By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, March 6, 2009

Mussar is the name of the renewal movement that sprang up within traditional Judaism in the 19th century to focus people on inner workaimed atimproving their character. The name means received teachings from the verb moser, meaning to transmit or pass on.

Its founder, Rabbi Yisrael Salanter (1810-83), stressed the need to set aside time for careful self-examination of ones traits and behaviour. The busy man does evil wherever he turns, heonce said. He also recommended meditation and acquiring a mussar chavruta, a friend and confidante with whom to work together on self-improvement.

Mussar urges relentless honesty with oneself. One of its key insights is that thought is secondary to will. What we desire, whether good or bad determines, what we choose to see, how we think and our ability to recognise unpleasant truths about ourselves.

Last updated: 12:32pm, March 6 2009