The Mussar Institute

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Climbing Jacob's Ladder

Climbing Jacob's Ladder: One Man's Rediscovery of a Jewish Spiritual Tradition is Alan's first book on his explorations of the Mussar tradition as Jewish spiritual practice. Click here to order a copy.

Jewish by birth, though from a secular family, Alan Morinis took a deep journey into Hinduism and Buddhism as a young man. He received a doctorate from Oxford University for his study of Hindu pilgrimage, learned yoga in India with B.K.S. Iyengar, and attended his first Buddhist meditation course in the Himalayas in 1974. But in 1997, when his film career went off track, and he reached for some spiritual oxygen, this time he felt inspired to explore his Jewish heritage. In his reading he happened upon a tradition of spiritual practice called Mussar that dates from the 10th century and that became a socio-spiritual movement in 19th century Europe. Gradually he realized he had stumbled on an insightful discipline for self-development, complete with meditative, contemplative, chanting, and other well-developed transformative practices designed to penetrate the deepest roots of the inner life.

Eventually reaching the limits of what he could learn on his own, and yet still wanting to go farther, he realized he would have to seek out a Mussar teacher. That goal was not easily achieved, since almost the entire world of the Mussar tradition had been eliminated in the Holocaust. In time, he did find an accomplished master who stood in an unbroken line of transmission of the Mussar tradition, and who lived at the center of a community of Orthodox Jews on Long Island. This book tells the story of Morinis's journey to meet his teacher and what he learned from him, and reveals the central teachings and practices that are the spiritual treasury and legacy of Mussar.

Mussar transformed Alan Morinis's life. He has written this book because the wisdom and practices that helped him so much have not penetrated the world beyond the confines of Orthodox Judaism and may not be fully appreciated even there at this time. His hope is that Jews and non-Jews alike will find in Mussar a time-tested path of spiritual practice that will help them discover the hidden radiance within.

Buy the book online.

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