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Mussar -texts and commentaries / Mussar -study and practice

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Showing 1-17 of 17 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Apr 11, 2010 9:43:43 AM PDT
[Deleted by the author on Apr 12, 2010 9:36:59 PM PDT]

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 11, 2010 12:18:11 PM PDT
jaime says:
Luzzato's "The Way of Gd"

Posted on Apr 11, 2010 6:23:59 PM PDT
jaime says:
You may like the material I quoted from the web on the Niddah.

* * *

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 12, 2010 5:49:46 AM PDT
[Deleted by the author on Apr 12, 2010 9:37:24 PM PDT]

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 12, 2010 5:50:11 AM PDT
[Deleted by the author on Apr 12, 2010 9:37:44 PM PDT]

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 22, 2010 3:00:45 PM PDT
N/A says:
Hanalah wrote: Luzzato's "The Way of Gd"

N/A: Ordered it, received it and will begin reading it this Shabbos. Thank you again.

Posted on Jul 25, 2010 7:53:36 PM PDT
jaime says:
I have learned that there will be two Mussar groups opening in my town shortly. I think that the same rabbi is teaching both, but I am not sure. Each is within walking distance from my house for an athletic teenager--i.e., ten or twenty blocks, less than five miles. I hope to attend both.

Mussar is the cultivation of good MIDDOS. Middos literally means, MEASURES. We need the capacity for anger, so that our outrage can motivate us to correct injustice. However, we do not need to become angry every time our ego suffers. So we need only a small measure of anger. Similarly we need some impatience so that the community's needs be met in good time. For example, if there is a building reserved for homeless people to sleep in, and the roof leaks, we must be impatient about getting that leaky roof repaired so that the street homeless people are spared added suffering. But we do not need to be so impatient about our own needs, so we need only a small measure of impatience and a large measure of patience.

When I was in a mussar group before this, the first middah we worked on was humility. But I see that this group is going to begin with happiness. I think we should begin with humility and move to gratitude and then to happiness, so I am interested to see how well it works to begin with happiness. We have yet to have our first meeting, but I will report on it when it comes.

Meanwhile I would be interested to know if any others have read about mussar (for example, in one of Alan Morinis's books) or have participated in a mussar group (there are various mussar groups through out the USA and CAnada and possilbly elsewhere; the practice seems to come from the Litvaks, i.e., the Jews of Lithuania and Lativa. Since indeed my ancestors on my mother's side come from that area, that makes this all the more interesting to me. It contrasts interestingly with Hasidism--the Gaon of Vilna opposed Hasidism as leading, he feared, to immorality or to Shabbatai or to Frankism, and so the Jews within his area seem to have developed mussar almost "instead of" hasidism. That is a vast oversimplification, of course.

Meanwhile my first class is not until next Sunday night, so I very much hope one of you will post meanwhile.

Thank you for any contribution.

Posted on Jul 29, 2010 11:07:25 AM PDT
jeffesq613 says:
A few other highly recommended works:

Luzzato's "Path of the Just"

Bahya ibn Pakuda's "Duties of the Heart"

"Orchot Tzadikim" - Ways of the Righteous - unknown authorship

"Sha'arei Teshuvah" - Gates of Repentance by Rabbeinu Jonah of Gerona

"Ohr Yisrael" - by Rav Yisrael Salanter and Rav Yitzchak Blazer

Works by the Chofetz Chaim, including "Chofetz Chaim", "Ahavat Chesed" and "Shmirat HaLashon"

"Igeret HaRamban"

"Strive for Truth" (Michtav Mai'Eliyahu) by Rav Eliyahu Dessler

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 30, 2010 11:16:13 AM PDT
LazerA says:
Hanalah said:
"the Gaon of Vilna opposed Hasidism as leading, he feared, to immorality or to Shabbatai or to Frankism, and so the Jews within his area seem to have developed mussar almost "instead of" hasidism. That is a vast oversimplification, of course."

