Mussar is wisdom that has come down to us from Jewish teachers and is as applicable to our lives today as it was in ancient times. Mussar encourages us to reflect on our thoughts and actions, and guides us in how we can grow spiritually, morally, and ethically. These teachings help us to overcome inner obstacles that interfere with our becoming the best we can be. We accomplish this by studying and practicing Jewish ideals (middot in Hebrew) and continually striving to improve.
The Mussar Institute program formally introduces children to these ideas and practices using Mussar teachings to guide them as they learn and grow.
Instilling good character and values in children is a sacred duty in which we all believe. Family is the primary character-building force in a child’s life but the ideal situation is to have a common message coming to children from both school and family. Working together, we can nurture children with good character founded in Jewish values.
Most importantly, we need to practice the Jewish values that are taught so beautifully in Mussar texts, so that children will learn to incorporate them into their own lives. Do you wonder when to begin teaching these values to your children? How young is too young? The answer is, they are never too young!
We begin teaching, often without realizing it, the moment our children are born! The first value, (middah in Hebrew) that they learn after birth is trust (bitachon in Hebrew). When they are hungry, uncomfortable, or afraid, they learn to trust that a loving caregiver will meet their needs.
Children learn other values as they grow, but we don’t want to leave their education to chance. This is why the Mussar for Children Curriculum was created and is now available to early childhood educators. This program integrates a Jewish value into the classroom using school activities, family activities, stories, directed discussions, and more. The curriculum is written to be easily incorporated into individual school programs, pairing middot with Jewish holidays and festivals. This program has been classroom tested at Temple Adat Elohim in Thousand Oaks, California since 2010 and has recently been piloted in six schools across the nation. Enthusiastic reviews have resulted in growing numbers adopting this program. As a result Jewish Values for Everyday Living: Mussar for Children continues to joyfully touch thousands of children from around the country every year.
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2013 Michelle Princenthal
2015 The Mussar Institute