Open any page of the New Testament, and I am sure you will find a verse that discusses the high calling of discipleship.

Yeshua and his apostles focused on the heart and the importance of our inner character traits. There is no easy solution to this. It takes constant, dedicated focus to change our traits. Being a disciple is not easy, and no one ever said it would be. One of my favorite sayings of Yeshua is found in Matthew 16:24-26:

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?”

This passage sums up what it means to be a disciple of Yeshua. Someone who counts the cost and chooses to sacrifice fame, fortune, and renown in this world for something unseen but so much more valuable in the World to Come.

As we saw in the last blog, Mussar offers a guidebook into this world. A path to living up to the standards set in place instead of seeing them as unobtainable goals.

The start of the path is choosing character traits. In his book, Everyday Holiness [1], Alan Morinis describes the method of selecting fourteen character traits that you will practice for one week each and then cycle to the next one. You will keep cycling through each of the fourteen different traits for one year. This means that for four weeks total out of the year, you will focus on a quality such as humility and will dedicate yourself to implementing that trait into every aspect of your life.

Many people believe that, if they just try to be better people, they will slowly succeed, and while there is some truth to this, striving for too much at once tends to lead to failure. This can be seen in New Year’s resolutions. Many studies have shown that the failure of resolutions is found in the grandiose goal that is taken on.[2] The key to making change is small, consistent goals. Instead of saying, “I will work out every day this year,” one would do better to say, “I am going to work out today.”

By taking one trait at a time and focusing on it alone, you will find that it narrows down the battle and gives a greater chance for success.

These traits are laid out in many texts and encompass many of the same characteristics Yeshua spoke about—chesed, or loving-kindness, patience, humility, gratitude, and so many more. You can find a list of some of the many traits here. [3]

Another important element of this practice is that you must choose the traits that are your weakest. Every human being is unique in many ways, including our character. Some people can give openly to anyone in need, while others struggle to give even out of necessity. Some smile at everyone they meet, and others duck around the corner at the first sign of human interaction. Each of us has our strengths and weaknesses. The goal of Mussar is to strengthen our weaknesses.

Once you have chosen fourteen character traits, the next step is to select a verse or phrase associated with that trait. You will choose something that will remind you of your mission and keep you focused on your growth. Each morning you will read over your selected verse or phrase and also create a special task for the day. For humility, this would be something like, “Today, I will be the last one to speak in a group and not interrupt anyone.” Choose something simple and obtainable that you can wield throughout your day. Contemplate on these things and take some time for personal prayer to HaShem to help you accomplish your goals.

At the end of each day, take time to journal about how it went for you. Journaling is a great way to reflect on your decisions and the reasoning behind those decisions. Be honest with yourself. Remember that no matter how many times you fail, you always have a chance to start again.

No matter what amount of effort you instill into this journey, it will not be a waste. Even one small battle of not snapping at someone or complimenting a stranger has a positive effect on this world. HaShem does so much for us and only asks us to serve him sincerely. We have a great opportunity through the favor found in Yeshua to be strengthened each day to serve HaShem and bring the kingdom a little closer. In the next blog, we will begin to explore some of these character traits and the benefits they can have in our lives.


Source: First Fruits of Zion