Torah.org Home Subscribe Services Support Us
 
Print Version

Email this article to a friend

Ohr Yisrael: R’ Salanter’s Innovations (2)

Sometimes we just gnaw away and quickly swallow what we eat, and other times we chew, savor, mull over, and ingest. That’s true of how we read, too -- Mussar literature included. R’ Salanter recommended that we read Mussar works slowly, intently, emotionally, consciously, and what with he referred to as being “activated”.

“It used to be that when someone studied a Mussar work in the past,” R’ Blazer (R' Salanter's disciple, if you recall) reports, “that he’d either read it” as a Torah scholar would, with “a Talmudic chant”, or “he’d simply read it silently and assiduously”. But R’ Salanter knew that neither approach would elicit the sort of Fear of Heaven that one would need in order to take the material to heart -- which was the whole point, at bottom -- nor would it “ignite the heart by awakening the soul and humbling the spirit”.

After all, it wasn’t knowledge per se that was called for when reading Mussar works. Knowledge of what to do or not do alone “will never fill a person’s soul with (the sort of) unrest and apprehension” one would need if he’s to be moved enough to change his being from spiritual mediocrity to excellence. One would need to study the text passionately, so as to “stir the soul”.

How exactly would we do that? By starting off “with a sincere heart” (i.e., by setting out to take in what’s said in humility and earnestly), he says; and by reading with a “mournful voice” and “with lips aflame” (i.e., animatedly). We should dwell on what we read and imagine the implications of our failings. R’ Salanter compared it to being moved by music: one can become elated by music just as much as he can be moved to tears by it; as such one was to read Mussar works with that in mind so as to achieve deep effect and truly personal reactions.

“His heart will be set aflame” in the process if the reader follows through on this advice, “his spirit would become unsettled and restless, his senses would be electrified”, and as a result “the words will take root in his heart of hearts, and he’d be implanted with the (sort of) Fear of Heaven” one would need to be changed for the better.


 

Text Copyright © 2010 by Rabbi Yaakov Feldman and Torah.org

Rabbi Feldman's new book, Bachya Ibn Pakuda's The Duties of the Heart, is now available! Order Now


 






ARTICLES ON DEVARIM AND THE THREE WEEKS:

View Complete List

And So The Journey Continues
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5765

Only the Shadow Knows
Rabbi Aron Tendler - 5764

Manifestations of Mourning
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5758

Looking for a Chavrusah?

They Can Assure a Cure
Rabbi Label Lam - 5773

The Bobover Rebbe Zt"l
Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffmann - 5760

So Much to Say
Shlomo Katz - 5761

> What to Cry About
Rabbi Label Lam - 5769

The Eye Generation
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5763

Review
Shlomo Katz - 5763

ArtScroll

If only . . .
Shlomo Katz - 5771

Personal Judge
Rabbi Yaakov Menken - 5762

In a Month We Call -“Av”
Rabbi Label Lam - 5765

Frumster - Orthodox Jewish Dating

Visionary Words
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5759

Words, Words, and More Words
Rabbi Aron Tendler - 5765

It's Not What You Want - But How You Ask
Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffmann - 5759

Harsh Hugs
Rabbi Berel Wein - 5765



Project Genesis

Torah.org Home


Torah Portion

Jewish Law

Ethics

Texts

Learn the Basics

Seasons

Features

TORAHAUDIO

Ask The Rabbi

Knowledge Base




Help

About Us

Contact Us



Free Book on Geulah!




Torah.org Home
Torah.org HomeCapalon.com Copyright Information