (or is it just neutral)?
Try this weekly during the month and see if you can find patterns in this that will help you in your practice over the year.
Stop apologizing unnecessarily – shift your language from “sorry” to “thank you” unless you really need to apologize — then take responsibility and apologize without shifting burden or blame to another.
*I translate mitzvah as “sacred connective action”
WHO are you responsible for and who is responsible for you?
HOW would you explain the difference between “taking responsibility” and “being responsible”?
WHERE do you need support being or taking responsibility — or letting go of responsibility?
WHAT does the G’virah, the queen/matriarch/sovereign, teach you about achrayut?
WHICH soul traits help you unlock achrayut and vice versa?
we are good, we are flawed
we are the breath of an imperfect G!d
~ Batya Levine
Soul Trait Studio is a completely free offering each month and Devotaj Sacred Arts is a community-supported project. I receive no grants or funding other than what comes from you directly. To keep the work flowing, consider sharing this with others and becoming a paid subscriber.