middot separation stories

stories (2)

Friday, 01 June 2012 14:20

how the world stands

Written by rebbetzin malkah

art-stoolA woman died and left no money to pay for her funeral. She was an inhabitant of one of the Lithuanian twin towns of Kovno and Slobodka, which were separated only by a small river. A dispute arose between the burial societies of both towns as to which town was responsible for her burial, and would therefore have to underwrite its costs. This dispute erupted during morning prayers, disrupting the recitation of the Shema, the declaration of God's unity.

Rabbi Salanter and his disciples were present at the time. Rabbi Salanter saw the debate dragging on, with the body consequently being left unattended, an unacceptable desecration of the dead according to Jewish law. Rabbi Salanter therefore declared that since no one was ready to bury the woman she fell under the category of met mitzvah, a person who has no one to attend to his or her burial; the obligation to bury such a person falls upon every Jew in the vicinity at the time of death. He then removed his prayer shawl and phylacteries and instructed his students to do the same. He and his students attended to the woman and buried her.

It would not have occurred to most people to interrupt their prayers in order to take upon themselves the arduous tasks of preparing the corpse of a total stranger for burial. Only someone with Salanter's highly developed ethical sensitivity would conclude that the normal obligation of prayer was superseded by the duty to provide someone with a proper burial when no one else was willing to do so. --Cited in Hillel Goldberg, The Fire Within: The Living Heritage of the Musar Movement (Brooklyn, NY: Mesorah Publications, 1987), pp. 48-49.

Thursday, 10 February 2011 21:49

love your neighbor, love Hashem

Written by rebbetzin malkah

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.

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