Torah.org Home Subscribe Services Support Us
 
Print Version

Email this article to a friend

R’ Salanter’s Innovations (1)

Aside from being a man of principle, action, dedication, and of great moral depth, R’ Yisrael Salanter was also an innovator. We’ll delve into ten of his greatest innovations as enunciated by his eminent disciple, R’ Yitzchak Blazer.

First off, let it be said that every undertaking needs a “mission statement” -- an account of the aim we hope to achieve said outright that’s made readily available, and which is to be reiterated by those in pursuit of it again and again, in order to keep things in perspective. And that’s all the more so true of lofty aims like spiritual excellence. What good would our wanting to attain it be without a clear statement of what would go into it, and a constant review of that statement? And so the first of R’ Salanter’s innovations was to have us read and reread Mussar texts every day, since they lay out that mission so well.

Why, though, did R’ Salanter feel it necessary to institute that practice in a generation that seemingly knew the Jewish goal of spiritual excellence so well? Wasn’t it so manifest to them that they could nearly read it in their coffee cups, let alone in the actions and words of their friends and neighbors in synagogue and all around them? R’ Salanter clearly didn’t think they could do without an out and out statement of goals.

As R’ Blazer put it (and quite surprisingly to us, given how we idealize the past and think we alone are off the mark), “the fear of Heaven had fallen to the depths, service to G-d had weakened, and few paid attention to (the need to acquire) a lofty character” in his day, much as it has in our own. After all, everyone was fixated on making as much as he or she could (for some very legitimate reasons, as well as for some less admirable ones). And the yetzer harah had gotten the better of them. It became clear to R’ Salanter that something had to be done, and that regular Mussar study was an answer, “since it was able to infuse life into dried-out bones … to turn hearts of stone to hearts of flesh, and to revive a troubled spirit”.

So he went from congregation to congregation, community to community, lecturing about the benefits of regular, serious Mussar study. And no one was to be exempt, be he or she a scholar or a householder, young or old, rich or poor, deeply religious or not -- “all are obliged to set aside times to study works (that focus) on the fear of Heaven and on Mussar”. And he underscored that point until his dying day. While many great rabbis before him agreed that Mussar works were deeply effective in turning one around to righteousness, no one before R’ Salanter had had the idea to press forward with a universal plan for its study.


 

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 BESHALACH AND TU BESHVAT:

View Complete List

Jewish Survival
Rabbi Berel Wein - 5765

Song of Moses and Isreal
Rabbi Berel Wein - 5774

Input...Output
Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky - 5757

Frumster - Orthodox Jewish Dating

Empathy for Others -- A Great Quality in Both the Wicked and the Righteous
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5772

A Good Night's Sleep
Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffmann - 5760

Look Not at the Vessel...
Rabbi Yaakov Menken - 5759

> Taking Matters Into One's Own Hands
Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffmann - 5767

Putting Pizazz Into Our Mitzvos
Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffmann - 5763

Like a GPS
Rabbi Label Lam - 5772

Looking for a Chavrusah?

Roots
Rabbi Raymond Beyda - 5766

Thanks for the Suffering
Rabbi Dovid Green - 5756

A Matter of Will
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5766

ArtScroll

The Enemy Within and Without
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5758

Mon or Man?
Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffmann - 5766

Following Orders
Rabbi Shlomo Jarcaig - 5762

Appreciation in Times of Pain
Rabbi Berel Wein - 5770



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