Monday, November 07, 2005

The dangers of mussar

Many of us will remember those days in Yeshiva, the long hours into the night, reading mesilas yesharim, shaaray teshuva etc., trying to work on ourselves. Work on our middot. Work on our bittul zman. Remeber every minute of every day Shivisi Hashem LeNegdi Tomid, even in the bathroom, in bed, everywhere, He is there, watching, waiting, recording our every action and thought for posterity. Elevated goals, worthy aims for Bney Torah, future potential Talmidey Chachamim and Gedoley Hador.

With the first step outside the four ells of the Beis Medrash walls, reality bites. It smacks you like the freezing winter wind, burning your face and wrapping its icy tentacles round your soul. Where have all the bochurim gone? Why is everyone obsessed with Bennifer, with Bradenifergelina, with everything but spiritual improvement? College students looking to engorge themselves on alcoholic beverages, worshipping "Frank the Tank" and not the Chazon Ish. I'm not going to achieve Ruach Hakodesh in this atmosphere!

All the learning, davening, good deeds, smiling and being a mensch I do is not good enough. I'm still mevatel zeman, not finishing off masechtas like they were orcs and I am Aragorn, cutting my way through them, discarding them on my quest through Shas. My thoughts are not as tahor as they once was, I am subjected to a barrage of flesh, an avalanche of decadence, everywhere I turn my nemesis attacks me. What am I? A failure! I've let my Rebbes down, my family, the Ramch"al, and most of all the Aibishter. They had such high hopes of me getting ruach hakodesh and I can't even concentrate during long tachanun! But there was no way they could shelter me from this, certainly not for more than a year or two. Why didn't they prepare me for this?

Never mind that I swim against the crowd, I get up for davening (almost) every morning, I have daily chavrutot, I help other people out with their learning, I invite people over, I keep shabbos and yomim tovim, I try and sanctify G-d's name by being a good person. Never mind that Hashem treasures those few hours of learning I manage to do during the week, despite the pressures of work, study, etc. Forget the fact that being a good honest mensch in today's world is so crucial, so important, so fundamental to Hashem's plans for us.

The GUILT of not fulfilling that impossible dream, the unrealistic hope that was drummed into me, the unfulfilled dreams of Rebbes who didn't make it, all weighing down on my shoulders, whispering into my ear "you failed, you are a bad Jew, you let Am Yisroel down".

To be continued .....

TRK

42 Comments:

At 11/07/2005 12:35 AM, Anonymous Chai said...

TRK, life in Yeshiva (or Seminary, depending on the gender) is like living in a bubble. It's making it work for you once you get OUT of the bubble, conglomerating (I know there's a better word for that, but at this time of day, my brain hasn't woken up yet) that which you've gained inside the buble with the reality that faces you outside. It sounds to me like you've done a pretty ok job. Of course, there's always room for improvement, but you can't set the goal posts out of sight...

BTW, it took a week and a half for my bubble to burst, how long for yours? :)

 
At 11/07/2005 1:01 AM, Blogger MC Aryeh said...

Someone once asked the rebbetzin of EYAHT why she taught the women in her school so strictly and with so many chumras. Her answer was that it is a given they will fall once they leave the confines of the seminary. If they reach a higher level in seminary, however, the level they fall to post-seminary will not be as low.

My bubble burst after a couple months - and I still haven't gotten over leaving Yerushalayim. I agree with Chai - we continue reaching for the goal, while recognizing that the environment we are in and the realities of life place greater challenges upon us. So I would say the yeshivot did prepare us for life outside - they just didn't tell us that's what they were doing!

 
At 11/07/2005 4:12 AM, Blogger Pragmatician said...

A) There are Yeshivos for grown ups, so you CAN spend your life sheltered from the outside influences.

B)I don't think Ruach Hakodesh is an attainable goal nowadays for anybody.

 
At 11/07/2005 4:12 AM, Blogger Semgirl said...

