Mussar: A TES and Center for Contemporary Mussar Collaboration

Mussar is a mindfulness practice and rigorous spiritual discipline that asks us to seriously engage the question – “If everyone knows what it means to be good, why is it so hard to be good?” We do this through tracking our own lives as lived in all our relationships and encounters, and through working with middot – precepts like equanimity, patience, humility, silence, etc. – in our class/cohort, on our own, and with study partners (chavruta). The TES Mussar community started with a small group of learners under Rabbi Boettiger’s leadership and has now grown to over 70 students,  serving as a model for other synagogue communities across the nation. Our  Mussar students are mostly members of the congregation, but we have more and more students from unaffiliated or non-Jewish backgrounds who have been drawn to the work, as well.

The application of Mussar extends beyond our student community. Here at Temple Emek Shalom, our fundamental language and practice as a congregation has centered around Mussar, the ancient discipline that we loosely define as “Jewish Ethics.”

Mussar believes the primary measure of our spiritual/religious life is whether or not it is helping us to be more kind and more awake to everyone and anyone who crosses our path. And yet, even if this seems obvious, most of us spend little time actually studying and practicing how we might learn to truly embody this, to live a life of curiosity, and a life of service to others.

Starting  in the fall of 2021, Rabbi Boettiger will offer a shiur (class) weekly to all registered Mussar students. First, second and third year students will meet separately with our community’s madrichim;  Sheila Canal, Harriet Saturen,  Marty Towbin and Adie Goldberg. Students who have completed the first three years of study will continue to learn together under their own leadership with input from our madrichim. Rabbi Ira Stone, Rabbi Boettiger,  and other Mussar educators will be available to our community. Mussar at TES will now be a collaborative offering with  the Center for Contemporary Mussar. Please check the Center’s website ( for more information and registration specific to the TES community.

We’ve found Mussar to be a practice that can bring the reality of Torah to everyday life, and it has truly become a central lens for so many in our community and beyond. We would probably all agree that “Love your neighbor as yourself” is the central cornerstone for a human life lived with integrity, but if we don’t have a path through which we can learn to actually walk this walk, it will often not bear the fruit we would like it to. Mussar teaches a spirituality that is compassionate and generous. Join us.

TES Mussar teachers present for the Spring session:

Where the Rubber Meets the Road:

Mussar Strategies and Stories

Before we scatter for the summer, we’d like to leave you with practical Mussar tools and inspirations to draw upon.  We will be offering a series of three two-week classes on the Ner Tamid, Becoming Familiar with the Mussar Protocols, and the Wisdom of Etty Hillesum.

The Ner Tamid, the Eternal Light, is a personal statement that expresses your gratitude, compassion, and highest intentions for Mussar and your life.  For both beginning students and experienced ones who’d like to re-energize their Mussar mission statement.  

Mussar Protocols are self-investigations guided by the madrichim (facilitators) to relieve, heal, and transform suffering to manifest our Mussar intentions.

And lastly, we’ll be looking at the writings of Etty Hillesum, a Mussar Master who was a young Dutch Jew living in the Netherlands during the Nazi occupation.  Her insistence that life is beautiful even in dire circumstances inspires us to be whole, complete, kind, and caring despite what travails we may encounter. 

Class dates are weekly for 6 weeks, April 26 – May 31st from 5pm to 6pm on Zoom.
This is a free class.  Any donations to Temple Emek Shalom Adult Education Fund are appreciated. When it gets close to the first session, the Zoom link will be sent to all who registered.  You can register here.  Please contact any of us if you have any questions. 

Looking forward to studying together: 

Sheila Canal
Adie Goldberg
Harriet Saturen
Marty Towbin