Description: Introduction to Mussar 01
“Why do we learn mussar?”
Thank you all for signing up and reading or listening. We are finally ready to begin the kabbalah I hoped to undertake during Aseres Yemay Teshuvah, to learn mussar regularly. I hoped to make this available to everyone, and B”H with the help of Rafi Catan and Nechemiah Mond we were able to launch this program, thank you both very much.
The plan is to learn sefer Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh. This is a series of seforim written by a very special and holy individual who lives in Eretz Yisrael, named Rav Itamar Schwartz, who succeeded through his seforim and drashos to spark a revolution in learning mussar and applying mussar to life. As a book-store owner in Yerushalayim put it, "His sefarim are lapped up by the entire spectrum, from modern Orthodox youths to Mea Shaarim chassidim!" He currently has published close to 50 seforim, all under the title of Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh, stand-alone volumes, on Chagim, a commentary on Chumash, Mesilas Yesharim, Baal Shem Tov al haTorah and more. He is proficient in all areas of hashkafah, and seems to have a deep understanding of kabbalah as well, although I am not qualified to say that! I was zocheh to meet him when he was brought in to LA, and he spoke in the LA Kollel. He was a surprisingly young man at the time, but had a fire to him that was palpable, and was ‘malei v’gadish,’ full and overflowing with depth and knowledge.
They now have a website called www.bilvavi.net, which has translations of his shiurim, some of his seforim, and hundreds of audio shiurim given by Rabbi Schwartz.
The reason I chose this sefer, rather than one of the classics, such as Mesilas Yesharim or Chovos Halevovos, is because for the amount of time we have here, it would be difficult to break down those seforim into 5-minute segments, and in truth each line of Mesilas Yesharim and other such seforim requires learning and understanding, all of which would exceed our proposed segment. This sefer, is in essence an extrapolation of the first perek of Mesilas Yesharim, where he discusses what is our purpose on this world, what does Hashem want from us and expect of us! It is written in a clear and concise, yet engaging fashion, and is broken down already into small segments which work perfectly for this purpose. I have found his sefer to be thought-provoking and deeply inspiring, and am very excited to learn it together with everyone.
Every recording will be about 5 minutes, and be accompanied by a basic transcript delivered through email. We will include the actual language of the sefer if I am quoting from it, otherwise we will just note which page and paragraph of the sefer we are up to.
Before we begin learning the sefer, let’s address another very important question – do we have to learn mussar? Why? The knee-jerk response to that question might be, ‘of course we have to learn mussar! All the Ba’alei Mussar say so!’ But, as we all know, that alone won’t motivate us – until we appreciate what the need is ourselves.
The truth is, this question is so important, so integral to Avodas Hashem, that the Mesilas Yesharim dedicates the whole introduction of his sefer to this question. Why in the world is his sefer necessary?!
In the process of answering the question, he explains why people, meaning you and me, think we don’t need mussar.
Reason #1: We think we know everything we need to know already.
Reason #2: We don’t think there’s anything too deep that requires learning.
Reason #3: There are too many other things we prioritize – thinking they come first. Mussar? That can wait.
I’ll add some reasons. Mussar is a general kind of thing. How will learning Mesilas Yesharim, Orchos Tzaddikim, Sharei Teshuvah or Chovos Halevavos help my sholom bayis? Will it change my davening? Will I have more patience for my kids? It’s hard to see the connection between learning mussar and the things we know and want to work on. It’s hard to appreciate what difference mussar makes even when we are learning it!
These are actually all valid and relevant questions. What’s the answer?
The answer, says the Ramchal, is so obvious, that we miss it entirely. Tomorrow iy”h we will discuss the answer to these questions!