CCM’s Unique Classes

The Center for Contemporary Mussar offers introductory and continuing classes (see detailed information below) that focus on foundational Mussar texts, theology, and practice.

Classes are small, so that everyone has access to other va’ad (group) members and to their madrich/ah (leader).

We feature distance learning, using a free videoconferencing platform called Zoom.

Classes are taught by trained, certified madrichim, who have gone through our four-year program, followed by a year of Teacher Training. All madrichim receive continued supervision from our most experienced staff members.

Each class is divided into a shi’ur (text study) and a va’ad (group work focused on a specific character trait). We use a variety of modalities, including meditation, breath work and artistic expression.

Students can commit to a single introductory class (Seeds or Foundations I) or choose to enroll in CCM’s three year curriculum; an addition year of training and ongoing supervision is required for all CCM Madrichim.

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During a cholera epidemic, Rabbi Salanter, founder of the Mussar movement, forbade his congregants from fasting on Yom Kippur that year, so that they not become susceptible to the dreaded disease. After the Morning Prayer, Rabbi Salanter himself ascended the pulpit with a cup of wine and a piece of cake in his hands, said the blessings, and ate and drank where all could see him.

Description of Classes

Seeds of Mussar

Mussar is a centuries-old toolbox for working on one’s character, focusing on particular character traits and Jewish values. This class will introduce a method that focuses on refining our attributes so that they enable us to serve others with greater and greater joy. We work on our character attributes, not simply to take care of ourselves and enjoy more fulfilling lives, but to practice bearing responsibility for others. The Torah introduced the idea of loving our neighbor as ourselves thousands of years ago; this Mussar program provides each student with a personal operating manual toward meeting this overarching goal of Judaism.

No Prerequisite

Foundations of Mussar/Kibbush, Level I – III 

Kibbush, which literally means “capture,” is the Mussar practice of self-restraint. This is a foundational step in Mussar practice and evokes the question: What is it that keeps us asleep, even as we desire to be awake to the needs of the other?

In these foundational classes of Kibbush I – III (see detailed description below), we will study middot (character traits) such as seder/order and savlanut/patience, as a way to understand and recognize when our energy is in a state of Ra, or self-absorption. We will study Mesillat Yesharim (The Path of the Upright) by Rabbi Moses Hayyim Luzzatto as we explore the elements of daily practice which help us transform our energy so we can more fully serve the other.  

Prerequisite: Seeds of Mussar (or prior mussar training–contact instructor)

Required texts: Mesillat Yesharim, The Path of the Upright, by Moses Hayyim Luzzato, with Introduction and Commentary by Ira F. Stone, can be purchased through your local bookstore or preferred online platform for approximately $48. The CCM Workbook can be purchased from admin@contemporarymussar.org for $18.

Foundations of Mussar/Kibbush I: Developing a Mussar Consciousness

This foundational course presents the basics of CCM’s approach to Mussar. You will  gain an understanding of Mussar theology and metaphors, and learn how to create and maintain a daily practice. You will study Messillat Yesharim, a seminal Mussar book, and in the process, learn new ways of reading Jewish text. You will be introduced to Kibbush, an approach to practice which involves restraining and overcoming habitual patterns of reaction. Middot studied during this class include Order/Seder, Deliberation/Metinut,  Patience/Savlanut, Just Action/Tzedek, Equanimity/Menuchat Ha-Nefesh, and Moderation/Histapkut.

Foundations of Mussar/Kibbush II: Deepening Your Practice

This class continues the study of Messillat Yesharim, focusing on the principles of Watchfulness and Zeal.  Watchfulness helps you with the practice of kibbush or restraint by helping you observe your actions and speech. Zeal, on the other hand, corresponds to the positive middot, and helps you to act without hesitation so that you can serve the other. You will also learn about how gratitude can enhance your daily practice. Middot studied during this class include Silence/Shtikah, Frugality/Kimmutz, Decisiveness/Charitzut, Zeal/Zerizut, Gratitude/Hoda’ah and Trust/Bitachon.

Foundations of Mussar/Kibbush III: Toward Tikkun

This class begins the transition from kibush to tikkun or transformation. The reading in Messillat Yesharim focuses on Cleanliness, the ability to remove the filter of self-absorption to see the other as Other. You will also learn about the concepts of Separation and Purity, all of which focus on overcoming self-interest and rationalizations that limit our ability to serve the other. You will be introduced to the concept of the Ner Tamid, a statement of the unique qualities of your individual Neshama; and you will create your own Ner Tamid. You will also create an Action Plan, a more detailed plan for daily practice  Middot studied during this class include middot of Cleanliness/Nekiyut, Humility/Anavah, Truthfulness/Emet, Calmness/Nichutah, Modesty/Tzniut, Separation/Prishut and Generosity/Nedivut.

Transformations through Mussar/Tikkun, Level I – III

The practice of Tikkun, or transformation, focuses us inward so that we can better align ourselves with holiness and ground our actions in loving-kindness and compassion (see detailed description below). 

Within kabbalistic literature, this work is sometimes called Tikkun haNefesh, the repair of the soul, and sometimes, Tikkun haMiddot, the transformation of our character traits. The central text that we study for learning this practice of spiritual transformation is Chapter One of Tomer D’vorah by Rabbi Moshe Cordovero. He introduces thirteen middot of Tikkun, which we study in detail in the book, In Search of the Holy Life: Rediscovering the Kabbalistic Roots of Mussar by Rabbi Ira Stone and Dr. Beulah Trey.

Prerequisite: Foundations of Mussar/Kibbush, Level I – III

Required texts: In Search of the Holy Life, by Rabbi Ira Stone and Dr. Beulah Trey, can be purchased at your local bookstore or preferred online platform for approximately $13.99.

Tikkun I: Immersing Yourself in the Yetzer HaTov

In this course, we take a break from Messillat Yesharim and begin to read the first chapter of Tomer Devorah, a book which provides a step-by-step guide in the practice and understanding of tikkun. You will gain an understanding of the concept of B’tzelem Elohim.Middot studied during this class include Gratitude/Hoda’ah and Lovingkindness/Chesed. You will learn the tikkun protocol, as well as develop a gratitude practice and continue to develop your New Tamid.

Tikkun II: Making A Life of Holiness Your Goal

In this class you will return to the final chapters of Messillat Yesharim, in which you will focus on concepts such as Hasidut, or Love as expressed in deeds, Anavah, or inner humility, Fear of Sin, or awe in the face of the magnitude of our obligation, and Holiness, which is about elevating all activities to the level of Divine Service. You will revisit the original 18 Cheshbon HaNefesh middot and revisit your Action Plan.

Tikkun III: M’zakeh et ha-rabbim Aleph 

M’zakeh et ha-rabbim is the final Mussar step of bringing your work out into the wider society. You will study the first chapter of Tomer Devorah for a second time, this time using the middot with an emphasis on taking tikkun work out into the world with a focus on social justice. You will continue to use the tikkun protocol and create a M’zakeh et ha-rabbim/Action Plan.