Torah.org Home Subscribe Services Support Us
 
Print Version

Email this article to a friend

Ohr Yisrael: R’ Salanter’s Letters (10)

This letter is actually a response to one sent to R’ Salanter from his students whom he’d been writing to all along. It seems that they’d said in their letter to him that they’d faced strong opposition at home to the Mussar movement that R’ Salanter had abjured them to set in place, and that R’ Salanter was now responding to that. R’ Salanter himself experienced a lot of criticism from opponents and had to draw upon the truth of the need for Mussar study and its great worth to go forward, and that he was now asking his students to do the same.

As such, he told them not to “fear the voice of the mighty storm” of opposition, and that they weren’t to “become anxious” about their prospects for the future. Indeed, they were to encourage those around them to delve into Mussar study, since (among other things) it protects those who are “drowning in the forces of their habitual (untoward) longings”.

After all, he underscored, “the study of Mussar calls out, ‘Life’!” to those who’d listen to it. That is, Mussar encourages one to live fully cognizant of his stellar capabilities as a human being, and to delve into that his whole life long. And R’ Salanter pointed out that in fact the “effort required” for Mussar study and mastery “is small, while the rewards are great”.

And he wisely offered that if, despite his efforts, a student of Mussar nonetheless feels “that he hasn’t awakened, and he feels that no impression (has been made) upon his soul” that he shouldn’t despair, because that will happen in time and he’ll indeed be elevated.

In fact, that’s how the great Rabbi Akiva grew -- step by step. We’re taught in Avos d’Rebbe Nossan that Rabbi Akiva was forty years old and hadn’t yet studied Torah, and he wondered how he’d ever manage to succeed by that point in his life. Here’s the epiphany that helped.

We’re taught that “once while standing next to a well he wondered (out loud), ‘Who chiseled this stone?’” He was told that it was the waters that dripped upon it day by day that chiselled it. So he said, “if what is soft (the water) can carve what is hard (the stone), then surely words of Torah which are as hard as iron will (eventually) penetrate my heart, which is flesh and blood”, which happened in fact.

R’ Salanter’s point is that that can be your experience too if you slowly but steadily study Mussar texts. (The subtle, unstated implication here is that the slow encouragement of a Mussar Movement will also eventually succeed in piercing the hearts of its opponents.)


 

Text Copyright © 2010 by Rabbi Yaakov Feldman and Torah.org

Rabbi Feldman's new book, Bachya Ibn Pakuda's The Duties of the Heart, is now available! Order Now


 






ARTICLES ON NETZAVIM AND VAYEILECH:

View Complete List

Follow Your Conscience, Not Your Heart
Rabbi Yaakov Menken - 5756

Going For Gold
Rabbi Yochanan Zweig - 5771

Judging the Day of Judgement
Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffmann - 5764

Looking for a Chavrusah?

Facing the Covenant
Rabbi Berel Wein - 5764

The Mystical Tug of the Shofar
Rabbi Naftali Reich - 5768

Standing Still and Moving Up
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5760

> It's Never Too Late
Rabbi Pinchas Avruch - 5765

He Will Return
Shlomo Katz - 5767

The Whole Year!
Rabbi Label Lam - 5772

Frumster - Orthodox Jewish Dating

A Standing Ovation
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5765

The Gift of Scholarship
Shlomo Katz - 5760

How to Reach our Potential
Rabbi Yosef Kalatzky - 5762

ArtScroll

Why Bring the Children?
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5762

A Timeless Moment
Rabbi Aron Tendler - 5759

Song of the Conscience
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5758

Speaking Of Redemption
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5762



Project Genesis

Torah.org Home


Torah Portion

Jewish Law

Ethics

Texts

Learn the Basics

Seasons

Features

TORAHAUDIO

Ask The Rabbi

Knowledge Base




Help

About Us

Contact Us



Free Book on Geulah!




Torah.org Home
Torah.org HomeCapalon.com Copyright Information