Today, the 25th of Shvat, is the yur tzait of Rav Yisrael Lipkin of Salant commonly known as Reb Yisroel Salanter (1810-1883). He was born in Zager (near Kovno), Lithuania, to Rav Ze'ev Wolf Lipkin, a descendent of the Vilna Gaon. Rav Yisrael became a close talmid Rav Zundel of Salant, who influenced him to begin the study of mussar. In 1840, he became Rosh Yeshiva of the Rameillas Yeshiva in Vilna, and later opened a yeshiva in Kovno. One of his closest talmidim, Rav Yitzchak Blazer of Petersburg commonly known as Rav Itzeleh compiled many of his teachings and memorable stories about Reb Yisroel's life in the sefer Or Yisroel. Another one of his famous talmidim was Rabbi Yaakov Yosef of New York.
Reb Yisroel was considered a Torah Giant, however he was most famously known for founding the Mussar movement. This movement focused on bettering the individual's character traits. Many of his teachings remain the basis of learning mussar today. He taught that one must endlessly strive for perfection, and must never be content with his spiritual achievements.
Reb Yisroel faced much opposition when he initially bagan teaching mussar. However his advanced level of scholarship helped him prevail and he succeeded in revolutionizing Klal Yisroel and founded the mussar movement. On one occasion Reb Yisroel was to deliver a shir to a large crowd. He had distributed mar mikomos that people could research prior to the shir. In an effort to humiliate Reb Yisroel several pranksters decided to change around the mar mikomos list and distributed a different list to the crowd. When Reb Yisroel reached the podium he noticed the switch of mar mikomos. He hesitated for a brief moment, and then preceded to deliver a new shir based on the new mar mikomos. Reb Itzeleh said that the reason why Reb Yisroel had hesitated was not because he was preparing a new shir; but rather because he was contemplating whether he should deliver the shir or not, for he feared that this feat would impress the pranksters and perhaps be considered haughty.
On another occasion Reb Yisroel was asked to deliver a shir to an audience that contained people who were opposed to learning mussar. At one point one of the big lamdanim asked a question and Reb Yisroel paused for a moment and said you are right. Rav Elya Lapyan said that although Reb Yisroel paused he nevertheless had five different answers to the question that was posed to him. However he knew that his solutions were not accurate. He also knew that if he would suggest his five solutions the one who asked the question would accept his answers because he would not know why they were not accurate. However Reb Yisroel said to himself how can I sell emes with sheker? Thus he decided not to answer the question.
Here are a few quotes that are attributed to Reb Yisroel: "The Maharal of Prague created a golem, and this was a great wonder. But how much more wonderful is it to transform a corporeal human being into a mensch!" "A pious Jew is not one who worries about his fellow man's soul and his own stomach; a pious Jew worries about his own soul and his fellow man's stomach."
Posted By KH to KollelH blog at 2/05/2013 04:00:00 PM