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Be Simple, Be Great

Rabbi Yehuda Heimowitz

His wit and warm smile are disarming — aren’t bona fide baalei mussar supposed to be harsh, stoic, demanding? Growing up on the streets of Tel Aviv, yet finding spiritual refuge in the halls of Slabodka and Ponevezh, elder mashgiach Rav Dov Yaffe has a piercing understanding of our inner struggles, yet knows we’ll be happiest when we let ourselves harness our ability to grow.

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

The term baal mussar conjures up an image of a critical person, constantly seeking to point out what others are doing wrong. Others might envision a somewhat morose individual, seated in a tiny wooden shul in a shtetl repeating words of Chazal over and over to break his yetzer hara. To a third group, a baal mussar might be someone a little more cheery, but it doesn’t really matter because they consider the title to be long retired, buried with some of the great mashgichim of yesteryear. To meet the zekan hamashgichim, Harav Hatzaddik Dov Yaffe shlita, is to break many perceptions about a baal mussar. In complete control of every muscle in his body, the Mashgiach exudes the self-authority of Kelm. Yet his wit and warm smile are disarming, making you wonder if this could really be a bona fide baal mussar. But then he starts talking, selecting his words carefully before uttering them, and you see the image of his rebbeim, Rav Eizik Sher, Rav Elya Lopian, and Rav Chatzkel Levenstein shining forth. And as a quintessential baal mussar, Eretz Yisrael’s elder Mashgiach has a message for every single Jew — man and woman, old and young, working and learning: If you want to be happy in this world, you have to learn mussar.

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