You are confusing the Mussar Movement with mussar itself. The study of mussar goes back to Biblical times, indeed, several Biblical books (esp. Proverbs) are primarily mussar works. Pirkei Avos is a Talmudic tractate devoted entirely to mussar. Mussar works have been written and studied throughout Jewish history. The mussar movement, which began in the 19th century, was a movement within the Eastern European yeshiva world which sought to stress (and improve) the study of mussar to a greater degree.

Posted on Jul 30, 2010 11:28:06 AM PDT
A. Caplan says:
I love these forums because I always learn something. I had never heard of mussar before this.

Posted on Jul 30, 2010 11:39:14 AM PDT
LazerA says:
The following is an overview of the mussar literature that I wrote, several years back, for an adult education class I was giving on classical Torah literature. (It was special summer program which was requested by students who wanted to gain more familiarity with the works that
I was quoting in my regular classes.)

The Classic Works of Mussar

The term mussar has a number of connotations. It comes from the root of assar, to bind, and refers to all the various means by which we restrict and confine our behavior within the proper boundaries. The study of mussar is, thus, the study of self-discipline and self-control, and the precise clarification of the proper bounds of behavior, both externally, in our relations with others and our performance of mitzvos, and internally, in our thoughts and emotions. Mussar literature makes frequent reference to middos - character traits - such as pride, anger, joy, and jealousy. In the following material many of these middos are referred to by English terms, however these terms generally do not convey the full meaning of the Hebrew terminology.

Mussar is a fundamental element in all Torah study, and every Torah work has elements of mussar within it to some degree. However, certain works deal purely with mussar. In Scripture, the book of Mishlei (Proverbs) by King Solomon is entirely a book of mussar. Similarly, in the Talmud, the tractate of Avos, or, as it is better known, Pirkei Avos, is also devoted entirely to mussar.

The following is a select list of major works of mussar:

Mishlei (Proverbs) - Shelomo HaMelech (King Solomon). The book of Mishlei is probably the first work devoted entirely to mussar. As such, it provides much of the material that is utilized in all later works of mussar. Because the book of Mishlei is a mussar work, all the commentaries on it are also effectively works of mussar as well. In addition to the standard Biblical commentaries, there are several commentaries written specifically on Mishlei. Many of these are studied as mussar works in their own right. Among these are:
* Pirush Rabbeinu Yonah - Rabbeinu Yonah of Gerona (c.1180-1263)
* Pirush HaGra - Rav Eliyahu of Vilna (the Vilna Gaon) (1720-1797)

Pirkei Avos - Talmud. Probably the most widely studied tractate of the Talmud. In addition to all the standard commentaries on the Mishna (such as the Rambam, Bartenura, and Tosefos Yom Tov), Pirkei Avos has been the subject of innumerable special commentaries. Many of these are considered classics in their own right. Among these are:
* Pirush Rabbeinu Yonah - Rabbeinu Yonah of Gerona (c.1180-1263)
* HaChasid Ya'avetz - Rav Yosef Ya'avetz (d. 1507). Rav Yosef Yaavetz also wrote a commentary on book of Tehillim (Psalms), and several books on Jewish belief.
* Nachalas Avos - Rav Don Yitzchak Abarbanel (1437-1508)
* Medrash Shmuel - Rav Shmuel di Uzeda (1538-1602). One of the most comprehensive commentaries on Pirkei Avos, the Medrash Shmuel is both a collection of earlier commentaries and an original commentary. Rav Shmuel di Uzeda was a disciple of the Arizal and Rav Chaim Vital. He also wrote commentaries on Megillas Rus and Megillas Eicha.
* Ruach Chaim - Rav Chaim of Volozhin (1749-1821).
* Toldos Yehoshua - Rav Yehoshua Heller (1814-1880). A leading rabbinic authority in his time, Rav Heller also wrote a number of other works of mussar and Jewish philosophy.

Avos D'Rebbi Noson, a Talmudic work which expands upon the themes of Pirkei Avos.

