How to Be a Mensch
The Jewish Tradition of Mussar
At the heart of Judaism, no less fundamental than the observation of ritual and the wisdom of Jewish law, revelation, and text, is the teaching of the transformation of the heart and soul of the individual. With down-to-earth practicality, Mussar marshals the collective wisdom of the Jewish tradition to help practitioners “acquire Torah,” to internalize the wisdom of the tradition to bring about genuine transformation of the inner self.
This online course, led by Dr. Alan Morinis, founder of The Mussar Institute, introduces this extraordinary thousand-year-old tradition. Over seven lessons you will be given tools for paying attention to thoughts and reactions and for systematically developing inner characteristics or “soul traits”—humility, generosity, equanimity, simplicity, and trust, among many others. This practice of focused attention, along with contemplative readings and other supportive practices, allows us to harness the mind in order to elevate the soul. Each person’s Mussar journey is unique, and through practice you will be able to work on and cultivate the soul traits that are on your own particular “spiritual curriculum.” We invite you to learn from the Mussar teachings how to be fully present, conscious, and accountable right in the midst of the messiness of everyday life.
Seven 15- to 30-minute downloadable video lessons taught by Alan Morinis
Guided reading assignments with downloadable PDFs from With Heart in Mind: Mussar Teachings to Transform Your Life by Alan Morinis, PhD
Practices and self-reflections to help you integrate the teachings into your practice and daily life
Unlimited access on your computer, mobile device, or tablet—learn at your own pace wherever and whenever works best for you
This course is also available in a Group Study Version, which includes a facilitator's guide and everything you need to bring this course to your community.
This course will help you:
- Develop personal insight and wisdom and recognize your unique personal path of spiritual growth using the Mussar practice
- Identify and develop skills for mastering your personal challenges to achieve a higher level of consciousness
- Change repetitive behaviors that inhibit your personal and spiritual growth
- Recognize your personal motivations, ideal and actual
- Consciously act in ways that reflect values and ideals that remove barriers to connecting to your self, to others, and to God
Introduction to the Mussar Method
In this first lesson Alan presents an overview of the Mussar method. Through the lecture and the readings, you will learn about its roots in the Jewish tradition and about Alan’s rediscovery of this practice of spiritual transformation based on the Torah and begin to experience the Mussar practices.
Discerning Your Challenges
Each of us face unique challenges in our lives. In this lesson Alan discusses practicing the Mussar method within the context of these challenges. Relating tales from Jewish teachings, he makes connections with the origins of Jewish understanding of the character traits to create a deeper understanding of some of the terms as they relate to the Mussar method. The challenging traits that we need to work on are often the opposite of our strengths. Traits that one may consider “negative” can also be harnessed for good in the right setting. For this reason, you will choose a practice that will help in identifying your own unique spiritual path within the context of the course.
In this lesson Alan explains the meaning of “obstacle” in Jewish teachings, in reference to traits that are part of the Mussar method. You will continue to develop your own spiritual path as you identify which challenging traits are obstacles to your personal change and growth.
Change Comes with Practice
In this fourth lesson Alan will discuss the change process. By applying a four-stage process, the practitioner becomes more whole in the trait in which he or she has chosen to focus. Alan takes you through the Mussar practice by focusing on the trait of gratitude as an example.
Recognizing Your Motivations
Our motivation can pull us toward different outcomes—those that may elevate and those that may debase. It is important to be aware of situations where a decision to act or behave may lead us in a direction counter to our spiritual best interests. In this lesson Alan explains how focusing on our challenges by default leads us toward spiritual growth.
A Higher Level of Consciousness
In this lesson Alan discusses how the Mussar practice can lead practitioners to gain an overview of their journey to wholeness or holiness. This naturally leads the practitioner to a higher level of consciousness.
Where Do We Go from Here?
In this final lesson Alan will reflect back on the Mussar practice, explaining how it has evolved through the lessons and how you can continue to work on a deeper level beyond the parameters of the course. In addition to your weekly practice, you will develop a plan for moving forward to connect more deeply with yourself, with your community, and with your God or spiritual practice.
“The material is wonderfully and powerfully impactful. My spiritual path has been long and fruitful, and Mussar has been some of the most powerful work I have done”
“I had never taken an online course before this one. I think that the material is terrific and Alan is wonderful.”
“I look at this course as a way to learn balance and become more [aware] of how to be a more mature person.”
“Wonderful stuff to study. Thank you for offering it and guiding me through my confusion to what I needed.”
Review of Climbing Jacob’s Ladder: One Man’s Journey to Rediscover a Jewish Spiritual Tradition by Alan Morinis:
“Alan Morinis, in his spiritual journey, has struck a rich vein of Judaism. This offering feels like a heart-gift to us.”—Ram Dass, author of Be Here Now and Still Here
Review of Everyday Holiness: The Jewish Spiritual Path of Mussar by Alan Morinis
“A readable, engaging, friendly book. . . . [Morinis] writes as one besotted with the Jewish path, but not so intoxicated as to forget the conventions of the secular. He’s an accessible guide, and a sober one.”—Jewish Daily Forward
Alan Morinis completed his doctorate at Oxford University, which he attended on a Rhodes Scholarship. A producer of award-winning television and film, he has been a student of the Mussar tradition since 1997, studying under Rabbi Yechiel Yitzchok Perr. Alan is the founder and director of the Mussar Institute, an organization that promotes the study of Mussar through study groups, courses, and public talks. He lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, with his wife and two daughters.
If for any reason you are not completely satisfied with your purchase, please e-mail us within 30 days of registering for the course, and we will promptly refund your purchase price.