“Learning Mussar”, Chapter 13 Summary: Removing the Impediments

We removed many impediments from the path of avodas Hashem and in particular, of learning mussar. Here one who merits, the learning of mussar a route to true avodah — it is a narrow route, but there is no measure to the treasures that are hidden in it.

Our master, the ga’on R’ Yisra’el n”a said that mussar is the Torah for timtum haleiv. And more, at the time of his passing they heard him studying mussar. Our master, the ga’on R’ Simchah Zissel of Kelm n”a wrote, “It is worth being created for the sake of mussar study.”

We will summarize in brief the “removal of impediments” in the chapters of this section.

  1. In the Torah, there is no room for “hashqafas olam” or for “ra’ayonos“.

    [In chapter 1 Rav Wolbe shlit”a defines what he means by these terms.
    Hashqafah” is looking over the world, life and himself, and deciding his place in it. As opposed to deriving these truths from the Torah — even if he reaches the same conclusions.

    [“Ra’ayonos” are end-directed creativity in Torah study. One has conclusions in mind of how the Torah ought to be, and works what he learns to fit those preconceived notions.]

  2. We are also obligated in the study of the laws of the fundamentals of the Torah, the laws of dei’os, and the books whose contents deal with teaching “Torah” not “Jewish thought”.

    [The obligation is in intimate Torah study, not a scholarly attempt to objectively study a philosophy.]

  3. Be cautious of attaching the title “shitah” to the lifestyles in avodas Hashem. Leave the use of the title “shitah” to the gedolim of the world on one end — and the speech of common people chatting between minchah and ma’ariv on the other…

    [The word “shitah” ought be reserved for a recognized gadol‘s approach to Torah that is deepened and expanded by his students. An individual’s idiosyncrasies in avodah don’t merit the title, even though each person has his own aspect of the Torah that is uniquely his. Such misuse of the title creates a false confidence.]

  4. “Ideology” has no place in Torah.

    [“Ideology” in the sense of the basis of a political camp or sociological group. Different derachim in Torah should coexist without such political tensions or divisiveness.]

  5. Frumkeit” is the illusion of closeness to Hashem yisbarakh. Its inverse, and the true closeness is: deep concentration.

    [“Frumkeit” is the subject of an earlier chapter. It’s an unthinking instinct of religiosity, which like most instincts ends up revolving around self.]

  6. Mussar is a study, no less so than the Chidushei haRashb”a or the Aliyos deRabbeinu Yonah, or of acharonim such as the Qetzos haChoshen or R’ Aqiva Eiger. One is to study specifically with comprehension and depth, and one must know that there are no trivialities in aggadita and mussar.
  7. “These things were said for me!” Not that they’re already inherent in me, or that they’re only for tzaddiqim gedolimI need to build these things within the structure of my life!
  8. There is no evil that has no repair. That which is revealed by destruction and attacks — must not thrust one into depression and a feeling of futility ch”v. After his evil middos etc… are revealed during hispa’alus mode of learning, the mind must busy itself in fixing them with an informed approach. In no way should one veer from the mental approach to feelings of a broken spirit!
  9. In our generation, the need is to first toil in all of the study of the greatness of man. Only after they reach a recognition of the greatness of man in general and the importance of their own status in particular — only then should they try to reveal faults.
  10. The beginning of learning is with mind and comprehension. The continuation is through regesh, and “regesh” is the sensitive placing of interest into concentrating on softening the timtum haleiv. From there, hispa’alus, which is the unification of the knowledge with the soul. All learning is clearly fenced-off from a cerebral approach (“intellectualization” in English), which is simply a means of inflating the ego and has no place in the world of Torah. Therefore, the form of learning must be specifically with the feelings of the soul and the flowing of the spirit. Not the way one reads a book; so too one doesn’t learn mussar with a chavrusah.
  11. There is a paradox in the outcome of mussar: the study works beneath one’s notice; the student doesn’t feel success in his learning. However, it constantly reveals to him new insights and this causes him to constantly see himself more and more deeply, and in truth he rises above all others of the same age as him in all his behaviors.

Mussar is deep introspection, and struggling with the internal flaws that mislead us on every side. One who studies mussar tries throughout all stages in his life to peel this deceit, layer after layer.

We tried in this section to outline the chochmah of mussar even though it’s so great in its shitos. We chose to travel the path of “pealing errors” which is “the removal of impediments” in the prophetic language. This is the path which leads to true aliyah. On the gate to the Torah of mussar and its study is written in raised letters: Emes!