Mussar in the climate of Conservative Judaism and the teaching of Emmanuel Levinas

Rabbi Stone's new book

What Is Mussar?

Mussar is a literature, a philosophy, a movement and a practice. Beginning in the earliest periods of Jewish experience various spiritual masters have addressed the problem of internalizing the central values of religious teaching. They have addressed the difficulties involved in resisting the tendencies we are all born with which act against our accepting the responsibilities inherent in the grandeur of our humanity. Care for ourselves, care for those closest to us, care for the world itself. Despite our possession of a record of Divine and human encounters which have expressed these obligations, and sometimes because of it, we tend to "fall asleep" rather than face the full demands these obligations. Mussar can be characterized as "a road to insomnia:" A way of staying awake to these obligations. A literature has grown up which exhorts and explains in detail the philosophy of paths to this "insomnia" and that is called Mussar literature. In the 19th Century Rabbi Israel Salanter began a movement which used this literature, but developed independently a variety of specific practices and life-skills aimed at moving, so to speak, from the book to life. To describe practices that would be effective in addressing the complexity of the human psyche and soul so as to effect lasting change.

What Is The Philadelphia Mussar Institute?

Rabbi Ira F.Stone has been learning and teaching Mussar for over a decade. The impending publication of his book The Yoke of Your Neighbor by Aviv Press culminates these years of research and presents the Mussar of Rabbi Simcha Zissel, the Elder of Kelm, in a context that provides a compelling theological entry to Mussar for the contemporary Jew. The Mussar Institute is the next step: a practical program of putting the insights of Mussar to work in the lives of spiritually seeking Jews. A new book, Practicing Mussar, written by Rabbi Stone, along with The Yoke of Your Neighbor, will be the texts for a rigorous program of ethical-spiritual renewal within the context of a contemporary synagogue community. More than simply an adult education program, The Mussar Institute is a multi-dimensional program of adult religious formation. As such, prospective students must apply for admission into the Institute. In addition to a written application form, each prospective student must have a personal interview.


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Philadelphia Mussar Institute
Beth Zion Beth Israel
300 South 18th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103
(215) 735-5148