Excessive guilt like that just leads to depression. Then you fall further from the mark. You really to need to just relax, and more importantly strive to be B'simcha with what you already have accomplished.

 
At 11/07/2005 5:26 AM, Blogger Littleredridinghoodie said...

Tehilim # 32 : 9
Lev tahor barah li elokim...

 
At 11/07/2005 5:31 AM, Blogger yingele said...

Sgirl, so true. The Rizhiner used to say; what sadness can bring, the worst aveiro can't. I always preach that one is first supposed to be a Happy Man, and only then start to be a Jewish Man.

Kid, a really true post. Devorim hayotsim mehalev. Aslong as Yingele just tries to be Yingele, aslong as Kid just tries to be Kid, then we are marching towards our goal.

 
At 11/07/2005 5:34 AM, Blogger Littleredridinghoodie said...

You have ruach hakadosh, we all do we are all kadosh lileidemistifina, "U kedoshim yehallelucha selah..." you are just not in touch with it. All tzadikim lose it when they are sad even Yaakov Avinu.

It's just another manic Monday..

 
At 11/07/2005 5:55 AM, Blogger Littleredridinghoodie said...

cont'd
Luleidimistifina, We are not supposed to be a horse with blinders or a mule (monk, nun) (or a pig either for that matter...I mean since we are playing old Macdonald... never mind)
Read the whole perek 32 you may find it comforting I have to go take my own advice... bye for now.

 
At 11/07/2005 7:19 AM, Blogger Mata Hari said...

The key is NOT to say, I'm strong and I can keep to the program no matter who I hang with....you've got to surround yourself with the right friends, the right environment, and a disciplined structured life. Lot floundered when he was away from Avraham. The biggest and the best have strayed when they didn't have strong ties tethering them and keeping them on the straight and narrow (let's see how many cliches i can work into this). yes you're good guy and you have great potential and you know how to learn...but if you keep coming up against the same issues over and over again, then you've got to rethink how to keep yourself from temptation. And I disagree about the blinders - to some extent, they are necessary. Keep setting yourself higher goals and raising the ante - and you'll see what amazing levels you're able to attain. that's my mussar shmooze for the day :)

 
At 11/07/2005 10:07 AM, Blogger FrumGirl said...

TRK -

I'm not sure what your post has to do with the dangers of mussar, but I can relate about the guilt. We want so much to do everything perfectly and we have so much self driven pressure to be a certain way, what we percieve to be the right way. It can drive a person insane. I commend you on trying to keep to the yeshiva lifestyle. It's hard to find the balance... One minute you're blogging about the hunting, next about your inner spirtuality... As for Ruach Hkodesh I think I remember learning that in our days (chevlei moshiach) it is only given to 'tinakos' and mentally disabled people... looking foward to the next installment.

FG

 
At 11/07/2005 10:41 AM, Blogger Karl said...

I read this post on the way to work and have to agree with TRK's honesty. Feels like you read my mind.
After a bad day at work, this has just put it into focus; tears of reality are welling up and this post has really hit home.

(To be continued.)

 
At 11/07/2005 11:10 AM, Blogger Littleredridinghoodie said...

MH,
I was referring to Tzadikim,
Two people walking together one sees the zima the other does not Why? the one who does not notice it is shielded by the angels he creates for himself through tefilah and learning. Most of our tanaim used to walk and learn along the way the wonders of hashem tasting, every thing making brachot. We are supposed to make a tleast 100 brachot a day that is possible to do cooped up on a bentch behind a table by eating three meals a snack and praying three times, But opening one's life and mind a bit you can make thousands a day.
Ex: Benifer angelina jolie, distract the world from killing Jews I think that is a bracha. Study the history of the founders of the entertainment industry... yidishe kopps... ;)

 
At 11/07/2005 11:15 AM, Blogger Littleredridinghoodie said...

cont'd
then study marketing, and it's founders, the Christian Church... now ask yourself, do you shop more than you watch movies? Do you think sherry lansing of paramount will let anti-Semitic propaganda fly and then sit in shul on yom kippur expecting to be forgiven? she has a conscience... who are you supporting? just playing devils advocate... have a great day.

