Since there’s so much to take in on when we’re trying to better ourselves
and so many books to cull from, and since the idea of the depths of the soul
and of it drawing close to G-d is so awe-inspiring, we’re likely to get
overwhelmed. So we’d need to keep things in perspective if we’re ever to
succeed, and we’d do well to grow in stages.
In fact, R’ Salanter points out, keeping things down to a smaller but steady
stream of inspiration as opposed to taking in whole swaths of it is like the
difference between catching sight of stars in the heavens as a whole, and of
looking at one of them through a telescope. For while each star seems quite
tiny and inconsequential in the heavens, in fact thanks to the telescope we
can see that each is quite complex and that many are even larger than Earth.
So we’d need to maintain a perspective about the size and complexity of
whatever we tackle if we’re to succeed.
So R’ Salanter suggested that what we’d need to do is to set aside a
specific time each and every day to study Mussar texts. Do that, he offers,
and you’ll succeed little by little. That is, you won’t be the sort of
person you’re capable of being right off, but you’ll find yourself avoiding
more and more minor infractions day after day, thanks to your practice.
You’d be more likely to avoid idle chatter when you concentrate on Mussar
study day by day, for example, which is so demeaning and fruitless, and
you’re more likely to avoid words of lashon harah (slander and defamation)
day by day. You’ll also have engaged in more Torah study and
self-improvement in the process, thanks to your new habit of daily study.