I saw a response from the Rav regarding the order of how to learn the “Da Es” sefarim. The Rav said that the order is: 1)“Da Es Atzmecha” (Getting To Know Your Self), 2) “Da Es Nafshecha” (Getting To Know Your Soul), and 3) “Da Es Hargoshosecha” (Getting To Know Your Feelings). These three sefarim are the introduction to the series, and any of the other sefarim (or audio classes) in the series can be learned according to one’s individual taste.
In my humble opinion, though, one should also learn “Da Es Machshovesecha” (Getting To Know Your Thoughts), “Da Es Daatcha” (Utilizing Your Daas), and “Da Es Havayasecha” (Reaching Your Essence), as part of the introduction to the series, and then one should learn another two important series, which are: “Da Es Dimyoncha” (Getting To Know Your Imagination) and “Da Es Yichudecha” (Getting To Know Your Inner World). These additional five are the basis for the rest of the “Da Es” series. After that, one should choose to learn the rest of the series based on personal preference.
Can the Rav please give us some clarity on what order we should learn the “Da Es” sefarim in, so that we can purify the ego and thereby become closer to Hashem?
Answer:One’s essential being is comprised of two parts: the intellect (seichel) and the character traits (middos). Most people use their intellect to improve their character traits. In contrast, true Torah scholars build the intellect as well. Therefore, most people need to develop their intellect for the purpose of improving their character traits since they consider the character traits to be of primary importance. That is why it is recommended to first learn “Da Es Nafshecha” and “Da Es Hargoshosecha”, which explain the general structure of the abilities in the soul, by showing how the intellect can be built for the purpose of improving one's character traits. The main purpose of these sefarim is to reach the world of character traits that are within the soul.
In contrast to this, the series “Da Es Machshovesecha” and “Da Es Daatcha” explain how one clarifies the character traits at their root, in a fundamental manner. Those who are mainly drawn towards character improvement alone will find these two series more difficult to learn, in spite of the fact that this will detract from the full picture. It is not possible for one to completely clarify one's character traits unless one sees the roots of them that are in the intellect. As is known, Reb Yisrael Salanter’s path is the path of “mussar”, ethics. The sefer of the Alter of Kelm took this further, with “Chochmah U’Mussar”, “wisdom and ethics”. Reb Yeruchem Levovitz developed this further into “Daas Chochmah U’Mussar”, “understanding, wisdom and ethics.” Meaning, there is a wisdom that is revealed through the character traits, and there is also the root of the wisdom as it is.
The sefer “Da Es Dimyoncha” explains the bridge between the intellect and the character traits, which is the very concept of medameh/imagination/comparing/resembling. This is the bridge between world with another, the bridge between the created and Creator, as in the term adameh l’Elyon, “I will resemble the Creator.” It is the bridging point between intellect and character traits, because the word “medameh” is from the word middos/character traits.
After that comes “Da Es Yichudecha” and “Da Es Nishmasecha” (Torah Way To Enlightenment), which explain the ways of avodah that speak more to the neshamah, a more inner level of the soul. We should be clear that we have an avodah in our realm of action, which is through observing halachah, and we also have an avodah in our world of middos/character traits, as well as an avodah in our world of seichel/intellect. We also have a personal avodah based on the nature of the neshamah. The series “Da Es Hisbodedusecha” (Inner Silence series) takes this path.
Finally, there is “Da Es Havayasecha”, which is a guide to help one reach one's very havayah – one's essential being. Everything else in the Da Es series are essentially the “branches” and “garments” of one’s havayah.
The sefer “Da Es Atzmecha” is a general introduction to the very idea of self-recognition and attaining inner quiet. The sefer “Da Es Menuchasecha” also explains more about inner quiet.
All of the aforementioned sefarim of the “Da Es” series, which have been released so far with siyata d’shmaya, are mostly “general paths” which are not individually tailored to one’s particular soul. It cannot explain to a person about how he can understand his personal, individual soul, because of this Chazal state, “Therefore, a person was created individual.”
In order for a person to attain self-recognition about one’s personal, individual soul and one’s corresponding personal avodah, we have the series of “Da Es Middosecha” (Understanding Your Middos) and the series of the “Four Elements” (which include Fixing Your Earth [this includes Sadness and Laziness, series 1 and 2; Fixing Your Water; Fixing Your Wind; Fixing Your Fire [this includes the series on Conceit, Anger and Honor], Four Elements Series - Self-Recognition and Roots of the Four Elements] which explain about our personal elements of fire, wind, water and earth. In this series, one can learn about the soul in general and its details. This requires a deep, in-depth study about many different facets of the soul, so that one can gain the general structure of the soul and its details, down to the subdivisions of each of these details. This is a way by which one can come to recognize his individuality, and if one merits it, he can even help others learn about their own souls.
The order to learn the Four Elements series is:
1) The lessons of the series on Four Elements – Self-Recognition, (which are being edited both in Hebrew, English and French simultaneously) and
2) Roots of the Four Elements (current series every Wednesday).
3) After that, one should learn the shiurim that explain about each of the character traits in general [Fixing Your Earth, Fixing Your Water, Fixing Your Wind and Fixing Your Fire], and one should mainly learn the shiurim that are more applicable to the middos which are more personally relevant for one to learn about.