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Wednesday, 09 November 2011 01:01

words of worth

art-appleHe was as careful in his speech as in his actions. It goes without saying that he refrained from whatever was prohibited by the halachah.

For this we have Rabbi Israel [Salanter's] own testimony. Upon reproving one of his disciples for his words, Rabbi Israel [Salanter] remarked: "Insofar as evil gossip (lashon hara) is concerned, you cannot tell me, 'Remove a beam from between your eyes,' and, it seems, not with respect to idle chatter either."

But even in speech that is permitted, he avoided superfluous verbiage and would weigh and count his words to make them conform to standards of propriety and refinement. One of the scholars of the generation observed on a specific occasion: "Rabbi Israel [Salanter] does not squander words. Every sound or word that issues from his mouth is first considered and reflected on. He purifies them like a silver smelter and weighs them in a chemical balance."  -- The Mussar Movement Volume 1, Part 2 page 197

Published in stories
Wednesday, 09 November 2011 00:53

speech that never lowers

art-corporateladderNot only was Rabbi Israel [Salanter] opposed to the performance of the finer points of mitzvot at the expense of human beings, he held that one had no right even to perform the essentials of a mitzvah or even extricate himself from grievous sin if he thereby inflicted suffering on someone else.

A question was submitted to him: Someone had sinned in secret against a friend of his by speaking evil of him. Was it permissible for this person now to go to his friend and seek forgiveness? In so doing, however, he would have to disclose what he had said to the friend he had maligned.

Rabbi Israel [Salanter] ruled, that although the questioner would absolve himself from grievous guilt by seeking his friends forgiveness, he had no right to pursue his own good by hurting his friend - enhancing his righteousness at the expense of causing distress to someone else. This is the extent to which R. Israel took the feelings of others into account, how he engaged in complicated calculations so as to avoid giving any hurt or distress to others.  -- The Mussar Movement, Volume 1, Part 2 pages 229 - 230

Published in stories
Sunday, 26 December 2010 06:21

prohibitions for life

art-menworkingOnce the shochet of Salant came to see R. Israel. He proposed giving up shechitah [slaughter], because the heavy responsibility involved in kosher slaughtering was too onerous for him to bear.

"What do you intend to take up?" R. Israel asked him.

"I shall go into business", the shochet answered, "and open a store."

R. Israel looked at him in surprise. "You are concerned about shechitah which involves only one negative commandment, the prohibition against carrion. How much more so should you worry about shopkeeping, in which many admonitions and prohibitions are involved: 'You shall not rob, you shall not covet, you shall not defraud, you shall not overcharge, you shall not deal falsely, you shall not lie, as well as the positive and negative commandments applying to weights and measures, to keep away from falsehood, etc., etc.'" 

--From The Mussar Movement, Volume 1, Part 2, pages 204 - 205

Published in stories
Friday, 11 February 2011 06:07

leniency as a bridge

art-bridgeHis attitude, always to bear in mind the good of the next person, made him adopt a more lenient attitude in all matters of permitted and forbidden things, based on the principle "the power to rule leniently is to be preferred." As has been stated, Rabbi Israel [Salanter] would punctiliously observe all stringencies and comply with all opinions. This applied where he himself alone was involved. Wherever others were concerned, he would always seek the ways and means to rule leniently. This accounts for his many well-known rulings in matters pertaining to health and danger to life,"danger to life being graver than ritual prohibitions."

From here stemmed his audacious granting of permission to perform acts otherwise forbidden on Shabbat and to eat on Yom Kippur during the outbreak of the cholera epidemic in Vilna. And from here stemmed his lenient ruling on his own conduct where others might thereby suffer hardship. Reliable sources indicate that one of the reasons for Rabbi Israel [Salanter] refusing to accept a rabbinical appointment was that he sided with the more lenient opinions in many halachot in opposition to the prevailing stricter rulings of the other authorities, and he was unwilling to stir up objections and arguments. --The Mussar Movement, Volume 1, Part 2 pages 253-54.

Published in besorah
Friday, 25 February 2011 08:00

got a moment?

art-riverbankRabbi Yisrael Salanter took particular pains always to be on time for his lectures. Yet once it had become very late and he had still not made his appearance. Concerned, his students went outside to look for him. When they reached the bridge leading to the city, they noticed him standing deep in conversation with a young woman. They understood that he was occupied with some grave matter and withdrew.

When he finally entered the Yeshivah, R. Israel apologized for being so late, but explained that a matter of life and death had detained him. The students subsequently investigated and finally the details of the incident were pieced together: On his way to the Bet Midrash, he was about to cross the bridge when he suddenly noticed an excited woman rushing towards the river. He stood in her way, stopped her and asked her why she was running. She tried to pass by him and told him to leave her alone. R. Israel grasped her by the sleeve and repeated his request that she tell him what was the matter. Forced to remain where she was, she unfolded her tale of woe.

A short while ago her two children were taken ill, and had died a few days later. So overcome with grief was her husband that he had been unable to work for the past several weeks. They had been forced to hire someone else to drive their wagon, and in this way managed to subsist and cover the costs of the husband's illness. Suddenly the horse died. Their sole means of support was gone. In despair, she had decided to throw herself into the river.