 
At 11/07/2005 12:33 PM, Blogger Jameel @ The Muqata said...

TRK: Just for your information, the yeshivish mussar ALSO gets to you...after you get married and have kids. Even after the bubble bursts, you can still "get into" davening...learning...etc., but poof, you have kids, and everything changes. How do you have kavanna when you have a child pulling on your tallit during shmona esreh?

Your kid starts screaming during kedusha.

You stay up all night with a coughing kid...makes going to minyan the next day close to impossible. Showing up to shul late with kids...keeping them next to you in shul without running around in circles (and then dashing out while you're in shmona esreh and they KNOW you won't run out after them). Yeshiva doesn't prepare you at all for that.

Plus...the yeshiva things you used to do when you're single just don't happen anymore. Simchot Beit HaShoeva in Jerusalem...

Not only is the bubble pathetic, but they anti "bala-batish" sentiment is disgusting. Talking about "biting that hand that feeds"

Anyway - much hatzlacha in finding your dancing partner/bashert!

 
At 11/07/2005 12:41 PM, Blogger Mata Hari said...

Jameel - we all have our challenges, but i've noticed that guys i went to college with, who i considered "too modern" at the time - settled down and became much more right wing and grounded once they had kids. there must be something about being a role model that forces you to behave.

 
At 11/07/2005 1:01 PM, Blogger Jameel @ The Muqata said...

MH: Yes...and it gives you a different perspective on Teshuva, when we say "Aveinu Malkeinu", since you have your own children and can understand unconditional love.

I agree - every stage of life has its own challenges.

 
At 11/07/2005 2:55 PM, Blogger Littleredridinghoodie said...

Remember, Teshuva is an et ratzon, so don't forget to make your wish list now, and while you are at it pray for the health and wellfare of all the jews...

 
At 11/07/2005 3:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"How do you spell Perfection?"

"I-M-P-R-O-V-E-M-E-N-T"

The Book of Schwabby

 
At 11/07/2005 3:50 PM, Blogger ClooJew said...

Whoa, dude! Lulei demistafina, lighten up!

If your Avodas Hashem depresses rather than inspires you, if you sense the burden of your failings more than the glory of your accomplishments, if your thoughts are dominated by feeling guilty over the past rather than feeling responsible for the future--then you are listening too hard to your Yeitzer Hara. Your Yeitzer Hatov would never put that sort of spin on your life.

Good perfectionism is the desire to be perfect. Bad perfectionism is being unhappy when things turn out to be less-than-perfect.

 
At 11/07/2005 6:17 PM, Blogger Littleredridinghoodie said...

CJ,

First of all it is a new year and we were all just forgiven, so we are all perfect wearing our new spotless dresses/suits. As far as I am concerned TRK is a big a tzadik as any gadol hador in hashem's eyes so who am I to think any less?, so are you CJ and I. (even though we are only Monday and I still have one more day this week to screw up)

There was a saying on the wall in high school: There is so much good in the worst of us and so much bad in the best of us. ( I secretly gained pleasure hearing one of my teachers confess that she is not perfect on yom kippur after all the hard times she gave me in school for the way I dress)

I think TRK knows that he single handedly does not represent the entire Am Yisrael, nor does anyone expect him to be one of the Lu tzadikim.

Besides, I already took that role of letting the whole world down, so TRK you are too late! Find another MO if you can't originate don't imitate. JK

TRK if your mother is still alive go give her a hug and a kiss and tell her you love her. She thinks you are perfect, and if she doesn't, then tell her you think she is perfect until she believes it and is able to see the perfection in her offspring.

Then do the same to your father even if it kills you. It is better to die knowing that they knew how much you tried, then to live thinking how much of a disappointment you are to them.

