Intro To Mussar: Jewish Mindfulness

Rabbi (Rav) Yisrael Salanter (1810-1883) was a famed Talmudist and founder of the Mussar movement. Rav Salanter was mentored in Mussar by Rabbi Zundel. They both lived very modest lives. Rav Salanter was appointed the head of a yeshiva in Vilna, where he lived in poverty, and acquired his own following.

After turning down a Professorship in Talmudic studies, he moved from Vilna and started his own Mussar shtiebel (small Jewish house or room of learning).

Spirituality is like a bird: If you hold it too closely, it chokes, and if you hold it too loosely, it escapes.

There is no greater disease than the loss of hope.

There is no greater illness than discouragement!

Scriptural study is not an end in itself. It must be accompanied by ethical study and conduct.

Promote yourself, but do not demote another.

Rav Yisrael Salanter

By 1939 Mussar was well-established in Eastern European yeshivot until the teachers and practitioners were murdered in the Holocaust.

Today, Mussar has experienced a resurgence in all branches of Judaism.

Mussar practice follows a three step approach:

1) Mantra: Read aloud or chanted to set your intentions for the day.

2) Action: Actively practicing a Mussar middah (character trait).

3) Journaling: Keeping a Mussar Journal of your thoughts and feelings as a practitioner.

Click Page 2 Below for an Introduction to Mussar Mindfulness Practice.

16 thoughts on “Intro To Mussar: Jewish Mindfulness

  1. I used to do daily mussar practice, but somehow I dropped it along the way, probably when my depression got bad and I was working nearly full time and living by myself and trying to run my home and I just felt to overwhelmed to keep it up. Part of me would like to restart it, but I just feel too overwhelmed with stuff at the moment.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The Wild Pomegranate

      (((Hug))) Depression does take us away from things we once did, on top of all the other stressors of life. Hope things get less overwhelming for you soon. 🌷

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This is a joy to read. There is such wisdom and relevance here. I appreciate what I see as an emphasis on balance–valuing self, valuing others, for instance–and I also appreciate what I hope I’m understanding is an organic quality to something that has a heritage of generations, not to mention what is ancient.

    “It’s imperative that we see ourselves in the Torah (bible) as co-writers of an evolving story.” What is set down is vital, but apparently there’s room for more. Even if this is promoting our participation alone, it is an engaging way to do it. The Massur practices bring to mind others such as the lectio divina and centering prayer. I appreciate promoting prayer, study, and action that comes through all these, I believe.

    So many scholars and teachers murdered in the Holocaust. Not to mention all the other skills–and more importantly all the people–who were lost. I don’t want to understand race-hatred. I only hope I can help to end it.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Shaina N

    I love this d’rash. Derech Eretz is imperative in order to be an observant Jew. Kindness is the most important thing in Judaism. Most people think that rituals are the most important things.(e.g. Kashrut) Thanks for pointing out this fact. The reference to primary sources that demonstrate this point are nothing short of genius. Compassion, kindness, and empathy are very special attributes that need to be learned about,(Mussar), put into action, cultivated and practiced in life. If it was easy, everybody would be doing it. It is profoundly complicated, as you so brilliantly shared, and it is the most important way of life! Thank you, for your brilliant d’rash and reference.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The Wild Pomegranate

      Thank you for your excellent summation!! Your sagacity is a light that comes shining through! I’m grateful for your presence and the opportunity to do this spiritual work with you. 🖖


  4. I find it interesting when you state that Mussar has experienced a resurgence in all branches of Judaism. It must appeal to diverse groups as I would think there would be some division and creative tension between the different branches. Always good to hear some activity that brings people together instead of divides. I particularly like, “Promote yourself but do not demote another”. That is indeed an aphorism for today’s political climate. Interesting post. You have added to my spiritual knowledge.


    1. The Wild Pomegranate

      Really good point about Mussar being a unifying factor in its resurgence across the board! I like that thought and gained a new insight. Rav Salanter brought Mussar to the Orthodox community, but it’s very popular now in the progressive/liberal branches of Judaism. There is divisiveness between branches/denominations of Judaism as there are in Christianity — every denomination feels they’re doing it the ‘best’ way or the ‘right’ way. I was on a discussion forum once and a bunch of Christians were bashing Catholics, saying they weren’t real Christians. I was saddened and shocked to see that. Thanks much for being here and bringing your awarenesses to the table. 😊


  5. Pingback: Yom Kippur: Breaking the Mold – The Wild Pomegranate

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