“Getting Things in Order” – My thoughts on this weeks middah.

organize

Generally, I am an organized person. I’m not sure how many people daydream of becoming a professional organizer or read Don Aslett’s book, “How To Have A 48-Hour Day” numerous times for fun. 😉 “Obsessed” is an understatement for my love of all things planner and stationary related.  Working at The Container Store would not be lucrative for me.  My paycheck would be history before it cleared my bank account!!!

BUT… THERE IS ALWAYS ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT!

Our family has doubled in size and my personal responsibilities have mysteriously quadrupled! Not sure how that works!?! Keeping my home organized has proved exponentially more difficult with two toddlers! Keeping things in order (inwardly/spiritually) also takes much more concerted effort.

Similar to Humility, order is a foundational middah because it is essential to developing any discipline. “Without steady, systematic practice, one never emerges from mediocrity into excellence, whether it be as a violinist practicing scales for hours daily to prepare for a great solo performance, or a runner hitting the trail every day, rain or shine, to get ready for a marathon. Likewise, spiritual development requires an ordered life.”

“Rabbi Shlomo Wolbe said in the name of the Alter of Kelm that order can be compared to the clasp on a pearl necklace. The pearls are what make the necklace, and they are definitely more important than the clasp, but without the clasp the pearls will fall off and scatter, and all that will remain of the necklace is the string alone. Similarly, a person contains an abundance of strengths, intellect, character traits, and qualities. But without order, all these virtues will scatter, and he or she will be left with nothing.”

My key observations on this middah were…

1) Order is fragile and requires maintenance. In Gan Eden, Hashem charged Adam and Eve to: “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it” (Gen. 1:28). Subdue it, because disorder is ready to break out at all times! Indeed, much of Jewish life is about maintaining order within this dynamic creation.

2) Order is a priority among the middot because its presence or absence will be evident. As Alan Morinis writes, “External disorder may be a reflection of internal disarray.” We might be able to mislead ourselves or our friends about other traits, but disorder will be evident. Order, then, serves as a barometer of our overall progress in Mussar.

3) Practicing order in one’s personal life involves developing and utilizing other middot.

Disorder is often the child of a rebellious ego that resists humbly occupying a rightful space. All that it whispers in your inner ear can be reduced to “I want” or “I don’t want.” I want to have fun, and cleaning up after myself is no fun. I want my leisure, and setting things in order is work. Humility – occupying one’s rightful space – is essential to order. {Ouch!}

Likewise, honor is essential to practicing order. “When you live with other people and you are content to make a mess in shared spaces, you dishonor the people you live with. Honor is due to all human beings not because of the greatness of their achievements but more simply because they embody an inherently holy soul. When you activate this inner sensibility, you want to keep things in order not just for order’s sake, but also for the higher purpose of honoring the people with whom you share relationships. All of us, are after all, are made in the divine image, and so when we honor people we honor G-d.”

I loved this thought… “Instead of fruitlessly yelling at the fire to cool down, you need to ask yourself, “What’s the water in this case? In other words, what’s the corresponding trait that will, if strengthened, cause the obstacles to orderliness to evaporate as if by themselves?”

Reflecting on any area of disorder in one’s life will likely reveal work that should be done with related middot!

Ordering Your Private World by Gordon MacDonald, was a book I read several years ago. Although the book is written from a secular perspective, the author was unknowingly writing about Mussar. 😉 He made several noteworthy statements which I took the liberty of making sound a little more Jewish:

If my private world is in order, it will be because I am convinced that the inner world of the spiritual must govern the outer world of activity. 

 If my private world is in order, it will be because I have made a daily determination to see time as G-d’s gift and worthy of careful investments.

 If my private world is in order, it will be because I have determined that every day will be for me a day of growth in knowledge and wisdom.

If my private world is in order, it will be because I absorb the words of *Torah* into my attitudes and actions.

 If my private world is in order, it will be because I have begun to pursue the discipline of seeing events and people through the eyes of Hashem so that my prayers reflect my desire to be in alignment with His purposes and promises for them.

 If my private world is in order, it will be because I have chosen to press Sabbath peace into the rush and routine of my daily life in order to find the rest G-d prescribed Himself and all of humanity.

Alan Morinis’s summary is best:

“The essential value of practicing order is that by voluntarily aligning ourselves with an orderly way of living, we draw ourselves closer to the divine way of being. When we are orderly, we emulate one of G-d’s intrinsic characteristics and that draws us closer to G-d.”

In parsha Chayei Sarah, we read in Ch. 23:1 “Sarah’s lifetime was one hundred years, and twenty years, and seven years; the years of Sarah’s life.” At first glance, this pasuk sounds a little redundant. However, the commentary suggests that the phrase “the years of Sarah’s life” means they were all equal for goodness. Our forefather Abraham is described as being “advanced in days” in Ch. 24:1. Commentators explain that every moment of his every day was productive and fulfilling! They were not time wasters! They were history makers! As their progeny, we should follow in their footsteps and emulate our creator.  

Life is chaotic, but our souls don’t need to be. The wisdom of Mussar is that we can increase our inward order through practical action in our outward surroundings.

My Mussar phrases/meditations for this week were:

“All your actions and possessions should be orderly – each and every one in a set place and set time. Let your thoughts always be free to deal with that which lies ahead of you.” – Rabbi M.M. Lefin of Satanov, Cheshbon Hanefesh

Take time, be exact, unclutter the mind. – Rabbi Simcha Zissel Ziv, the Alter of Kelm

I have only hust a minute
Only sixty seconds in it.
Forced upon me,
Can’t refuse it,
Didn’t seek it,
Didn’t choose it.
I must suffer if I lose it
Give account if I abuse it
Just a tiny little minute
But eternity is in it!
– Unknown

My Mussar practices for the week were:

Look at your daily routine and see if it is working; if not, change some part of your routine so it is more lifegiving.

Take a room or space that is out of order and make a plan to organize it.

Take an area or your life that needs discipline (health, fitness, prayer) and make a plan to make time for it.

Make a habit of “Eating the Frog First!” There’s an old saying that goes, “If the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning is eat a live frog, then nothing worse can happen for the rest of the day!” Whatever the task on your to-do list is that will take the most time or you are least motivated to do… get it done first. You will save time and energy by procrastinating/stressing less!

Reflecting on and accounting for areas in need of improvement in my life was a reminder that I have a lot of work to do. At the same time, I was encouraged to “beware the barrenness of a busy life.”

“The busier we are, the more important we seem to ourselves and, we imagine, to others. To be unavailable to our friends and family, to be unable to find time for the sunset, to whiz through our obligations without time for a single mindful breath, this has become the model of a successful life.” – Wayne Muller

The purpose for cultivating order is not for the quantity of things you can check of a to-do list. Cultivating order is about putting {quality} back into how you use your time!

May Hashem help you and I to avoid “the barrenness of a busy life” and grow in the attribute of orderliness.

Shalom,

Maayan