We just finished the torah and got our bracha in vezot haberacha
CJ, TRK, did you forget? This week is Lech lecha and we get another bracha all that bless you will be blessed, so, I'll go first by reminding you... Veatah Al Bamotecha Tidroch! Amen.

(I should become a Rabbi…)

 
At 11/07/2005 7:03 PM, Blogger dietgarage said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 11/07/2005 7:05 PM, Blogger dietgarage said...

im not a big mussar supporter (i was always taught mussar as in "you are bad - do better or die") but i can safely say that Hashem wants you to do your best IN YOUR SITUATION with YOUR TOOLS
Hatzlacha dg

 
At 11/08/2005 5:43 AM, Blogger Littleredridinghoodie said...

Karl,
I meant you too, Veatah Al Bamotecha Tidroch! Amen.

 
At 11/08/2005 9:58 AM, Blogger ClooJew said...

Dietgarage, your perception of mussar is, lulei demistafina, off the mark. Any mussar that doesn't inspire you, isn't mussar; it's debilitating. You should read Sifsei Chaim, by Rav Chaim Friedlander, zt"l. He's excellent.

Hoods, thanks for inscribing me in your book of the righteous! ;) I knew I was so much more than just a pretty face! I don't think you appreciate that TRK really expects alot of himself (as do I) so telling him to be content with his status will fall on deaf ears.

The question is HOW to excel and that's where maintaining a positive attitude is key. I hope some of your positive energy rubs off on him (I'm, uh, speaking METAPHORICALLY, of course. Hands off, kid!)

 
At 11/08/2005 10:08 AM, Blogger Mata Hari said...

my impression of this post was that it was not so much about mussar (disregarding the title) as of falling short of where he (trk) thinks he can be. it's true that it's a ploy of the yetzer harah to get you so down that you just wallow in self condemnation instead of getting on with it...but on the other hard, it's no good to be in denial. the key is to take some positive action.

 
At 11/08/2005 10:29 AM, Blogger Elster said...

Hmmm - The spiritual high you have when you leave eretz yisrael after a year or 2 of learning is almoat impossible to sustain in the "real world". We all understand this.

The question is, what do you do about it? What can you do about it? Live in a bubble? Stop watching TV? Stop walking outside in the summertime? Stop listening to rock n' roll? All possibilities.

But in reality, the real world represents a new set of challenges. Jameel nailed in on the head with his posts. Having kids a) makes it difficult to perform some of the day to day aspects of RITUAL" - BUT b) really gives you an appreciation for understanding - which proably outweighs ritual anyway.

Cloo, Mata, etc. - Your advice is what it is - advice. Each person must work through their own experience outside the bubble in thir own way. TRK feels that, despite his (overabundance) of positive aspects, he is falling short of the ideal. Well, we ALL fall short of the ideal. I doubt it's possible for simple, everyday jews like us to reach it. The key is to come as close as you can.

TRK made one other good point - Yeshaiva does not train you for the rest of your life - you have no idea what you are walking back into when you leave the bubble. But you know what? That's not really their job. Well, let me re-phrase that. Most MEN'S yeshivas focus on teaching you how to learn ansd then getting you to learn as much as you can. The self-improvement is left for you on your own. I cannot speak for women's seminaries.

 
At 11/08/2005 12:13 PM, Blogger tuesdaywishes said...

"Being on your own means that having no one to tell you what to do, you have to tell yourself, and that is so much harder"

The above line comes from Pippi Longstocking, (I'll wait while you finish laughing at me) but it is the essence of adulthood. If I don't do what I'm supposed to, there's no parent or Rebbe looking over my shoulder. I just have to live with knowing what potential I wasted today.

 
At 11/08/2005 3:04 PM, Blogger Semgirl said...

Elster, at least you are learning. Seminaries, at least the very Yeshivish ones are basically indoctrination centers, so the girls can all become obedient lil Stepford Wives..