Chovos HaLevovos - Rabbeinu Bachya ibn Paquda (Early 11th Century). Arguably the most important mussar work of all time, the Chovos HaLevovos is divided into ten Shearim ("Gates"). In each section, Rabbeinu Bachya precisely defines each concept and the principles related to it. These ten sections are:
1. Shaar HaYichud ("Gate of Unity") - a philosophical discourse on the importance of proving to oneself that God exists, and the proper means by which to achieve this.
2. Shaar HaBechina ("Gate of Discernment") - on perceiving God's wisdom and control in the world around us.
3. Shaar Avodas HaElokim ("Gate of the Service of God") - on our obligation to serve God.
4. Shaar HaBitachon ("Gate of Trust") - on our obligation to trust God.
5. Shaar Yichud HaMaaseh ("Gate of Unity of Action") - on the principle of devoting all one's actions only to the service of God, and how to achieve this.
6. Shaar HaKeniah ("Gate of Humility") - on the principle of humility.
7. Shaar HaTeshuva ("Gate of Repentance") - on repentance.
8. Shaar Cheshbon HaNefesh ("Gate of Self-Accounting") - on the importance of introspection and self-examination and the proper ways to do this.
9. Shaar HaPrishus ("Gate of Abstinence") - on the value of separating oneself from physical and worldly pleasures, and the proper way to do so.
10. Shaar Ahavas HaShem ("Gate of Love of God") - on loving God.

Sefer HaYashar - Ascribed to Rabbeinu Tam - Rav Yaakov ben Meir (1100-1171). A philosophical mussar work.

Sefer Chasidim - Rabbeinu Yehuda HaChasid (c.1150-1217). A very influential mussar work with substantial kabalistic input.

Shaarei Teshuva - Rabbeinu Yonah of Gerona (c.1180-1263). One of the most important and influential mussar works, the Shaarei Teshuva is considered the basic work on teshuva (repentance).

Igeres HaRamban - Rav Moshe ben Nachman (Ramban) (1195-1270). An extremely brief letter - only two or three pages long - the Igeres HaRamban was written by the Ramban to his son. Despite its brevity, this letter is considered a major mussar classic.

Orchos Tzadikkim - Anonymous (c.13th Century). An extremely popular work, the Orchos Tzadikkim is divided into twenty-eight Shearim.

Orchos Chaim L'Ha'Rosh - Rabbeinu Asher ben Yechiel (Rosh) (c.1250-1327). A very brief work consisting of admonishments to proper behavior and observance. Traditionally divided into seven sections for daily study.

Maalos HaMiddos - Rabbeinu Yechiel (13th Century) - A classic work of mussar that discusses in depth twenty-four middos and their opposites:
* Knowing God
* Loving God & One's Fellow
* Fear of God & Parents
* Torah Study & the Fulfilment of the Mitzvos
* Kindness
* Charity
* Prayer
* Humility vs. Pride
* Modesty vs. Immorality
* Shame vs. Arrogance
* Faithfulness vs. Theft
* Honesty vs. Deceitfulness
* Compassion vs. Cruelty
* Amicability vs. Anger
* "A Good Name"
* Yetzer Tov vs. Yetzer Hara
* Teshuva (Repentance)
* Wisdom vs. Foolishness
* Wealth
* Diligence vs. Laziness
* Easily Satisfied vs. Gluttony
* Generosity vs. Stinginess
* Derech Eretz
* Peace vs. Contention & Gossip

Menoras HaMe'or - Rav Yitzchak Aboav (c.14th Century). An extremely popular work, the Menoras HaMe'or was translated into numerous languages including Spanish/Ladino, Yiddish, German, and, most recently, English. Much of the Menoras HaMe'or is made up of extensive selections from the Talmud and Midrashim with commentary by the author.

