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January 31, 2015 / 11 Shevat, 5775
 
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Mussar Without Yelling


In a sense, what Rabbi Feldman is doing is rewriting the traditional Mussar literature in a more laid-back tone. He does not change the content but translates it into today’s spoken language, which helps make it more palatable and applicable to someone with modern sensibilities. This is no small task and I am sure historians disapprove of his liberties with the text. The result, however, speaks to the person who shies away from the yelling of Mussar and prefers the soothing tones of instruction without intimidation.

There is always an appropriate fear among Orthodox Jews over tinkering with our tried-and-true educational methods. Sometimes, however, necessity must trump ideology. The importance cannot be overstated of educating our children to be people who are not only religiously observant but also religiously sensitive and thoughtful.

The tools Rabbis Krumbein and Feldman have given us will serve well many people who do not benefit from the traditional methods.

About the Author: Rabbi Gil Student writes frequently on Jewish issues and serves as editor-in-chief of TorahMusings.com. Rabbi Student previously served as managing editor of OU Press and still maintains a connection to the publisher but did not work on this book in any way.


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Mussar is a school of study that teaches religious self-improvement. Traditional Mussar, as practiced in many yeshivas to this day, has a rabbi exhorting his listeners, often yelling at them, to be more careful in their actions and attitudes. This is frequently accompanied with a Torah insight and maybe even a good parable. But it can be scary: fire, brimstone, judgment day – all the horrible implications of religious failure, in graphic detail.

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