 
At 11/08/2005 10:31 PM, Blogger Littleredridinghoodie said...

CJ,
It was not I who absolved you, I only recognize the fact.

Yes Sir,
My hands are well kept, and I respect your territory kissing and all. ;)

 
At 11/08/2005 11:12 PM, Blogger Lvnsm27 said...

Trk, if you're doing the good stuff that you mentioned, then you're doing a pretty good job. You don't have to be perfect. Just keep doing the good stuff you do and don't worry about not being perfect.

 
At 11/09/2005 8:11 AM, Blogger The Rabbi's Kid said...

thanks for all the comments - I will be dealing with some of them in part deux. my point was that mussar is very negative, it generally tries to knock you down. furthermore yeshivas are not trying to teach you to integrate yiddishkeit with daily life, they are trying to shelter you from it, and for me the dangers far outweigh the positives. tbc ...

 
At 11/09/2005 9:46 AM, Blogger Mata Hari said...

that clarifies things.
i agree - so how do we fix it?

 
At 11/09/2005 12:58 PM, Blogger Littleredridinghoodie said...

MH,
Tehilim, 96, 97
Leluidemistafina:
That's easy sing with them... through art, movies, musicals, songs, music, with educational content.

Al tochiach letz, make him laugh and want to be healthy and happy. The rest of the world has already figured that out the problem is the Taliban they creep in everywhere... uneducated radicals who impose their views instead of being Tzadikim and warming the world with their inner fires.

If someone wants to be a tzadik and learn it is written I can email you the source if you are interested, that they should find a quiet secluded place to learn, where no one can disturb him. Where do you think tikun chatzots originated from? Ohr zaruah latzadik uleyishrei lev simcha.

 
At 11/10/2005 6:05 AM, Blogger Jameel @ The Muqata said...

TRK: Sounds like you learned in the Chofetz Chaim High School franchise. I know, from experience.

 
At 11/10/2005 7:47 AM, Blogger ClooJew said...

There are two schools of mussar: the Nevahrdik approach and the Kelm approach. The Kelm approach was to knock you down. The Nevardik approach was to build you up.

The Kotzker put it beautifully: A person needs to carry in his pockets two pieces of paper. In one pocket is written "Bishvili nivra ha'olam." In the other pocket is written "Anochi afar va'eifer." The key, says the Kotzker, is to know when to reach into which pocket.

Today's generation needs the Nevahrdik approach, and needs to be thinking more in terms of "Bishvili nivra ha'olam"--at least in terms of spiritual needs.

 
At 11/10/2005 3:32 PM, Blogger Shopaholic said...

Cloo- (If I may say..) That response was very well put.
Thank You

 
At 11/10/2005 6:55 PM, Blogger ClooJew said...

You may say...

 
At 11/10/2005 6:55 PM, Blogger ClooJew said...

You may say...

 
At 11/14/2005 3:25 AM, Blogger Frummer????? said...

We need to LOVE G-d some more.

We need to teach our children to love Him.

Sadly it's not something our children are taught.

I, in my little way, am trying to bring this to people's attention.

 
At 11/20/2005 8:25 AM, Blogger Sasha said...

Just a side note on cloojew's comment, which I otherwise agree with...
I always heard that being said about the Nevahrdik vs. Slobodka approach, the former being described as he describes Kelm, while the latter corresponding to the way he describes Nevahrdik approach. Did I hear it wrong?

 
At 11/21/2005 12:19 PM, Blogger ClooJew said...

Sasha,

You are right; I got it mixed up. Nevahrdik was the hardcore one; Slabodka was the pick-me-up one. I'm not sure where Kelm stood.

Sorry for the error and thanks for the clarification!

 
At 12/12/2005 11:33 AM, Blogger SM said...

Kelm was in the middle of the two and favored a more gradual approach, as advocated by the Alter (of Kelm.)

 

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