Though the earliest references to the Jewish spiritual practice of mussar date to ancient times, the focus on ethics re-emerged in the 19th century when revered scholar Rabbi Israel Salanter of Lithuania and his disciples formalized its study, creating a Mussar Movement in Germany and Russia. Amid religious persecution of the Jews in the early 20th century, the movement languished, but in recent years, mussar has enjoyed a revival in some Jewish circles.
In her 2014 book, “Mussar Yoga,” local author Edith Brotman posits that when practiced together, mussar and yoga, a spiritual tradition originating in Hinduism and Buddhism, “open a new pathway to developing greater wholeness.” Brotman writes that both traditions encourage self-study, self-improvement, ethical living and, ultimately, a closer relationship to the divine.
In “Mussar Yoga,” Brotman articulates the histories and philosophical underpinnings of each discipline, illustrating how much the two practices share in common and how well they complement each other.
Brotman writes in a clear, concise and conversational style, making “Mussar Yoga” a pleasure to read and easy to understand. The book includes real-life examples, photos that demonstrate yoga poses, journaling and discussion topics and guided meditations. Those who seek greater peace, meaning and fulfillment would do well to give “Mussar Yoga” a read.