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 (contemporarymussar.org) 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.
We hope you’ve all had a wonderful summer break. The TES Mussar teachers and Adult Education Committee are happy to announce our Mussar offering for this coming fall and spring semester.
We will be studying The Kabbalah of Forgiveness by Henry Abramson. This is a translation of the first chapter of Tomer Devorah traditionally studied during the month of Elul and between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. It is based upon G-d’s 13 attributes of Mercy addressed in the Torah. Some of us have studied this before. This particular book is an accessible and interesting reading with some contemporary examples to ground the text. It is available on Amazon for $10.
The four Mussar teachers will be co-teaching this class starting at 5 pm to 6 pm Wednesday, September 28, 2022 on ZOOM and ending around April 26th, with time off for Yom Kippur, the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, the last week of December, and the first night of Pesach.
No prior Mussar study is required and one does not have to be a TES member to participate. Also, there is no fee for this class. We would however appreciate donations to the TES Adult Education Fund, click here to donate.
Please register here by September 21, 2022 so we can anticipate who is in the class. We will send a Zoom link for the class to all those who register before the first session. If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to any of the teachers:
We look forward to seeing you in a few weeks.