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Mussar: Practical Ethics for Living a Meaningful Life


Course Developed by: Rabbi David Jaffe

Why is doing the right thing so hard even when we know what’s right? Mussar (ethics) is the Jewish wisdom tradition that teaches us how to act according to our highest values. When parents give you a hard time about cleaning your room, when you are in a highly competitive game on the sports field or when your group of friends wants to exclude someone, there are many ways to respond. Mussar teachings and practices help us make the choices most aligned with our best selves. This course opens with an introduction to Mussar history and theory and how it compares to other theories of human psychology and development. We then learn how free will and choice is a major factor in all aspects of our lives. The majority of the course explores specific character traits such as patience, trust and respect. These traits influence us and the world around us in a variety of ways, from popular culture, to politics, to sports. The course concludes with a unit that demonstrates how aligning our behaviors with core values is a way of living a holy, spiritual life. Through learning and actual practice, students will apply the teachings of this course to their lives and reflect on the practical impact of Mussar on their thinking and behavior.

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*Please note that students are required to obtain a copy of "Everyday Holiness: The Jewish Spiritual Path of Mussar" by Alan Morinis.


Rabbi Jaffe is the former Spiritual Advisor at Gann Academy in Waltham, MA where he created and continues to supervise an acclaimed, school-wide Mussar program. He was the lead educator and curriculum writer for the Institute for Jewish Spirituality’s Tikkun
Middot Project, which brought Mussar to 28 synagogues, community centers and schools across North America. Rabbi Jaffe teaches and leads retreats for rabbis with The Mussar Institute. His book, Changing the World from the Inside Out (Shambhala 2016) integrates Mussar teachings with social change activism.

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