My teaching brings wisdom and practices from Mussar and Hassidut to institutions, communities and individuals looking to access Jewish spiritual technologies for character development and growth. I work with mainstream institutions like day schools and synagogues, groups of spiritual seekers meeting in private homes and rabbis and chaplains seeking their own growth and new tools to bring to their communities. Some of this work I do through my own Kirva Institute, as well as through the Mussar Institute and the Institute for Jewish Spirituality. This teaching aligns with three of the propositions: wisdom (chochmah), community (kehilla) and sacred purpose (kedusha). The beauty of Mussar and tikkun middot is its accessibility. Jews with little formal education can relate to the universal wisdom of the middot. The practical nature of these teachings give people access to an authentically Jewish spiritual path toward kedusha. This type of spiritual journey best takes place in a group setting. Thus, learning Mussar creates micro-communities of practitioners, whether in a day school for an academic year or in a living room with a group that meets over many years.
My new project, Changing the World From the Inside Out (CWIO) adds the fourth proposition: tzedek. CWIO integrates tikkun middot wisdom into social change activism, offering a model for how activism can be a Jewish spiritual practice. The goal of the project is for Jews engaged in justice, whether through Jewish or secular institutions, to make these teachings their own in the form of a personal practice and through application to their justice work. I see working through the Jewish social justice organizations and synagogues as well as directly with Jewish change makers in the small group format described above. Another important population are spiritual practitioners who have not yet seen activism as part of their practice. Changing the World From the Inside Out creates the bridge for them to go from inner transformation to making social change and back. The first step in this project is the publication in September, 2016 of a book by the same title which presents this integrated wisdom.
My work hints to a fifth proposition: Spiritual Practice. Practice integrates the head, heart and hand. It is different from wisdom, which traditionally refers to intellectual, cognitive learning. Spiritual practice, including but not limited to the traditional categories of Torah and mitzvot, is a growth area. This is included in sacred purpose, but possibly could be its own proposition because it is a particular way of creating community based on our sacred wisdom.
Rabbi David Jaffe is the principal of Kirva, a training institute dedicated to helping people and organizations access Jewish spiritual wisdom for making sustainable social change. His book, Changing the World from the Inside Out will be published by Shambhala Books in 2016. David was instructor of rabbinics, dean and spiritual advisor at Gann Academy: The New Jewish High School of Boston for 11 years, where he continues to consult on issues of Jewish ethics.