Tomer Devorah - Rav Moshe Cordevero (RaMaK) (1522-1570). A work of Kabalistic mussar, the Tomer Devorah is devoted to the basic mussar concept of "v'halachta b'drachav" - "and you shall walk in His ways" (Deuteronomy 28:9). This is the mitzvah of emulating God. The first chapter of Tomer Devorah goes through the thirteen Divine attributes of mercy and explains how we can emulate them. The remaining chapters discuss how to emulate the traits represented by the ten sefiros.

Reishis Chochmah - Rav Eliyahu di Vidas (1518-1592). Written by a disciple of Rav Moshe Cordevero, the Reishis Chochma is an extremely important work of Kabalistic mussar. The main body of the work is divided into five Shearim:
* Shaar HaYirah - The Gate of Fear
* Shaar HaAhavah - The Gate of Love
* Shaar HaTeshuva - The Gate of Repentance
* Shaar HaKedusha - The Gate of Holiness
* Shaar HaAnava - The Gate of Humility

Sheivet Mussar - Rav Eliyahu HaKohen of Smyrna (d. 1729). An important work, the Sheivet Mussar quotes extensively from earlier sources.

Mesillas Yesharim - Rav Moshe Chaim Luzzatto (RaMChaL) (1707-1747). An extremely influential work, the plan of the Mesillas Yesharim is based on a passage from the Talmud:
Rabbi Pinchas ben Yair said, "Torah leads to Carefulness, Carefulness leads to Diligence, Diligence leads to Cleanliness, Cleanliness leads to Abstinence, Abstinence leads to Purity, Purity leads to Piety, Piety leads to Humility, Humility leads to Fear of Sin, Fear of Sin leads to Holiness, Holiness leads to the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit leads to Resurrection."
Based on this passage, Rav Moshe Chaim Luzzatto discusses each of these levels - from Carefulness to Holiness - in depth.

Igeres HaGra - Rav Eliyahu of Vilna (the Vilna Gaon) (1720-1797). A letter written by the Vilna Gaon to his family. Like the Igeres HaRamban, this letter is considered a mussar classic. Another mussar work, Even Shleima, was compiled from the Vilna Gaon's other works.

Nefesh HaChaim - Rav Chaim of Volozhin (1749-1821). Written by the primary disciple of the Vilna Gaon, the Nefesh HaChaim is a major classic of Kabalistic mussar.

Pele Yo'etz - Rav Eliezer Papo (d. 1824). Written in very accessible language, the Pele Yo'etz is essentially a practical encyclopedia of mussar. It is organized by topic in alphabetical order. Rav Eliezer Papo also wrote a number of other works, including another mussar work titled Ya'alzu Chasidim and a commentary on the Torah titled Elef HaMagein.

Cheshbon HaNefesh - Rav Menachem Mendel Levin of Satanov (1749-1826). A guide to self-analysis focusing on thirteen positive traits:
1. Menucha - Serenity
2. Savlanus - Patience
3. Seder - Orderliness
4. Charitzus - Decisiveness
5. Nekius - Cleanliness
6. Anavah - Humility
7. Tzedek - Justness
8. Kimutz - Thrift
9. Zrizus - Diligence
10. Shtika - Silence
11. Nichusa - Calmness
12. Emes - Truth
13. Prishus - Abstinence

The Mussar Movement

In Europe, around the beginning of the 19th Century, many Torah leaders recognized a problem within the Torah community that, although Torah study was widespread, the mussar essence of Torah was not being internalized. In many cases, Torah study had become a soulless intellectual endeavor. The Mussar Movement was a response to this problem. Under the leadership of Rav Yisrael Salanter, the Mussar Movement began to strongly emphasize the study of mussar. This study was to be both analytical and emotional, emphasizing a clear understanding of the concepts and a total internalization of them. The Mussar Movement introduced to the yeshivos the mashgiach, a special teacher devoted to providing mussar guidance to the yeshiva students.

The founders and leaders of the Mussar Movement represented the elite Torah scholars of the yeshiva world. The mussar discourses disseminated by these leaders are among the most sophisticated and penetrating analyses of ethical, religious, and philosophical topics ever written.

