Eliyahu Eliezer Dessler

Scholar in the Musar movement inspired Ponivezh Yeshivah.

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Dessler postulates that life, rightly understood, consists of that towards which an individual directs his strivings. When a man directs all his strivings towards what Dessler calls "worldly vanities," that man's self is empty and insignificant. But if the self directs its strivings to spiritual, other-worldly concerns, that self enjoys the life of the World to Come even here on earth.

It is only by the individual's free choice of the good, in his struggle with temptation in this life, that the good becomes part of his very being and his choosing of it the root of his eternal bliss in the World to Come. A good given as a gift, even if the gift is from God Himself, cannot become part of the soul's very being since a gift, by definition, is an external endowment and is not self-acquired. This is why the Rabbis speak frequently of this life as a preparation for eternal bliss in the Hereafter.

In Dessler's subtle thought, the austerity of his Musaristic belief is only partly offset by his frequent appeal to the writings of the Hasidic masters. Dessler seems to be attempting impossible when he seeks to blend the rigors of Musar with the joyousness of Hasidism the very different Freudian-type analysis of psyche.

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Rabbi Louis Jacobs

Rabbi Dr. Louis Jacobs (1920-2006) was a Masorti rabbi, the first leader of Masorti Judaism (also known as Conservative Judaism) in the United Kingdom, and a leading writer and thinker on Judaism.