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Judaism as A Spiritual Discipline: The History, Ideas, and Practice of Musar


Judaism as A Spiritual Discipline: The History, Ideas, and Practice of Mussar

Program: Hebrew College Me’ah Select
Instructor: Dr. Jacob Meskin  (Read Bio)
Dates: 5 Thursdays, 6/22, 6/29, 7/6, 7/13 & 7/20
Time: 10 a.m. – 12 p.m.
Cost: $190, generous financial aid is available
Location: Hybrid – In Person at Hebrew College with Online option
Hosted by: Hebrew College

When modern Jews hear the term “Mussar” they think of ethical ideals, and analyses of character traits. While not wrong, this misses the most intriguing aspect of Mussar. Mussar is an encompassing spiritual quest, and it offers a unique approach to living a Jewish life.

In this five-week course we will begin with an overview of the long history of Mussar (from Biblical and rabbinic texts, all the way through the medieval and modern periods). We will then consider the great Mussar leaders of the last two centuries, and the fascinating religious ideas and practices they created.

We will then analyze the central Mussar idea: what may seem simply to be ethical work on oneself, when lived out in Jewish community, in fact opens up pathways for religious insight and spiritual growth. Judaism itself can become a spiritual discipline.

Here are some of the questions we will be asking along the way:
–What are modern Jews supposed to think about these large-scale Mussar insights today? Can we still accept (and/or adapt) them?
–Several otherwise excellent recent attempts to revive interest in Mussar among progressive Jews have minimized the larger spiritual questions that drive Mussar. Is this wise, or perhaps ultimately unsatisfying?
–How do the insights and teachings of modern women Mussar teachers differ from those of male Mussar teachers? Might women tend to approach Mussar thought and practice in a different way?
–How do the Mussar spiritual quest and Mussar practice compare with what one finds in other religions? Together we will be exploring a comparison between Mussar and the tradition of Hindu yoga.

Hebrew College Me’ah Select courses offer in-depth academically oriented adult learning experiences led by outstanding faculty.