Yashar

straight • upright • righteous

newsletter of  The Mussar Institute

March 2014  • Justice/ Tzedek

March 2014

Justice/ Tzedek


A MUSSAR GEM


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Save the date for the 2014 Kallah

Nov. 13–16 at the Illinois Beach Resort in Zion, IL.


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Available August 2014
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The Mussar Institute depends on the generosity of supporters. Please consider making a donation to honor someone or to remember a loved one.

Thanks to these generous donors and members:

  • Jill Jupiter, in honor of Alan Morinis
  • Guy Levine, in memory of Jacob Ween
  • Cynthia Shipper, in honor of Roz Katz
  • Betsy Teitell, in honor of Pam Rollins
  • Amy Tesser, in memory of Jacob Ween

Become a member of The Mussar Institute. The Mussar Institute gratefully acknowledges and thanks its 2013–14 Sustaining Members.

Donations are gratefully accepted.

pushke


THE MUSSAR INSTITUTE

For further information on The Mussar Institute, visit www.MussarInstitute.org
Email address: info@mussarinstitute.org
Phone: 778-300-6174

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Novarodock and Slabodka: Different Paths to the Same Goal

Some 40 years ago, my mentor, a therapist rabbi, told me, “If your father had gone to Slabodka rather than Novarodock, how different his and your life would have been.” This article represents my efforts to understand what that rabbi meant, influenced and shaped in this pursuit by the writings of Shlomo Tchikochinsky, a scholar at Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

Mussar practitioners believe that “deep down” we all want to behave with justice and fairness, to do the “right thing.” The source of this desire is our spark of divinity, often called “soul.” Parents and teachers struggle to find the balance between the right and left hand, the soft and hard, between positive and negative reinforcement, to produce young adults who are disciplined and able to be fair and just and resist the “easy way out.”

As students of Mussar we often hear the names of the founding schools of the Mussar movement without differentiating between them. My goal is to show how the two largest schools were unique and actually had opposing educational styles to instill fear of Hashem  and develop positive character traits in their students.

In 1882 Rabbi Nathan Z. Finkel opened the first Mussar Yeshiva in Slabodka. The yeshiva struggled as students resisted what has been called the dark side of Mussar practice. Rabbi Salanter often wrote of dark hidden forces distracting us from proper behavior. One influential rabbi protested, “When a patient is not sick, taking strong medicine (Mussar) is unhealthy and even dangerous.” Others opined that if we are going to question, analyze and critique our motivations to discover spiritual sickness, we’d best have clear pedagogical medicines and alternatives. We do not open wounds if we do not have medicines to dress the wound and deal with potential infections.

It was not long after that the original Slabodka yeshiva split, and Rabbi Finkel began a second effort with a new softer approach accentuating “the greatness of man.” No longer accentuated were the “dark forces” (soon to be popularized by Sigmund Freud as the unconscious), but the positive spiritual drives, akin to the status of Adam and Eve before their downfall in the Garden of Eden. Rabbi Finkel would rhetorically ask, “How can you do such a behavior when you possess a divine spark and your every action has deep influence on the cosmos (an idea popularized as the “butterfly effect”)?

As a high school teacher of ethics, I challenge my students and ask, “Why not cheat on our spouse?” Most often the first answers given are that getting caught is expensive and destructive, as cheating often leads to divorce. As our discussion continues, the idea of not cheating because we would never want to hurt and disappoint our spouse, who has trusted us and would be deeply hurt, takes shape. It is unjust to hurt a spouse who has given us their devotion and trust.

I see these two answers correlating to the two reasons Mussar teaches why not to sin. Fear of punishment and fear of the awesomeness of Hashem. (Why would you defile such a beautiful world we have been entrusted with?) Slabodka now accentuated the latter, and its students dressed like gentlemen of stature with style and elegance.

Rabbi Y. Horowitz opened the Novarodock Yeshiva in 1897 and accentuated the pitiful lowliness of man. Pessimistic and dark, Novarodock, like Rabbi Salanter, had little faith in man if he does not use radical tools to teach himself better life habits. Students disdained the pleasures of life, dressed shabbily and worked “to break their will” (destroy the ego). Students might burst into tears from the fiery lectures of Rabbi Horowitz. Fear of failure and resulting punishment, rather than a positive sense of pride, were the primary pedagogical tools.

Alas, I grew up as an American enamored with playing sports and music, but my father, a student of Novarodock, would not support music lessons nor tolerate wasting time chasing a ball. How different things might have been, indeed.


Newsletter Home

Welcome – by Jason Winston

Interview with Marshall Rauch – by Jason Winston

Interview with Leona Siadek – by Jason Winston

Novarodock and Slabodka: Different Paths to the Same Goal – by Baruch Lazewnik

My Mussar Journey – by Sandra Lief Garrett

Practice Corner


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Copyright 2014 © The Mussar Institute


A MUSSAR GEM


Chevrah members access the HomeSite here


Save the date for the 2014 Kallah

Nov. 13–16 at the Illinois Beach Resort in Zion, IL.


With Heart in Mind
Available August 2014
preorder now


wwwfollow us on facebook

FOLLOW US ON:

Forward to a friend

Join our mailing list


Donations

The Mussar Institute depends on the generosity of supporters. Please consider making a donation to honor someone or to remember a loved one.

Thanks to these generous donors and members:

Become a member of The Mussar Institute. The Mussar Institute gratefully acknowledges and thanks its 2013–14 Sustaining Members.

Donations are gratefully accepted.

pushke


THE MUSSAR INSTITUTE

For further information on The Mussar Institute, visit www.MussarInstitute.org
Email address: info@mussarinstitute.org
Phone: 778-300-6174