On Wednesday, November 8, Rebbetzin Shira Smiles shared an inspiring virtual musar shiur, which is part of a series of lectures. There will be two more shiurim in this series: on Wednesdays, November 15 and November 22.
Rebbetzin Smiles began by sharing that you can talk about midos but if you are stubborn and don’t want to grow, it won’t help you. If a person is stubborn, he can’t change. A stubborn person is not able to hear from others or to admit that he made a mistake. He won’t say that he didn’t know something. When someone is too sure of himself, then he will be up the creek, so to speak.
Hearing is the first step. Next, a person has to process the information and think about it, and not close himself off. She taught that if a person does t’shuvah, then he saves himself.
Chazal teach that if a person has the desire to do t’shuvah, then he is referred to as one who did it. If he wants to change, then to a certain extent it is like that is where he is.
Lot’s wife was really in Sodom, as we see that she turned back. That was where she was. “Where you want to be is where you really are.” When a person is so set in his ways, then Hashem doesn’t want him to live.
Shira Smiles noted how hard it is to change a midah. If you put your watch on your other hand, you will keep looking at the hand you are used to looking at. If that is so hard, it’s so much harder to change a midah or change a way of observing halachah.
You have to ask yourself if you have the capacity to change. We need to have openness in life as this affects everything in our life. The foundation of t’shuvah is feeling. She taught that “being alive means that you are growth-oriented.” If you are able to admit when you make mistakes, then you can improve.
“When there is no feeling, then there is no t’shuvah.”
The worst state to be in is a state of apathy. If someone points out something you did wrong and you don’t respond, then you know that you are in trouble.
If you hear that you didn’t do something right and you say, “Whoa, I didn’t know that,” then you are aware, and that “whoa response” is halfway there. When you are thinking about it and struggling with it, that is good. The struggle is healthy. No one is expected to change overnight.
She added that halachah is so complex that we have to constantly learn it – particularly the halachos of Shabbos.
We should think about an area in life where we feel we are closed off, and that is the area we need to work on. “We need to be ready in every aspect of our lives to grow.” We need to be open first to hear it. The Kotzker Rav had a beautiful vort:
In Sh’ma, we say “on your heart.” One day, with work on that area, it will be in our heart. Davening can change anything. We should daven for that moment when things open up. We have to be careful not to fall into the trap of not wanting to hear.
She explained that challenges happen, and if you don’t grow from them, then that is being stiff-necked. The situation in Israel is a wake-up call for klal Yisrael. She noted how marriages can break up if people refuse to change. In any relationship, if a person refused to budge, then that can break a relationship.
She noted that we put up the mezuzah on a slant. This is a compromise between Rashi and Tosafos. Rabbi Frand taught that this is a message for us before we walk through the door. Gaze at the mezuzah and realize that it’s important to compromise and be flexible. We are put on this earth to change and to grow. “T’filah is one of the greatest arsenals we have.”
She emphasized that we can control our midos and we can change them. “We all have the ability to change!”
By Susie Garber