Modern Mussar: Contested Virtues in Jewish Thought with Rabbi Kravitz
Join Rabbi Harold Kravitz to explore Geoffrey Claussen’s new book, Modern Musar – Contested Virtues in Jewish Thought. How do modern Jews understand virtues such as courage, humility, justice, solidarity, or love? In truth: they have fiercely debated how to interpret them. This groundbreaking anthology of musar (Jewish traditions regarding virtue and character) explores the diverse ways seventy-eight modern Jewish thinkers understand ten virtues: honesty and love of truth; curiosity and inquisitiveness; humility; courage and valor; temperance and self-restraint; gratitude; forgiveness; love, kindness, and compassion; solidarity and social responsibility; and justice and righteousness. These thinkers—from the Musar movement to Hasidism to contemporary Orthodox, Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist, Renewal, Humanist, and secular Jews—often agree on the importance of these virtues but fundamentally disagree in their conclusions. The juxtaposition of their views, complemented by Geoffrey Claussen’s pointed analysis, allows us to see tensions with particular clarity—and sometimes to recognize multiple compelling ways of viewing the same virtue.
By expanding the category of musar literature to include not only classic texts and traditional works influenced by them but also the writings of diverse rabbis, scholars, and activists—men and women—who continue to shape Jewish tradition, Modern Musar challenges the fields of modern Jewish thought and ethics to rethink their boundaries—and invites us to weigh and refine our own moral ideals.
Pre-requesite: None. This class is open to those who have never studied Mussar and to those who are advanced in their Mussar study. Required Material: Modern Musar – Contested Virtues in Jewish Thought by Geoffrey D. Claussen. Purchase here or here.