Rav Avigdor Miller on Learning Sifrei Chasidus or Sifrei Mussar

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Q:
What’s the difference between the study of מוסר and the study of חסידות?


A:
Really, בעצם, at its core, there is no difference at all. Only that the material is somewhat different. I’ll give you a משל, an example.

There’s one group of Chassidim – I won’t say their name – that they learn מסילת ישרים. They believe in the דרך, the path, of the מסילת ישרים. There’s another group that won’t look at the מסילת ישרים. They have their own seforim. But the צד השוה שבהן, the common denominator between them, is that they’re laboring to change their מחשבות, their thoughts, their attitudes, into true thoughts of הקדוש ברוך הוא. Each one follows his דרך, but the goal is the same – to think the way הקדוש ברוך הוא wants you to think, and to learn to live the way הקדוש ברוך הוא wants you to live.

So Mussar and Chassidus are both, you can call them השקפות. It’s a world outlook that they’re creating – in different ways.

Now, Mussar utilizes old, standard ideas. Like חובות הלבבות, and the שערי תשובה. It uses the רמב”ם, his הלכות תשובה and his הלכות דעות. It uses the shmuzen, the Mussar shmuzen from the Mussar yeshivas. That’s one shittah – one approach to changing yourself.

Rav Yisroel Salanter’s shittah in learning Mussar was to sit down and to say a מאמר חז”ל over and over to yourself, many, many times. He used to call people together in a Mussar Shteeble – balei batim – in the evenings. And they sat down, each one of them sat down, and each one would pick a מאמר חז”ל and would say it out loud, over and over. He would repeat the words over and over again – aloud. Aloud! Aloud! And by the end of the evening they were shouting. They became so excited about the words they were internalizing, that they were shouting. People who left that place that evening, were different people. They were different people than the ones who entered in the beginning of the evening. They were changed by that. It completely changed them. They spoke to themselves. אם אדם לא יעורר את נפשו, מה יועילוהו המוסרים (Sha’arei Teshuva 2-26). If a person won’t “Mussar” himself – if he won’t arouse himself, what will the Mussar that he learns help?

You have to talk to yourself. Constantly. דוד המלך said הללי נפשי את ה׳. “My soul – Praise Hashem!” He was talking to himself. You have to talk to yourself and urge yourself. And after a while, the self that’s concealed within you, that’s hidden within you, starts to come out. Your יכולת, your potential greatness, starts coming out to the surface.

So מוסר and חסידות are both actually working on the same idea of creating a new person – a person with מחשבות of Torah attitudes.

TAPE # E-220