Some of us who see the title of this Rabbinic Reflection might be turned off by the S word, “spirituality”. It is a word many of us love to hate. It congers up images of sitting in a circle with others pounding on drums, or maybe meditating alone on a mat, or all those people we know who don’t come to synagogue because they say, “I’m spiritual but not religious.” Others of us might have no problem with the S word and might even say that we Reform Jews, coming from the rationalist tradition, need a little spiritual injection into our Judaism. For these people, spirituality has to do with the emotional sides of Judaism and not just the intellectual. I include myself among this group.
I bet most of us are puzzled by the last word of the title, “Mussar”. Mussar is a system, based on Jewish sources, of practices to transform our inner lives by developing our personal virtues like humility, patience, gratitude and generosity. This transformation is so that we can live better lives in service to others and God. The Mussar movement began in yeshivas in 19th century Lithuania, but its wisdom is a powerful tool for any Jew. In the last decade, many contemporary liberal Jews have been studying Mussar texts, forming Mussar groups, and following the Mussar practices of meditation, mindfulness, journaling, and self-reflection to bring peace, order, and joy to their individual lives and more spirituality (there’s the S word) to their Judaism and Jewish community.
I had the opportunity recently to be trained by Mussar teacher (and Toronto native) Alan Morinis of the Mussar Institute to become a facilitator of “Seeking Everyday Holiness”, a nineteen week Mussar program in conjunction with the Union for Reform Judaism. This fall I will be forming a Mussar vaad, a group, to study together and help each other develop our neshamot, our souls. I would love to go on this journey with anybody who is ready to make the commitment to delve into their souls. I am looking for people who are open to share about themselves and are looking for new ways to explore Judaism and Jewish practice. There will be limited space in the vaad, so if you are interested or want to learn more, please email me [email protected].