Episode 21: Part Two - Tensions within Mussar w/Geoffrey Claussen
Geoffrey Claussen is an Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Elon University, North Carolina. He was the founding coordinator of Elon's Jewish Studies program, which launched in Fall 2012, and he is the current chair of the Department of Religious Studies.
Prof. Claussen's courses explore the history of Jewish traditions, from the Hebrew Bible to contemporary Judaisms. His scholarship focuses on Jewish ethics and theology, and he has particular interests in questions of love and justice, war and violence, animal ethics, moral formation, and the legacy of the nineteenth-century Musar movement. He is a past president of the Society of Jewish Ethics and is the author of Sharing the Burden: Rabbi Simhah Zissel Ziv and the Path of Musar (SUNY Press, 2015) and Modern Musar: Contested Virtues in Jewish Thought (JPS/University of Nebraska Press, forthcoming).
We began our conversation by discussing some of the hypocrisies that exist within this Jewish philosophical movement. Humility, for example, can be a quality that Jewish leaders elevate from a place of caring and concern or it can be a desire to have others diminish themselves while the leader of the community maintains an unshakable hold of power and control.
“I should also mention the gendering aspect of this in our contemporary society… the ways in which narratives of humility need to be different when addressed to males and females.” - Professor Claussen
This is an important point to consider within religious movements as they advocate for their adherents to be more humble with their voice, yet many of those being addressed do not a have voice in the communal conversations to begin with - do not have a seat at the table when decisions are being made around who counts and who doesn’t, who is ordained and who is not.
To see an interview with Professor Claussen, conducted by Episode 19 guest Rabbi Dr. Shmuly Yanklowitz please click below.
For some resources and books about Mussar, be sure to check out:
“Everyday Holiness: The Jewish Spiritual Path of Mussar” by Alan Morinis
There is also the Mussar Institute which hosts conferences and events.
and.. of course… “Sharing the Burden: Rabbi Simhah Zissel Ziv and the Path of Musar” by Professor Claussen
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