The Jewish Moral Virtues

The Jewish Moral Virtues

The Jewish Moral Virtues

The Jewish Moral Virtues

Synopsis

A book of practtical ethical wisdom applied to contemporary life.

Excerpt

Judaism, we know, calls for study, prayer, ritual, and good deeds as time-honored practice. Some Jews these days have also made a form of Jewish mysticism their dearest Torah. These actions are sacred, inherited ways to be a good Jew. Yet there is another mode of living the life of Torah that inspires them all and, without drawing much attention to itself, gives Judaism its special charm. It is the way of musar, the practical wisdom that has informed Jewish piety through the centuries and does so still today. Insofar as we infuse our everyday affairs with our Jewish values, we add our own style to the unbroken chain of musar.

Text and mitzvah are taught through formal study and community practice; mysticism involves a teacher and a discipline. But we learn musar quite informally, almost subliminally; perhaps that is why its influence on Jews has been so pervasive. When the Book of Proverbs, that classic of Jewish practical wisdom, admonishes the young: "My child, heed your father's musar, and do not forsake your mother's Torah," (Prov. 1:8), it doesn't have home tutoring in mind. Rather, it is reflecting the reality that parents, consciously or not, continually impart wisdom to their children. Their lectures are probably the least effective part of their instruction. It is their example -- a good deed done, a promise kept or broken, or even a cutting comment -- that reveals their true standards and creates an indelible impression. And all the formal and informal good Jewish sense we take from our parents becomes in a fresh way our own posses-

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