Audio Roundup Special: The Mussar Dispute

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by Joel Rich


Dr. Marc Shapiro-The Mussar Dispute

Part 1

This series will deal with the controversies surrounding the early years of the mussar movement, primarily based on the series of books “Pulmas Hamusar” written by Dov Katz. Why should we study this history given that some great rabbis were involved in ways that might not reflect positively on the protagonists?

There was controversy even in the times of R Y Salanter but it really took off after his death.

Part 2

A bunch of catch up from the prior series. Focus here on pushback in the first generation after R Yisrael Salanter in Slutzk.

Part 3

The musar controversy takes off with a very sharp broadside from R M Feiner in Slutzk claiming mussar yeshivot don’t learn enough real gemara and produce gaavadik talmidim. Others joined in the attacks.

Part 4

The controversy continues. The anti-mussar rabbis (conservative in nature) claimed that the movement was not focused on real limud torah and produced haughty separatists.  Individual mussar might be ok but not these groups. The mussarists returned fire.

Part 5

The big complaint against the mussar yeshivas was the lack of in depth gemara learning. The Alter initiated the gadlut haadam approach including dressing for kavod (vs as a uniform). He attempted to have personal mussar relationships in addition to giving general mussar schmoozing.

Part 6

What’s the bracha on sushi?

The difference between mussar yeshivot (set mussar seder) and other yeshivot (all gemara) caused a split in Slabodka because the Alter invited in those who didn’t resonate with the mussar approach.

Part 7

R Rabinowitz (how did he get that name?) leads the change against mussar yeshivot with a letter signed by many prominent authorities. The charges were exaggerated, perhaps intentionally, due to the perceived great danger of the new movement.

Part 8

Completes the review of “lmaan daat”, the gedolim’s attack on the mussar movement post R YS. Major issue – it had become a separatist movement.

Part 9

What was  R YE Spector’s position on the mussar movement. The main focus here is on the Narvadaker’s unique personal history and the nature of the curriculum and the behavior in his institutions.

Part 10

Navardak’s shiflut haadam approach was not extreme in the early years. The response from the town rabbis to the letters attacking the movement was sharp (especially the aruch hashulchan). Eleven years later R Bernstein (the original primary attacker) was appointed rabbi in Navarsdak!

What impact does not having children have on gedolim?

Part 11

Even rabbis need mussar based on some of the back and forth communications concerning the mussar movement.

Next semester we will focus on the different flavors of mussar that developed over the following generations.

About Joel Rich

Joel Rich is a frequent wannabee cyberspace lecturer on various Torah topics. A Yerushalmi formerly temporarily living in West Orange, NJ, his former employer and the Social Security administration support his Torah listening habits. He is a recovering consulting actuary.

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