Now in yeshiva I learned a certain amount of Gemara and Tenach (Old Testament). But to get a good idea of what the Torah actually requires of me I found I was not really understanding at all until I learned Musar.
The thing I gained from Musar was to get a good idea of the basic worldview of Torah--that is: what the Torah considers important.[Also the ספר החינוך [Sefer HaChinuch by a disciple of the Ramban] was a great help in that direction.]
There is however a question on this system because sometimes people that are "משגיחים" "mashgichim" (מנהלים רוחניים "the spiritual adviser in the yeshiva") are not people that represent the ideals of Musar very well. Often it is those people that specifically give Musar and all yeshivas a bad name.
I wish I had an answer for this dilemma. But at least for myself I consider Musar to be the way and the path to the Tree of Life because through it I can understand at least more or less what is is that God requires of me.
Just for the record the actual Musar (Ethics) books that I liked the most were the Mediaeval Books: חובות לבבות Obligations of the Heart, שערי תשובה. אורחות צדיקים, נפש החיים ספר היראה המתיחס לרבינו תם, אור ישראל ע''י רב יצחק בלזר תלמיד רב ישראל סלנטר
(Musar tends to emphasize fear and love of God and good character which it sees as the most essential and important aspects of the Torah. )
Once I discovered Musar I tried to get my actions to fit. Part of the problem for me was the message was not always clear. That is the yeshiva path seemed different to some degree. A later problem for me was the religious world really did not seem kosher at all. For some reason I encountered "love bombing" when I was younger and and later an amazing amount of animosity when I did not seem to present a source of income to yeshivas. [Young yeshiva students with rich American parents are highly sought after in yeshivas.] For this reason I have tried to make it a point to recommend only the best of the yeshivas that I have known are doing their job sincerely like the great NY yeshivas: Mir, Chaim Berlin Torah VeDaat and Shaar Yashuv and the Israeli Brisk and Ponovitch.
Everything depends on getting to the right kind of yeshiva and avoiding the cult yeshivas.
They are attempting to establish a dichotomy that does not exist; one between the spirit of Torah and institution of yeshivas. There is no opposition between the two. One can learn for years in legitimate yeshivas and come to Israel and merit to great attachment with God in a way that can not be described by word.
It is an error in a matter of divine truth, to imagine the Torah is
invisible, intangible, a something merely "pneumatalogical", by
which many Yeshiva communities, though they differ from each other in their many ways, are united by a bond that is invisible to the senses…
If you are not in any yeshiva and nothing is nearby that is authentic then the minimum is the get the Avi Ezri of Rav Shach and just plow through it.
[What I assume that if you are in Russia or France or Germany that there must be places that could be considered as authentic branches of the basic authentic Lithuanian yeshivas. That is in Israel you have a yeshiva in Tifrach that is not Ponovitch nor a branch of Ponovitch but is run by someone who was at Ponovitch and along the lines of Ponovitch. That constitutes an authentic Litvak yeshiva. In a similar way they must be places in Russia or Germany that are run along the lines of authentic Litvak yeshivas. Even a local Beit Midrash study hall could be considered authentic if it is run along the same line.]
[Musar yeshivas learn and accept all Musar but I should mention that I am not able to learn Musar that is kabalistically based as most of it is after the Middle Ages. Even to the extent of learning teh Shaarai Teshuva of Rabbainu Yona at this point I would have a hard time with because of his affiliation with the anti Rambam party. The only Musar I can learn and be comfortable with is from the school of thought of Saadia Gaon and the Rambam.