R. Israel talked to her at length. Tenderly and softly he explained to her that God could easily make good her deficiencies. She was still young. A year from now she could bear another child, and so on. Her husband would recover and resume his occupation. As for the loss of the horse, he would send her the money for another the next day. Slowly the woman became pacified and regained her composure. She thanked R. Israel for the goodness of his heart and returned home. A year later R. Israel was invited to attend the Brit Milah of her newly born son.   

The Mussar Movement, Volume 1, Part 2, pages 247- 248.

Published in stories
Saturday, 17 December 2011 08:00

be not quick to speak

art-corporateladderNot only was Rabbi Israel [Salanter] opposed to the performance of the finer points of mitzvot at the expense of human beings, he held that one had no right even to perform the essentials of a mitzvah or even extricate himself from grievous sin if he thereby inflicted suffering on someone else.

A question was submitted to him: Someone had sinned in secret against a friend of his by speaking evil of him. Was it permissible for this person now to go to his friend and seek forgiveness? In so doing, however, he would have to disclose what he had said to the friend he had maligned.

Rabbi Israel [Salanter] ruled, that although the questioner would absolve himself from grievous guilt by seeking his friends forgiveness, he had no right to pursue his own good by hurting his friend - enhancing his righteousness at the expense of causing distress to someone else. This is the extent to which R. Israel took the feelings of others into account, how he engaged in complicated calculations so as to avoid giving any hurt or distress to others.  -- The Mussar Movement, Volume 1, Part 2 pages 229 - 230

Published in stories
Friday, 11 February 2011 05:49

love your neighbor, love Hashem

art-prayer-gottleibPraying alone on Saturday nights or at the end of fast days, Rabbi Israel [Salanter] would defer his tefillah (prayer) till an hour or more after dark. When praying with the congregation, however, he would hurry to start immediately and not wait a minute beyond the earliest permissible time, so as not to hold back the congregation

So, too, he would take very long to recite the tefillah when alone. When he prayed with a congregation that would wait for him to finish, however, he would be among the first, "so as not to burden the public." Even in the month of Elul and the Ten Days of Penitence, when he would observe special stringencies, he would only take a little longer than usual to recite the first three berachot of the Shemoneh Esreh, but hurry through the rest as was his custom, and so finish together with the congregation.  --From The Mussar Movement, Volume 1, Part 2, pages 224 - 225.

Published in stories
Friday, 25 February 2011 08:00

doctor's orders

art-takenumberVisitors entering his room in Halberstadt would find him [Rabbi Yisrael Salanter] with a German book open in front of him, performing physical exercises, following the instructions and diagrams with utmost precision as ordered by the doctor.

As has been previously related, he took up carpentry for a while, because the doctor had so ordered. To him, the commandment to preserve one's life was as binding as any other mitzvah, and doctor's orders important rules of halachah, on the same level as the rulings of the Shulchan Aruch with respect to forbidden and permitted foods, which had to be carried out to the letter.

Once he was seen gazing at the heavens at twilight. He was waiting for the exact moment when the stars would appear. Having apparently been ordered by his doctor to rest from his studies for three days, he obviously faithfully complied. As the third day was ending, however, he stood outside to mark the exact time when the restriction would end. "Just as it is forbidden to delay Torah study for a minute, because of the mitzvah," he explained, "so is it forbidden to begin one minute too early, because of the mitzvah of guarding one's health."  -- The Mussar Movement, Volume 1, Part 2, page 192

Published in stories
Friday, 11 February 2011 06:07

the finer points

art-matzahEven while living in Salant, it happened once that Rabbi Israel [Salanter] was unable to be present when his shemurah matzah was being baked. Knowing that he took the greatest pains to observe all the finer points involved in the baking of the matzah, his disciples had undertaken to supervise for him in his absence. They asked for his instructions. What should they be most careful to watch?

Rabbi Israel ordered them to be especially careful not to distress the woman kneading the dough in their zeal, since she was an unfortunate widow, and they would thereby transgress the prohibition, "You shall not oppress a widow..." "The kashrut of the matzah is not complete with the observance of all the embellishments of the laws of Pesach alone," he would say, "But with the observance of all the finer points of the Choshen Mishpat as well." --from The Mussar Movement Volume 1, Part 2, pages 220 - 221

Published in stories
Sunday, 26 December 2010 05:32

cascading effect of indulgence

art-washingOnce Rabbi Israel [Salanter] and his friend Rabbi Mordecai Meltzer were walking through the narrow sidestreets of Vilna. They stopped and entered a synagogue to join in the minchah service. Rabbi Mordecai poured a copious stream of water over his hands while Rabbi Israel [Salanter] by contrast, merely moistened his, hardly using any water at all.

Astonished Rabbi Mordecai blurted out:"Do you not, sir, observe the custom of washing before praying?"

"Indeed, I do," replied Rabbi Israel [Salanter]. "But I see here that the synagogue is frequented by a limited number of worshippers. Visitors do not usually come here. The shamash certainly intended to provide just enough water for the regular worshippers. If we waste a large quantity, the deficiency will be felt by one of the congregants. He will upbraid the shamash and withhold the few pennies he normally gives. And so we will be guilty of denying the shamash his livelihood."

-- The Mussar Movement Volume 1, Part 2, pages 219 - 220

Published in stories
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