A Charedi rabbi started publishing a new weekly booklet and someone has been handing them out at the Kotel. It has very interesting stories that strengthen the reader's understanding and appreciation of Torah.
Well, the first half of his booklet does this. The second half of the booklet is filled with harsh mussar comments. Mussar is a non-Chassidic movement that tries to direct moral conduct. It is usually instruction or discipline. It really has the good objective of furthering ethical and spiritual discipline, but it almost always comes across as; "You better do this or you are going to be punished in hell!" Yuck! I am totally allergic to mussar.
When the booklet first came out I enjoyed reading it, but the second half of the booklet overwhelmed the nice stories so I told the man who hands them out that I did not want it any more. He asked why. The rabbi who writes them happens to be very skinny. I answered, "What do you do if one of your kids is very skinny? Do you yell at him and threaten him to get him to eat? Or do you serve him healthy and delicious food that is good for him; food that he will enjoy?" He understood.
I saw another non Chassidic rabbi friend accepting the booklet and I told him that I could not handle the mussar end of the booklet. He said, "We need it." Well, maybe he needs it, but I don't.
Mussar has a fine objective, but as many things in the world it is not being delivered right. Here is how mussar is supposed to taught:
Once there was a cheder rebbe (a Torah teacher of small children): As most non Chasidic rebbes, this rebbe was always very particular to be on time. One day his bus got stuck in traffic. He jumped off the bus and ran to get to class on time. He was ten minutes late! He was so upset that he was late, but there was nothing he could have done about it.
As he ran into the classroom one of his best young students looked up at him with a huge smile. Then he pointed to his watch. He looked really happy! The Rebbe burned inside. "Is that how a student is supposed to respect his teacher? UGH!"
He took his place at the front of the room. He opened his book to begin his class but he was so upset with the boy that he could not teach. He could not restrain himself. He called the boy up to his desk intending to punish him severely for his extremely rude behavior.
But just before he started to unload on the boy, the boy smiled again, pointed to his watch and said; "Rebbe I love you so much, I wanted you to be the first one to see my brand new watch."
Got it? Sure you do. Wait until you get all of the facts before you blow up.
To teach Torah, serve delicious, wholesome, enjoyable food.