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Ohr Yisrael: R’ Salanter’s Innovations (8)

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.


Text Copyright © 2010 by Rabbi Yaakov Feldman and

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