Literary inspiration comes from some weird places.
Case in point: What I learned about writing from mussar
On Shabbat, I mostly stick to reading materials with Jewish content. This is just one of the ways I make it distinct from the other days of the week. Over the last several months, I’ve been nickel and diming it through Strive for Truth, Rabbi Aryeh Carmell’s English translation of the Michtav Me’Eliyahu by Rabbi Eliyahu Dessler. This book is considered a classic of mussar, the refinement of character through the lens of Torah.
When I say “nickel and diming it,” I mean this: read a couple pages, realize I didn’t really get it, re-read. Take a nap, shmooze with my husband, or hang out with the kids; pick up the book again. Realize I don’t remember how we got to this part of the essay, then backtrack and again re-read the last couple paragraphs before hitting some new material and starting all over again.
Kinda like reading Durkheim. Really heavy stuff.
Anyway, this week, when I picked up Strive for Truth after Shabbat dinner, I was forced to re-read the first half of the essay I’d begun last week. The essay is about free will. Continue reading