Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Sharing the Burden: Rabbi Simhah Zissel Ziv and the Path of Musar

Geoffrey Claussen, Sharing the Burden: Rabbi Simhah Zissel Ziv and the Path of Musar (Albany: SUNY Press, 2015).
Here is the publisher's description of the book:
Sharing the Burden analyzes the rich moral traditions of the nineteenth-century Musar movement, an Eastern European Jewish movement focused on the development of moral character. Geoffrey D. Claussen focuses on that movement’s leading moral theorist, Rabbi Simḥah Zissel Ziv (1824–1898), the founder of the first Musar movement yeshiva and the first traditionalist institution in Eastern Europe that included general studies in its curriculum. Simḥah Zissel offered a unique and compelling voice within the Musar movement, joining traditionalism with a program for contemplative practice and an interest in non-Jewish philosophy. His thought was also distinguished by its demanding moral vision, oriented around an ideal of compassionately loving one’s fellow as oneself and an acknowledgment of the difficulties of moral change. Drawing on Simḥah Zissel’s writings and bringing his approach into dialogue with other models of ethics, Claussen explores Simḥah Zissel’s Jewish virtue ethics and evaluates its strengths and weaknesses. The result is a volume that will expose readers to a fascinating and important voice in the history of modern Jewish ethics and spirituality.
The book is available on the SUNY Press website here.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Sharing the Burden: Rabbi Simḥah Zissel Ziv on Love and Empathy

Geoffrey Claussen, “Sharing the Burden: Rabbi Simḥah Zissel Ziv on Love and Empathy.” Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics 30, no. 2 (2010), 151-169.

ABSTRACT: Rabbi Simhah Zissel Ziv of Kelme, Lithuania was one of the early leaders of the Musar Movement, a pietistic religious movement in 19th century Europe that attempted to place concerns with moral character at the center of Jewish life. This article introduces Simhah Zissel’s virtue-centered approach to the Torah’s central commandment that one “love one’s fellow as oneself.” For Simhah Zissel, love is a disposition of the soul, with emotional and intellectual aspects, culminating in action; love demands a sense of partnership with others and a sense of care which should extend to all of God’s creatures. Love demands a sense of partnership with others and a sense of care that should extend to all of God's creatures; love requires that we not privilege ourselves over other people; and the highest level of love is “sharing the burden of one’s fellow,” compassionate love characterized by empathy and responsiveness, which can only be cultivated through great effort.

UPDATE: Full text available here.