Tevet: Sakranut (סקרנות) Curiosity

New to Mussar or the Kesharim K’doshim approach? Read the intro first.


Tevet is the Moon of Clarity (December/January)
Tevet is a month to seek clarity on our path; even though the days are still short and the nights are long and dark.

Middah & Netivah

  • Sakranut (סקרנות) Curiosity
  • Doreshet (דורשת) Seeker

Keys

  • Dan L’Chaf Zechut (דן לכף זכות) Judging Others Favorably

Counterweights

  • Tammuz (June/July)
  • B’lev Shalem (בלב שלמ) Wholehearted
  • Immah (אמא) Mother

Sakranut (סקרנות) Curiosity

Replace anger with tender curiosity and
re-experience the relationship.

In Search of the Holy Life: Rediscovering the Kabbalistic Roots of Mussar
by Ira Stone

In this month of Tevet, we engage with the soul-trait (middah) of sakranut (סקרנות) curiosity.  In the Kesharim K’doshim cycle of soul-traits, sakranut (סקרנות)  lives between yirah (יראה) radical amazement/awe and ahavah (אהבה) love/beloved.  This is the key to why sakranut (סקרנות)  is an important soul-trait to cultivate and balance. When we encounter things that inspire awe – they can live in our bodies as “radical amazement” and reverence that lead to being a more loving person or they can easily be transformed into fear and cause us to become hardened.

This first turning of the seasons each year, is a perfect time to work with the soul-trait of sakranut (סקרנות) curiosity to explore and understand the state of the “nefesh” layer of the soul.  In Judaism, we are taught that there are five layers to the soul which are developed throughout our lives:

  1. Nefesh (נפש) | soul | physicality, body awareness
  2. Ruach (רוח) | spirit | elementary consciousness, emotional awareness
  3. Neshamah (נשמה) | breath | higher awareness and connection to angelic realms
  4. Chayah (חיה) | life | living essenceYechidah (יחידה) | singularity | Divine/etheric connection
  5. Yechidah (יחידה) | singularity | Divine/etheric connection

By five names is the soul/nefesh called: nefesh, ru’ach, n’shamah, chayah (living one), y’chidah (unique one). Nefesh – this is the blood . . . Ru’ach – for she rises and falls, [as in:] “Who knows if the ru’ach of human beings goes upward?” [Ec 3:21]. N’shamah – this is the visage/character/ofah. . . Chayah – that all the limbs die and (i.e., unless) she lives in the body. Y’chidah – that all the limbs are two by two [but] she is singular in the body. 

Beresheit Rabbah 14.9

The nefesh layer of the soul is the part that is in regular contact with the world around us.  In it’s ideal state, it is fluid and flexible boundary – not too rigid and not too porous.  One of the true purposes of mussar practice, is to keep our nefesh in a healthy state.  When our nefesh is to rigid, we become hardened emotionally and spiritually.  Sometimes we need this for brief periods of time as a survival tactic, but if we leave our nefesh in this state we become cut off. When our nefesh is too porous, we can let too much in and damage our ruach.  This leaves us emotionally damaged, drained, and without healthy boundaries.

Mussar trains us to maintain our Nefesh in a semi-permeable state, allowing the Neshama of the Other to enter and our own Neshama to reach outward. Or we might imagine maintaining the translucence of the Nefesh to allow the light of the Other and the light within us to freely exchange.

In Search of the Holy Life: Rediscovering the Kabbalistic Roots of Mussar by Ira Stone

Sakranut (סקרנות) curiosity is the soul-trait that allows us, most directly, to assess and adjust our nefesh to a healthy flexible state. It’s also the soul-trait that we need to heal our nefesh, if we discover that has become too hardened or too porous.  Anger and fear are the soul-traits that often what cause us to transform our nefesh souls into hard shells. Generally this begins for real self-protection.  Unfortunately, too many of us get stuck there, because we lose our curiosity about the outside world out of fear of being physically, spiritually, or emotionally harmed.

This middah reminds us to cultivate gratitude for the alarm bell of our anger and quickly move instead to curiosity about what we do not know or understand.

In Search of the Holy Life: Rediscovering the Kabbalistic Roots of Mussar by Ira Stone

Can you recognize moments in your life where this has been true for you – where you became hard out of reflex?

In our work to become as embodied of the image of the Divine as possible, which is the deep true work of all mussar, just think about what happens when the Divine becomes hardened or too porous.  We have stories like that of the Flood (Genesis6:9 – 11:32), where the Divine became hardened against the world and destroyed it.  Over and over in Exodus, we read about the hardened heart of Pharaoh, Ex 7:13-14 is one of many examples.

The work to which you are born is to till the soil that the earth might birth life (Genesis 2:5). What is the soil you are to till? The soil of self (Genesis 2:7), the dust that is your incarnate being. To till is to break up the hard-packed soil of mochin d’katnut (narrow mind) and let in the light and air of mochin d’gadlut (spacious mind). This is the work of meditation, prayer, chanting, deep dialogue, and contemplative study.

Ethics of the Sages: Pirke Avot—Annotated & Explained by Rami Shapiro

In Pirkei Avot 1:10, we are taught that we are to “love work.” Rabbi Rami Shapiro teaches in his annotated edition that the work we are here to do is to till the soil of the self.  Nothing can grow in soil that is packed too hard or too loose. Sakranut (סקרנות), curiosity, is the soul-trait that can help us to till the soil of our own souls and to even help others realize that they may have allowed their hearts or souls to become too hardened or too porous.  Better understanding and healing our own boundaries can help us to engage with others in a more generative way, thereby creating an opportunity for healing in them as well.

The people who are the most generous in their assumptions of others have the clearest boundaries.

Dare to Lead by Brené Brown

Practice

JOURNAL INQUIRIES

At this moment in time…

  • WHAT does sakranut (סקרנות) curiosity mean to you? What are you most curious about right now?
  • WHO inspires your curiosity?
  • HOW do you engage with your curiosity?
  • WHEN do you find it difficult to be curious?
  • WHY is it important to you to stay curious?
  • WHERE is curiosity lacking in your life, soul, experience right now?

Text Study

  • A question was raised: Since the heavenly voice declared: “Both these and those are the words of the Living God,” why was the halacha established to follow the opinion of Hillel? (Eruvin 13b)
  • Replace anger with tender curiosity and re-experience the relationship (Ira Stone, In Search of the Holy Life: Rediscovering the Kabbalistic Roots of Mussar)
  • I felt I truly had been reborn, that I had made a pilgrimage into my heart and had found Shekhinah there. In space and time, I had not traveled far, but in my soul, I had come to a new land. (The Hebrew Priestess)

Affirmations

  • Journey far and deep.
  • Practice Pilgrimage of Body and Soul.
  • Turn and Return to the Sacred Center.

from the Eht/Aht: A Netivot Wisdom Oracle

Embodied Practice

  • Create an altar, especially with found objects, to spur your curiosity and the process of seeking without an end goal.

Action

  • Ask at least one question each day when you feel like you already know the answer.

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