The book, Novarodok: The Movement that LIved in Struggle and its Unique Approach to the Problem of Man is being published in French transplation. R. Meir Levin wrote a new introduction to this edition and I post it here in English:
This book is about a movement, a spiritual discipline and a way of life that speaks directly to the heart of the modern man. We, products of Existentialism and post-modernism were suckled and weaned on the philosophy that self-expression is all that there is, that “Man as he is”, is all that there is to man, that self-actualization and fulfillment of the self is the highest goal of Life. Modern man grows up never questioning the idea that he must be true to himself, that expressing his feelings, artistry and mastery over Nature is calling, work and vocation… and that there is nothing else that matters. But what happens when man finds with a shock that his inner self is empty and that whatever there is inside of him… is not very nice.
Novarodok taught the ancient idea that Man as he is, is nothing but ashes and dung and that Man can, needs to and must sculpt himself or herself in the image of Heaven. To a believing Jew, this is a basic concept. All I thought that I did by writing Novarodok was to record a dying movement’s last embers in the pages of a book. After the book came out, I learned that I was wrong.
I began to hear from people to whom this was a revolutionary idea, to whom it was an epiphany and life changing. They said that this work was their flash in the darkness, that it illuminated their course in Life, the way forward out of the sense of helplessness and failure that ensnared and imprisoned them. That man can change and remake himself was enormously liberating. Soon I began to hear about people changing their lives because of the book, about a professor in Texas who came to Borough Park to redo his wedding, about a Russian immigrant who dedicated his life to Jewish outreach work, about the many who gained from this work the confidence to start anew. And then there was the Mussar Institute.
I would be over-reaching if I claimed credit for Alan Morinis’ work. This Rhodes scholar and former movie producer already found Mussar before reading a copy of Novarodok. It was Novarodok, however, which moved him to contact Rabbi Perr, who became his Musar mentor, and to go on to develop the Mussar Institute, a movement of thousands of Jews from all varieties of observance, who study Mussar as a spiritual discipline and find within it the inspiration toward a holier, more spiritual and more productive life. A movement with branches in many American cities, the Mussar Institute and its annual conferences, chapters and programs and demonstrates that the wisdom of Mussar has something to say to contemporary Jews. R. Avraham Yaffen once despaired of Mussar being able to survive, “the noise of New York that obscures the sun itself”. Mussar Institute demonstrates that the light of Mussar is brighter than sun itself and that there is a future for Mussar in the modern world.
I see Mussar as Jewish liberal education. Perfection of character and rebuilding of the heart goes well with anything one may do in life. It benefits a pulpit rabbi no less than a businessman, a Talmud teacher no less than an outreach professional, a chasidic pietist or devotee of Jewish mysticism as much as their not yet observant brother. The French translation is especially gratifying, for France, along with the Land Of Israel and America that gave the remnants of Novarodok a refuge. May the light of Novarodok burn proudly in La Francophonie. May it burn forever for all Jews.
With gratitude and best wished to the Script Torah project and with blessing to all our brethren,