The Musar movement (also Mussar movement) is a Jewish ethical, educational and cultural movement that developed in the 19th century in Eastern Europe, particularly among Orthodox Lithuanian Jews. The Hebrew term Musar (מוּסַר), is from the book of Proverbs 1:2 meaning moral conduct, instruction or discipline. The term was used by the Musar movement to refer to efforts to further ethical and spiritual discipline. The Musar Movement made significant contributions to Musar literature and Jewish Ethics.

 

  • Chovot HaLevavot, by Rabbi Bahya ibn Paquda (11th century)
  • Ma’alot HaMiddot, by Rabbi Yehiel ben Yekutiel Anav of Rome
  • Kad HaKemah, by Rabbi Bahya ben Asher, a Spanish kabbalist
  • Mesillat Yesharim, and Derech Hashem, by Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto
  • Orchot Tzaddikim (The Ways of the Righteous), by an anonymous author
  • Tomer Devorah (The Palm Tree of Deborah) by Rabbi Moses ben Jacob Cordovero
  • Shaarei Teshuvah (The Gates of Repentance) by Rabbi Yonah Gerondi
  • Hilchot Deot by Maimonides (Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon)
  • The Eight Chapters by Maimonides (Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon)
  • Madreigat Ha’Adam by Rabbi Yosef Yozel Horwitz
  • Cheshbon HaNefesh (Accounting of the Soul) by Rabbi Menachem Mendel Lefin of Satanov (based in part on Benjamin Franklin’s idea of the thirteen virtues)
  • “The Musar Letter” of the Vilna Gaon

 

Salanter recommended studying musar literature in a group. In one passage he spoke of meeting for study on the Sabbath:

The busy man does evil wherever he turns. His business doing badly, his mind and strength become confounded and subject to the fetters of care and confusion. Therefore appoint a time on the Holy Sabbath to gather together at a fixed hour… the notables of the city, whom many will follow, for the study of morals. Speak quietly and deliberately without joking or irony, estimate the good traits of man and his faults, how he should be castigated to turn away from the latter and strengthen the former. Do not decide matters at a single glance, divide the good work among you– not taking up much time, not putting on too heavy a burden. Little by little, much will be gathered… In the quiet of reflection, in reasonable deliberation, each will strengthen his fellow and cure the foolishness of his heart and eliminate his lazy habits.