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Change Your Life Is Spelled: M-U-S-S-A-R

What is Mussar?

1] Mussar is both an intellectual endeavor and a focus on character improvement. With respect to character mussar is the abandonment of negative and the adoption of positive character traits. In the intellectual realm, mussar is the tenacious and relentless pursuit of understanding what is ethical and good and what are the means to acheiving and then cementing those attributes in our personality. [Ralbag]

2] Mussar is the study of sin, the harm it does to the soul and the punishment for its comission. Mussar also includes sharing the aforementioned knowledge with others in order to prevent them from sinning. [Rabbeinu Yonah Shaarei Teshuva 3/3]

3] Mussar is from the word "assir" - prisoner. By studying mussar we learn how to bind, restrain and fetter our evil inclination. [Malbim]

4] Mussar is the Torah of rectifying the impurities of our heart. [Rav Yisrael Salanter]

5] Mussar is self-knowledge. Mussar is the psychology of the Torah. [Rav Shlomo Volbe, Alei Shor Vol. 2 Page 140, see there for an in-depth discussion of this topic.]

The Vilna Gaon [who is generally perceived as a Tzaddik with a philosophy of "Torah study is everything"] writes that a person lives in order to constantly improve his character. If he doesn't do so, of what value is his life?! [Commentary on Mishlei 4/13]

After 20 years in Yeshiva, I can look back and say that what has left an indelible impression on me more than anything else is MUSSAR. I hope and pray that I can live up to the values and behaviors espoused by the mussar sefarim and it's practitioners.

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About me

  • I'm Rabbi Ally Ehrman
  • From Old City Jerusalem, Israel
  • I am a Rebbe in Yeshivat Netiv Aryeh.
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