Rav Yisrael Lipkin of Salant (Reb Yisrael Salanter) (1809-1883). Universally recognized as one the leading Torah scholars of his time, Reb Yisrael Salanter was the founder of the Mussar Movement. He published very little in his lifetime, the most significant exception being his famous Igeres HaMussar in which he lays the foundation for his methodology in mussar. After his death, his disciple, Reb Itzele Peterburger, published a number of his letters on mussar topics in Ohr Yisrael. The primary influence of Rav Yisrael Salanter was through his disciples. Among the most prominent of these:

Rav Simcha Zissel Ziv (The Alter m'Kelm) (1829-1898) - The Alter m'Kelm was the primary teacher of the next generation of Baalei Mussar. His yeshiva, the Talmud Torah of Kelm, was the first of the mussar yeshivos. Only mature and accomplished scholars were accepted into the Talmud Torah, where they were trained to reach truly outstanding levels of self-discipline and perfection. Discourses and letters of the Alter m'Kelm have been published in a collection titled Chochma U'Mussar.

Rav Yitzchak Blazer (Reb Itzele Peterburger) (1837-1907) - Reb Itzele was very active in spreading the influence of Reb Yisrael Salanter's teachings, playing a role in the founding of the yeshivos of Slobodka, Novhardok, and Slutzk. He also published Ohr Yisrael, a collection of letters from Reb Yisrael Salanter, to which he appended several discourses of his own under the title Kochvei Ohr.

Rav Yosef Yozel Hurwitz (The Alter m'Novhardok) (1848-1919), founder of the Novhardok yeshivos, a group of mussar yeshivos, Rav Yosef Yozel was also a disciple of the Alter m'Kelm. Several of his discourses are published in Madreigas HaAdam.

Later Generations of the Mussar Movement

Rav Noson Tzvi Finkel (The Alter m'Slobodka) (1849-1928). A disciple of the Alter m'Kelm, the Alter m'Slobodka was one of the most influential roshei yeshiva of all time. His disciples represent the majority of all later yeshivos in Europe, America, and Israel. His discourses were published in Ohr HaTzafun.

Rav Yerucham Levovitz (1875-1936) - A disciple of the Alter m'Slobodka and, briefly, of the Alter m'Kelm, he was the mashgiach in the Mir Yeshiva. His discourses are printed in a three-volume collection titled Daas Chochma U'Mussar and in a six-volume commentary on the Torah titled Daas Torah.

Rav Eliyahu Lopian (1876-1970). A disciple of the Alter m'Kelm, Reb Elya Lopian was later a mashgiach in London and in Israel. His discourses were printed in Lev Eliyahu.

Rav Eliyahu Dessler (1891-1954). Rav Dessler was a product of the Talmud Torah of Kelm. He is best known for the five-volume Michtav M'Eliyahu published by his disciples. His work has had a tremendous impact on contemporary Torah thought. Rav Dessler synthesized all the different approaches to Jewish philosophy. He quotes extensively from all the different traditions, philosophical, kabalistic, Chassidic and non-Chassidic, and brings them together. In this sense, he established the approach of most contemporary Torah teachers.

Posted on Aug 3, 2010 3:25:10 PM PDT
[Deleted by Amazon on Aug 6, 2010 11:23:17 AM PDT]

Posted on Dec 19, 2012 6:53:36 PM PST
C. Gramze says:

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 19, 2012 7:10:38 PM PST
LazerA says:
Ouch again! We've got to stop "bumping" into each other like this! :-)

Posted on Dec 19, 2012 7:21:59 PM PST
C. Gramze says:
I am just trying to bump up Jewish topics to help combat the troll takeover of the forum. Of course, it does not help that certain individuals still have not stopped engaging them.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 19, 2012 7:26:59 PM PST
LazerA says:
Well, good luck! I'll try to stop by once in a while and participate.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 19, 2012 7:57:23 PM PST
C. Gramze says:
Please do!
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