Dirshu’s Kinyan Chochma Daily Mussar Program and its Transformative Impact

Gedolei Yisroel Encourage Participation in the Program

כ״ו בשבט תשפ״ג – Feb 17, 2023

By Chaim Gold

This week, an unprecedented meeting is taking place in Bnei Brak at the home of the venerated senior Rosh Yeshiva of Ponovezh, HaGaon HaRav Gershon Edelstein, shlita. Rav Gershon’s modest room in his apartment on Rechov Raavad will be host to some of the most prominent Mashgichim in the yeshiva world. They are coming together to advocate for increased learning of the classical sifrei mussar and to discuss ways to encourage mass participation amongst Klal Yisroel for all, bnei yeshiva, kollel yungeleit and those who are no longer in yeshiva or kollel.

Just picture the sight of the august gathering that will be seated around Rav Gershon’s table; veteran Mashgichim such as HaGaon HaRav Chizkiyah Mishkovsky, of Yeshiva Orchos Torah, HaGaon HaRav Binyomin Finkel, of Mir Yerushalayim, HaGaon HaRav Shlomo Breuer of Yeshiva Beis Mattisyahu, HaGaon HaRav Revuven Hochster of Mir, Brachfeld, HaGaon HaRav Avrohom Pollak of Slabodka, HaGaon HaRav Eliyahu Kelerman of Ponovezh and so many others.

At the meeting, the Mashgichim will discuss advocating for Dirshu’s Kinyan Chochma daily mussar program because it enables a person to comprehensively and methodically learn the classical mussar sefarim. It is especially appropriate that the meeting is being held during the week of the yahrtzeit of HaGaon HaRav Yisroel Salanter, founder of the mussar movement (25 Shevat).

What is the Kinyan Chochma Program?

The Kinyan Chochma program was established at Dirshu’s International Convention celebrating the 20th Anniversary of Dirshu’s founding. It was established at the behest of the leading Gedolim who felt that chizuk was needed in daily mussar learning.

Kinyan Chochma is a mussar program wherein a short piece of one of the mussar classics is learned daily, featuring pieces from the classic sefarim, Mesilas Yesharim, Chovos Halevavos, Orchos Tzaddikim, Pirkei Avos with Rabbeinu Yonah, Tomer Devorah, Orchos Chaim of the Rosh and Orchos Tzaddikim.

The program was instituted to encourage daily learning of mussar among all members of Klal Yisrael. The Gedolei Yisrael from both Eretz Yisrael and chutz la’aretz have enthusiastically called on Yidden the world over to join the program and incorporate daily learning of mussar into their lives together with their other learning sedarim. Lomdei Dirshu participating in the Kinyan Torah program and Daf HaYomi B’Halacha programs have the added advantage of being able to take monthly tests on the mussar learned and receive stipends for excellent results.

HaGaon HaRav Don Segal, the famed Mashgiach, is also vigorously advocating this program. Many more details from this historic meeting will be reported on a later date.

In addition to the meeting at the home of Rav Gershon, on the yahrtzeit of Rav Yisroel Salanter, numerous leading Mashgichim together with the Nasi of Dirshu, Rav Dovid Hofstedter, are slated to visit the kevarim of Rav Moshe Chaim Luzzato, author of the Mesilas Yesharim, Rabi Akiva, the Rambam, the Shelah Hakadosh in Teveria and Rav Moshe Cordevero (Ramak), who authored the sefer Tomer Devorah. Venerated Gedolim such as Rav Binyomin Finkel will be participating in this unique opportunity to daven at the kevarim of the great mussar giants on the yahrtzeit of Rav Yisroel Salanter to invoke rachmei shomayim on behalf of all of those who have undertaken to learn their sefarim.

The Mussar Imperative

In Dirshu’s Sefer Chizuk, published in honor of Dirshu’s 10th Anniversary, the Mashgiach of Yeshiva Knesses Beis Chizkiyahu in Kfar Chassidim, HaGaon HaRav Dov Yaffe, zt”l, wrote about this very matter. He wrote [Sefer Chizuk, Chapter 7], “A person must remember that the yetzer hara always tries to minimize, in a person’s own eyes, the importance of inner avodah, of working on oneself and improving one’s middos. Often the yetzer hara magnifies the importance in one’s eyes of things that are not directly related to one’s inner avodah, such as assisting others or reaching out to estranged Jews. These are all important, but the daily inner work of avodas Hashem is the primary task that each person has and that is why the yetzer hara always tries to minimize its importance and convince a person not to engage in learning Torah and mussar…”

The Rosh Yeshiva of the Chevron Yeshiva, HaGaon HaRav Dovid Cohen, shlita, who is an enthusiastic supporter of Kinyan Chochma, said, “In our generation it is impossible to maintain and sustain one’s spiritual achievements with Torah learning alone. One needs to combine Torah learning with mussar learning. Masechta Avos contains the mussar lessons that Chazal have taught us and learning them brings tremendous benefit. In the commentary of Rabbeinu Yonah there are many foundational mussar lessons that strengthen a person in his avodas hammusar.”

The venerated mashgiach of Yeshiva Torah Vodaas and Rav of Beis Medash Emunas Yisroel, HaGaon HaRav Wolfson, shlita, expressed great value for the Kinyan Chochma program and  stressed how, “The importance that our earlier sages attached to learning works of yiras shomayim and mussar is well known. Nevertheless, the yetzer hara tries to get us to neglect learning mussar, to the extent that even bnei Torah overlook it.

“We must therefore feel indebted to Dirshu for encouraging Jews the world over to strengthen themselves in this…”

One participant eloquently explained what being part of the program has done for him. “We are all obligated to learn mussar, but unless we have something that compels us to do it, a set program with tests, it often falls by the wayside. Our lives are so busy that unless we really prioritize, mussar learning simply won’t get done. That is what I have found so amazing about the Dirshu Kinyan Chochma program! It forces me to learn mussar and as a result of this learning, I have seen such a dramatic transformation in my personal life, my avodas hamiddos and my general avodas Hashem.”

Another participant pointed out that “everyone knows the famed words of the Mesilas Yeshorim that his sefer is not coming to relate new chiddushim, rather it comes to reiterate that which people already know but seem to forget or gloss over because it is not on their mind. When you start learning Mesilas Yesharim daily in the way we do in the Kinyan Chochma program, you actually experience what the Mesilas Yesharim said.

HaGaon HaRav Shimon Galei, shlita,  said that “ learning mussar regularly, brings much light into a person’s life. Dirshu has done a great thing by promoting this limud. Dirshu has always promoted Torah, by placing added emphasis on the Kinyan Chochma program they are promoting derech eretz that is kadmah, that comes before Torah!”