In his 2015 book, The Road to Character, NY Times writer David Brooks posits that we live our lives by two different sets of virtues: what he calls “Resume virtues” and “Eulogy virtues.” He writes, “Resume virtues are the ones you list on your resume, the skills that you bring to the job market and that contribute to [your] external success. The eulogy virtues are deeper. They’re the virtues that get talked about at your funeral, the ones that exist at the core of your being – whether you are kind, brave, honest or faithful; what kind of relationships you formed. Most of us would say that the eulogy virtues are more important than the resume virtues.” Brooks contends that we live in a world which celebrates the resume values, and demands that we enhance those values.
In our confusing and contentious time, many are seeking to find a greater sense of grounding in core virtues which can guide us, uplift us and inspire us to become the best persons we can be.
For the Jewish world, asking such a focus is hardly new. Yet, in our time, we have the uncovering of a rich part of our Jewish heritage which was nearly lost to our people – the study and practice of Mussar. In large part inspired by the work of The Mussar Institute and other contemporary efforts at reclaiming mussar for our day, an ever-expanding number of communities and individuals are bringing the study Mussar teachings and their accompanying practice into their lives.
In this 6-week series, we will delve in the study and practice of some of the Mussar traditions wisdom for our lives in our times. Come travel the “Jewish Road to Character” along this journey into what be a profoundly meaningful and nourishing spiritual practice for our Jewish souls, hearts and minds.
Rabbi Eric Gurvis is Rabbi Emeritus of Temple Shalom of Newton in Newton, MA and is the East Coast Manager of the Shalom Hartman Institute of North America. He has studied and practiced Mussar for over 5 years and has trained with The Mussar Institute as a facilitator of Mussar groups; and has led such groups and explorations in a number of communities in the Boston area.