Every few years, I looked at it anew hoping that wherever I was holding anew in my frumkeit and advancing knowledge would finally reveal to me what I didn’t perceive before.
But to my puzzlement, it remained the same impenetrable chapter.
My problem was that instead of it reading as I thought a self-accounting should read, it contained urging after urging to “contemplate this” and “contemplate that,” or “imagine that you didn’t have this” and “imagine that you had something else instead.”
It seemed to be a convoluted way of merely counting your blessings.
Where were the middot I needed to scrutinize, the transgressions I needed to root out?
What I only realized later was that my own mind was too narrow. I got stuck on what I thought a cheshbon hanefesh was supposed to be and couldn’t see Rabbeinu Bachya’s view of what a chesbon hanefesh really is.
It was only after I read Rav Shalom Arush’s book on saying thank you that the light bulb went on.
Contemplating Hashem’s Goodness along with the Unfathomable Wisdom with which He created the human soul, human mind, and human body leads to teshuvah and avodat hamiddot. In other words, gratitude on its own is transformative.
Sure, there are a few cheshbonot in which Rabbeinu Bachya describes what you’d conventionally consider a “cheshbon.” But mostly, it’s “contemplate the different parts and organs of your body, how smoothly they all function, and how bones and sockets fit so perfectly together.”
Rabbeinu Bachya guides you to start at the root: become a good person...NOW.
Had I just sat down and started doing any of the 30 techniques he details within, I would’ve automatically become less bitter, more expanded, more attuned to what I was doing wrong, and increased my overall emuna.
But I’m the type of person who likes to understand how and why something works before I start. This is usually a good tendency. Yet sometimes, the best way to understand something is to just do it. And with a tzaddik on the level of Rabbeinu Bachya, I have nothing to fear. It’s okay to just trust his guidance and take the leap.
So I finally took the leap, but felt I would manage better if I could break each technique down to the steps detailed within. Then I wished I could organize it into a workbook form because I needed to make it even more concrete in order to get my head around it. Then I thought, if I’m going to make a workbook anyway, why not make it available to a wider audience?
And that's how 30 Ways to Make Your Soul Shine: A Workbook Guide to Making a Self-Accounting Based on Rabbeinu Bachya's Classic "Duties of the Heart" was born. (Sample pages available for download below.)
I’m not the only person who has read mussar sefarim and come away feeling perplexed or dissatisfied because I couldn’t figure out how to do what they suggested.
The thing is, you just have to jump in (which is hard if you're like me).
Either with paper and pen or with your mouth, just do what they say. Meaning, if they say “contemplate,” do it verbally or manually (like with a pencil and paper), and not just mentally.
My big disclaimer is that the workbook falls very short of what you could do for each technique if you just sat down and did it. Really, you could spend 30-60 minutes on each technique, either talking it through with Hashem or doing a stream-of-consciousness freewrite. So if you don’t need the workbook, then GREAT. That’s ideal; you’ll get more out of it. But if you ran into the same issues I did, then this workbook can help you get more out of it than you would otherwise.
Note: It's fine if you don't fill out every single line of the workbook, if you fill out only one page, or if most of it ends up blank. In the spiritual world (i.e. real world), even the tiniest baby step reaps tremendous results, whether you sense them or not. Any good act you perform can never be erased. So if you write down only one thing to be grateful for, only one organ you appreciate in your body, or whatever, that is very powerful and stays with you forever...whether you feel this or not.
Rabbeinu Bachya himself did not state any order and he stressed the need for each person to do it according to one’s individual level and situation.
So there is a lot of room for flexibility and no room for guilt or pressure.
It will automatically appear in Book Depository within the next 6-8 weeks, hopefully earlier.
(Admittedly inconvenient if you want it before Rosh Hashanah, but I didn’t even come up with the idea until too late. However, since teshuvah should anyway be done every single day of the year, you’re never really too late.)
I'm publishing it under the name "Myrtle Rising."
I'm also trying to see if I can also get it sold through Barnes and Noble.
- There is a glossary of all non-English terms to make the workbook accessible for everyone.
- Each cheshbon includes suggestions if you get stuck.
Table of Contents
- Gratitude Owed to Hashem as Your Rescuer and Benefactor
- Gratitude Owed to Hashem for Your Physical Body
- Gratitude Owed to Hashem for Your Intellect
- Gratitude Owed to Hashem for the Torah
- Your Obligation to Resist being Superficial
- Your Obligation to Obey Hashem out of a Sense of Gratitude
- Your Obligation to Serve Hashem out of Gratitude
- Your Obligation to Serve Hashem with Gratitude and Sincerity
- Your Responsibility to Perform Mitzvot with Enthusiasm
- Remembering the Attention Hashem Lavishes on You
- An Accounting of Your Gifts and How You Use Them
- Redirecting Your Pursuit of the Physical World
- Your Obligation to Avoid Wasting Time
- Using Gratitude to Prevent a Spider Web
- How to Prepare for Your Ultimate Journey
- Reflections When Remembering Another’s Death
- The Benefits of Solitude
- Your Very Greatness as a Human Being Obligates You in Humility
- Gratitude toward Hashem When Bad Things DON’T Happen
- Your Obligation to Cultivate a Healthy Attitude toward Money
- Asking for Hashem’s Help
- Loving Your Fellow as Yourself
- Gratitude to Hashem regarding Natural Occurrences
- Looking at the Torah through “New” Eyes
- Minimizing the Material while Maximizing the Spiritual
- Really Feeling Hashem as King
- Thanking Hashem for What Seems Bad
- Complete Acceptance of Hashem’s Will
- The Greatness of Your Soul Over Your Body and Other Attributes
- Recognition of Your True Position in This World
I've included the Introduction and the first 15 Cheshbonot, and Cheshbon #21 because #21 is the only one I saw fit to get artistic about.
May we all have a lot of hatzlacha in scrubbing our souls.