Part of committing to serious Mussar study is acquiring a chevruta, or study partner.
This is someone with whom:
- you communicate with on a weekly basis in order to draw strength
- share your weekly experiences in the practice of Mussar
- study relevant texts or website articles that apply to the weekly middah
The power of a chevruta is that it emboldens true Mussar practitioners to stay connected and committed. By joining with another person, you maintain a certain level of accountability to stay with the practice of Mussar, as well have someone to learn with, dialogue about trouble areas, and share victories in middah progress.
When you are looking for a Mussar chevruta, there are some important criteria to consider. This is a person who you will share your progress with as you go throughout the year, and also take time to study with each week. This is someone with whom you should be comfortable talking about a wide range of personal issues and knowing that information will stay between you. It is recommended that you already have an established working friendship with your potential chevruta.
It is highly encouraged that married couples should partner together, as this builds upon an already existing closeness. This type of partnering can not only help strengthen couples through better understanding and character improvement, but potentially more progress might be able to occur through the candidness and strength of the relationship to which there is already a foundation.
It is not, however, considered an acceptable practice for non-married individuals to pair up with those of the opposite gender. It is appropriate for women to pair with women, and men to pair with men.
Meeting with your chevruta occurs on a weekly basis. How often? Minimally, it should be at least once weekly for 1-2 hours. This can be an informal meeting, over coffee/tea, a nosh, or at each other's home. Ideally, it should happen in person in a place that is comfortable for study and dialogue. This should be an undisturbed time where it is just you and your partner - no children around, no family, no other obligations pending for that time - so that maximum communication and study can be achieved. Also, it is beneficial if that meeting occurs past the third day of the week (from Tuesday onward). This allows for some exposure individually to the middah of the week, and to establish a basis for how the week is progressing for each partner.
Discussion between partners can range from anything listed on the weekly middah in any of the classical/contemporary sources to articles on the riverton mussar website. The dialogue can then branch into how each partner has related to the middah, experiences, or observations. All of this time is productive time - avoid chatter and small talk. This time is meant to strengthen each other and grow in the true understanding of the middot.
If you are serious and wish to practice Mussar, it is advised that you begin to look for a partner as soon as possible.