Live Lectures over Zoom and Chevruta Study
Six unique text-focused lessons with accompanying study materials for chevruta (diad/triad) study sessions
Date and Times
Thursdays, 7-8 pm ET, 6/22/-8/31/2023
Join Alan Morinis for a one-time-only, new, live course that introduces you to some key figures in the lineage of the Mussar tradition. This course is open to all, from advanced students to those new to Mussar.
The vast majority of Jews today are spiritual orphans, unaware that they are heirs to a great spiritual tradition. They are cut off from the lineage of eminent spiritual teachers and teachings that exist in the Jewish tradition called Mussar. This course aims to reconnect contemporary Jewish spiritual seekers to that heritage by introducing six influential Mussar teachers and their teachings that comprise a lineage stretching from the present back nearly 1,000 years.
These teachers and their teachings form the backbone of my own Mussar learning and practice. I look forward to sharing what I have learned about these unique and treasured individuals, the contexts in which they lived and taught, and their wise and insightful teachings. Participants will come to see themselves connected to a great chain of tradition and will feel the vibrant link to their spiritual ancestors and the lessons for living that they have bequeathed to us.
Rabbi Bahya ibn Paquda wrote the first true book of Mussar in Spain in 1080. Not much is known about his life except that he lived in Saragossa, Spain, where he served as a judge and wrote. His work, Duties of the Heart, which has become a pillar of the Mussar tradition, focuses on the qualities of heart and mind that Judaism promotes. Duties of the Heart has been a handbook for inner living throughout the centuries and is revered by serious Mussar students to this day.
Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto was an 18th-century mystic born in Italy who studied Kabbalah with a small circle of students. Because he was so young (in his twenties), the local rabbinic authorities became suspicious of his activities and eventually forced him to leave Italy. He took refuge in Amsterdam, where in 1740, he wrote his masterwork of Mussar, Messilat Yesharim: Path of the Just. This book provides a step-by-step guide for personal spiritual development that is still relevant today.
Rabbi Yisrael Salanter founded an influential Mussar movement in Lithuania, where he was born in 1810. His teachings focused on the spiritual significance of how we live our daily lives and emphasized the connection between emotional and intellectual life. His few writings have been collected and published in the book Ohr Yisrael. Rabbi Salanter’s main impact came through his disciples, who carried the teachings of Mussar into every corner of the European Jewish world and beyond.
Rabbi Nosson Tzvi Finkel, who came to be known as the Alter of Slobodka, was born in Lithuania in 1849 and studied under Rabbi Simcha Zissel Ziv (known as the Alter of Kelm), the primary disciple of Rabbi Yisrael Salanter. In 1882, Rabbi Finkel founded the Slabodka Yeshiva, where his teaching stressed the greatness of every human being. He encouraged his students to develop their inner strengths and raise the standard of their behavior to embody their potential greatness. His thought has been collected and published in the book Ohr HaTzafun: The Hidden Light.
Rav Yeruchom Levovitz served as the mashgiach ruchani (spiritual supervisor) of the Mir Yeshiva in Belarus. Born in 1875 and educated at the yeshivas of Slobodka and Kelm, his weekly Saturday evening talks have been collected as the book, Knowledge, Wisdom, and Mussar. As insightful, inspiring, and influential as his thought has been, his students reported that it was his holy presence that touched them and shaped them the most.
Rabbi Shlomo Wolbe (born in Berlin as Wilhelm Wolbe, 1914-2005) was the pre-eminent Mussar master of today’s generation and the author of the latter-day Mussar classic Alei Shur. His spiritual searching brought him to the Mir Yeshiva in Belarus, where he studied under R’ Yeruchom Levovitz. He escaped from there to Sweden to avoid the devastation of WWII. It is said of him that, in his presence, one experienced the elevated ways of a human being whose essence was permeated with holiness.
Registration is now closed for summer 2023. Please check back for future offerings of this course.