Mussar for Moderns - Introduction

  • Rav Elyakim Krumbein
Musar for Moderns
Torah tradition and literature have always addressed the spiritual needs and dilemmas of the individual in a direct way. Yet the modern Jew often finds that he is deprived, almost by definition, of access to this vital aspect of our Mesorah. This feeling stems from the perceived gap which yawns between our sources and the contemporary mind-set and outlook, which are part of the psychological and emotional make-up of the observant Jew of our generation. Problems are encountered in relation to central ethical Jewish concepts which are ignored in our culture, and also regarding instinctive patterns of thought and approaches to life.
The result is that the serious Jew in our day may be comfortable when studying Jewish law and philosophy, but confused or frustrated by the demands of our ethical literature. Issues such as guilt, humility, commitment, which our sources take for granted, are openly questioned by society at large. If these concepts are to be relevant to the modern man, he needs to find his way back to them, without denying his identity as a modern man. This is a considerable undertaking, intellectually and emotionally.
Our introduction to Musar - “Musar for Moderns” - aims to be a step in this direction, while realistically acknowledging that it can be no more than that. It strives to propagate a broad approach towards the Musar-endeavor, by using different types of  source material (i.e. not only classic sifrei Musar), and by emphasizing the responsiblity of the individual for the direction of his spiritual life, a responsiblity which persists no matter what the text says.
Each shiur explores an ethical topic of concern, often problematic, to man in general and modern man in particular. We will try to dismantle some of the barriers which prevent us from finding meaningful insight in our sources, and instill the conviction that personal spiritual progress is a worthy and achievable aim in the twenty-first century.