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The MB (1:12) writes:

" וצריך האדם לקבוע לו עת ללמוד ספרי מוסר בכל יום ויום, אם מעט ואם הרבה, כי הגדול מחבירו יצרו גדול הימנו."

Translation: one should learn mussar each and every day.

Asking for a recommendation, with, or without sources, if you've heard of good regiments: what is some good mussar to learn daily?

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    The most important thing to look for, is does the sefer "talk" to you? – IsraelReader Jun 25 at 0:04
  • related and you might find it interesting: What should a Jew learn regularly? – mbloch Jun 25 at 3:36
  • Isn't a word missing? Shouldn't it be "some mussar", "a bit of mussar", "mussar practise", "a mussar tidbit", or similar (instead of just "mussar")? – Peter Mortensen Jun 25 at 7:25
  • @IsraelReader is right. Mussar is very much about what you as an individual needs. The Alter of Slabodka' great skill was how each talmid got very individualized and on-target direction. So, if you want to go that route, I teach Mussar and have given that sort of advice before, and would be glad to talk on the phone. Ask micha@aishdas.org for the number. Meanwhile, looking up R Wolbe's list of the basics for an answer. – Micha Berger Jun 25 at 16:09
  • @Peter I think it's fine as is. Cf "one should do (some) yoga every day". – msh210 Jun 26 at 18:54
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There are several options as far as daily mussar learning

  1. Mesilas Yesharim - To quote Rav Wolbe zt"l (Alei Shur, Vol 1, perek 12, 'Limmud Mussar'):

המסילת ישרים מגדיר את כל המדות הדרושות לנו, ומדריך אותנו כיצד לקנותן. ההדרכה היא בעיקר: במה להתבונן כדי לזכות במדה. כי בעיקר קונים מדות טובות - ומתרחקים מהרעות - ע"י התבוננות

The (sefer) Mesillas Yesharim delineates all the character attributes we should be seeking, and guides us how to acquire them. The instruction is in the main - how to understand, in order to merit each middah. Because essentially, acquiring good attributes and distancing oneself from bad ones comes through proper concentration / observation.

  1. Orchos Tzaddikim - this is also geared around middah refinement, often pairing opposite attributes to prove either their importance, or detrimental effect, and then how to master / conquer them.

  2. Chovos Helevavos - explores how to acquire a more spiritual life, nicely segmented into ten 'she'arim' - 'gates'.

  3. The Chofetz Chaim's Shemiras HaLashon - a significant work which centres around refining our speech and being aware of the dangers of lashon hara and the like. The Manchester Rosh Yeshiva famously spoke of the importance of a daily regimen in the sefer, a concept that was later integrated into many yeshivos. The Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation has many materials that make the daily learning of it very digestible and easy to manage. You can also purchase the pocket-sized 'Lesson a Day' compendium

  4. It is also worth noting, if learning is something that you find difficult. Many gedolim, for example the Steipler, spoke of the value of reading stories about Gedolim as a good source of Mussar (for example refer to Rav Chaim Kanievsky's Chanoch Lenaar p.9-10). If you purchase an anthology of gedolim stories this is also a good way to maintain a daily 'mussar' routine.

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  • שערי תשובה של רבינו יונה is also practiced in yeshivot – kouty Jun 25 at 2:46
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The two most important I have heard are Mesillas Yesharim by Ramchal and Sha arei Teshuva by Rabbeinu Yonah. The Vilna Gaon kept Mesillas Yesharim on his table at all times. His student R' Chayim of Volozhin said, "All Mussar seforim are good, but Mesillas Yeshorim should be your guide."

Rabbi Shimon Shkop would study Sha'arei Teshuva for half an hour a day. Considering the length of the sefer, he must have finished it hundreds of times.

Rabbi Aharon Feldman in a shiur said the two most important seforim are Mesillas Yeshorim and Rabbeinu Yona's commentary on Pirkei Avos.

One of the most seminal and definitive of all Mussar Seforim is Chovos HaLevavos. The Chasam Sofer would teach it to his students, and was described as a living Chovos HaLevavos.

Others I would recommend are Pirkei Avos with Rambam or other classic meforshim (or not so classic if you prefer.) The Iggeres HaRamban is short and can be learned daily. I personally like Darash Moshe by R' Moshe Feinstein.

There are also parts of Tanach that are Mussar focused: Mishlei, Koheles, parts of Tehillim, etc. Mishlei with the peirush of the Vilna Gaon is a classic.

As @IsraelReader said, the sefer has to "speak to you." Some people have their lives changed by a sefer, and then other people read the same sefer to no effect. But there are so many seforim out there, there is definitely something for everyone at some time.

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I think this answer is very personalized. I heard Rav Ephraim Becker teach that Mussar is about three things: where you are, where Hashem wants you to be, and how to get from here to there. Because we each have different middos, different challenges and different proclivities, the "best book" will be unique for each person. And unique for each station in life; the ideal seifer for you today may not be the ideal seifer 10 years from now.

So really, the only good answer I could give you would require at the least chatting on the phone. If you're interested, email micha <at> aishdas.org and I will share my number.

Right now, I live with Chovos haLavavos in my pocket. (With a larger one with commentaries on my desk.)

Others mention in their answers the centrality of Mesilas Yesharim. I tend to be cerebral; more inclined to study about a Middah than to study to internalize it, to make changes. Easy way to feel inspired without doing the real work. So I found the Ramchal's preliminary version of Mesilas Yesharim of more value. Unlike the final version, it is written as a dialog between two old friend, a Chakaham and a Chassid. The Chakham intellectualizes too much, to the Chassid's words about taking everything to heart, in fact the whole format, gives a message I need to hear.

But then there is another question of customization... Mesilas Yesharim as a whole is a ladder up to G-d. If you relate to Judaism in terms of finding a relationship and connection to G-d, his -- really Rav Pinechas ben Ya'ir's -- list of middos would be central. But if you are more inclined to learning how to emulate G-d, to refine one's middos so one could partner with Him to bring His good to other people, maybe Tomer Devorah (from a Qabbalah perspective, but potentially very pragmatic) the sample middos in Cheshbon haNefesh (a more rationalist angle) would be more appropriate for you.

If your goal is to keep your mind on the end game, the big picture, the point of it all, and you are of the "emulate G-d" sort, I might recommend R Dessler's Qunterus haChessed. (Found mostly in Michtav meiEliyahu vol. 1, but he has addenda later.)

And of course I have to recommend R Shimon Shkop's introduction to Shaarei Yosher, having spent so many hours teaching it and then writing a seifer that develops a whole worldview from it. I made the introduction with translation available online here.

But in Ohr Yisrael, Rav Yisrael Salanter writes about not squandering a moment of inspiration. You can get into planning and finding the perfect fit, and by the time you get started the inspiration dissipates and nothing gets done. So, I would start with Rav Shelomo Wolbe zt"l's (Alei Shur, vol II, sec. 1, ch. 14 pg 175, item #6) list of core mussar sefarim:

The essential mussar books, that which is called “studying mussar” are: Chovos haLvavos, Igeres haRamba”n, Sha’arei Teshuvah, Orchos Tzadiqim,Tomer Devorah, Mesilas Yesharim, and Or Yisra’el.

Youths, up to the age of 16, who have no purpose for the books listed above, could learn Tana deVei Eliyahu, Mishlei with Rabbeinu Yonah’s commentary, Tr. Avos with Rabbeinu Yonah’s or the pious Ya’ave”tz’s commentary; or of the acharonim, Seifer Shemiras haLashon of the Chafeitz Chaim, or Michtav mei’Eliyahu col I by R’ EE Dessler.

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