Mussar is a 1,100-year-old Jewish tradition of self-cultivation that provides a pathway to virtue that any individual can follow. In this video, Alan Morinis, Dean of The Mussar Institute, traces the development of Mussar thought and practice. He describes the essential features of this tradition of personal self-development, which practitioners believe leads to fulfillment of the injunctions of the Torah and the Jewish vision of what a human being can be.
Although the tradition of Mussar began in the 10th century, it was in the 19th century that a popular movement emerged around it, bringing a range of practices focused on personal transformation. Rabbi Yisrael Salanter, founder of this renewed Mussar movement, innovated a method of chanting that became a staple Mussar practice throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries. In this video, Alan Morinis, Dean of The Mussar Institute, explains Mussar chanting and teaches a chant to accompany the prayer Elohai neshama.
Ancient Mussar leaders knew that change comes from a deep place within human beings. Their commitment to personal change led to the development of a practice of chanting called hitpa’alut, which involves repeating a phrase over and over with melody and emotion.
Calling to mind prescribed visual images creates an inner experience, and it is experience rather than ideas that does the work of transformation.
Mussar journaling involves keeping a daily record of the ways in which an inner quality showed up that day. Daily journaling is central Mussar practice because it creates awareness of behavioral patterns that otherwise remain obscured from consciousness.
The term kabbalot refers to exercises Mussar students undertake in the real world to work on qualities they want to develop.