Rabbi David Nesson, spiritual leader of Morristown Jewish Center–Beit Yisrael, led a thought-provoking three-part series titled, “Living an Ethical Life: An Encounter with Mussar.” His series was held at noon on Tuesdays, April 30, May 7, and May 14, at the Morris County Library, 30 E. Hanover Ave., in Whippany.
Why is it hard to be good? That is a question Jewish thinkers have been asking for more than 1,000 years. Rabbi Nesson noted that “While the commandments in the Torah and other Jewish texts are laid out pretty clearly, people like you and me often have a hard time following them.”
Mussar is a Jewish spiritual practice that gives voice to the questions of how to live a meaningful and ethical life. What is unique to Mussar is that it is based on the idea that by cultivating inner virtues, we improve ourselves. The Mussar masters recognized that simply learning about kindness does not make us more kind. We have to look at our inner drives. Said the series leader, “Mussar is teaching the heart what the mind already understands.”
“Our journey will take us from biblical texts such as Pirkei Avot, into the medieval world of the Mussar rabbis. We will meet and focus on the creative and innovative Mussar world of Rabbi Israel Salanter, the founder of the Mussar movement. We will find our way to the Mussar movement of today, one that is linked to the modern ideas, such as mindfulness.”
“Along the way we will try to out some Mussar practices for ourselves. Will we find the way to Living an Ethical Life? I can’t say for sure, so I invite you to come , join us and let’s find out together!”