Yisroel Salanter

Yisroel Salanter

Rabbi Yisroel Lipkin, better known as "Rav Yisroel Salanter", (November 3, 1810, Zhagory - February 2, 1883, Konigsberg) was the father of the Mussar movement in Orthodox Judaism and a famed Rosh yeshiva and Talmudist. The epithet "Salanter" was added to his name due to the influence on his thinking by Rabbi Yosef Zundel of Salant.


Rabbi Lipkin was born in Zagare, Lithuania on November 3, 1810, the son of Rabbi Zev Wolf, the Rabbi of that town and later Av Beth Din of Goldingen and Telz, and his wife Leah. As a boy, he studied with Rabbi Tzvi Hirsh Braude of Salant.

After his 1823 marriage to Esther Fega Eisenstein (died August 1871, Vilnius), Rabbi Lipkin settled in Salant, where he continued his studies under Rabbi Hirsch Broda and Rabbi Yosef Zundel of Salant, himself a disciple of Rabbi Chaim Volozhin. Rabbi Zundel exerted a deep influence on the development of Rabbi Lipkin's character; he had developed a method of self-improvement (mussar), which Rabbi Lipkin adopted.

Not only was Rabbi Lipkin a great teacher of mussar, he was a tremendous Torah scholar. Around 1842, Rabbi Lipkin was appointed rosh yeshiva of the Rabbi Meile yeshiva ("Tomchai Torah") in Vilna. While there, he established a new yeshiva in Zarechye, a suburb of Vilna, where he lectured for about three years.

At Rabbi Lipkin's suggestion, the classic religious ethics works of Moshe Chaim Luzzatto and Solomon ibn Gabirol were reprinted at Vilna. Had Rabbi Lipkin not been such a great Torah scholar, it is unlikely that his mussar school of thought would have been accepted in the Orthodox world.

In 1848, the Czarist government decided to create a government-sponsored Rabbinical College to train rabbis. Rabbi Lipkin was identified as a candidate to teach at or run the school. However, he feared that the school would be used to produce rabbinical "puppets" of the government and refused the position. Fearing backlash, he left Vilna and moved to Kovno, Lithuania, where he established another yeshiva.

He retained charge until 1857, when he left Lithuania and moved to Prussia to recover from depression. He remained in the house of philanthropists, the Hirsch brothers of Halberstadt, until his health improved, and then in 1861 began the publication of the Hebrew journal "Tevunah", devoted to rabbinical law and religious ethics. However, this was discontinued after three months as the journal failed to garner enough subscriptions to cover its costs.

Rabbi Lipkin lived for periods in Memel, Konigsberg and Berlin. He devoted the last decades of his life to strengthening Orthodox Jewish life in Germany and Prussia. He also played a large role in thwarting an attempt to open a rabbinic seminary in Russia. Toward the end of his life Rabbi Lipkin was called to Paris to organize a community among the many Russian Jewish immigrants, and he remained there for two years.

Rabbi Lipkin is also known as one of the first people to try to translate the Talmud into another language. However, he died before he could finish this immense project, Rabbi Lipkin died on Friday February 2 (25th Shevat) 1883 in Konigsberg, then part of Germany. For many years, the exact location of his grave was unknown. Following a lengthy investigation, in 2001 the grave was located in Konigsberg.

Personality and character

Rabbi Lipkin was unique and his views were not always in the mainstream. When the Ukase, making military service obligatory, appeared, he wrote an appeal to the rabbis and community leaders urging them to keep lists of recruits, so as to leave no pretext for the contention that the Jews shirked such service. He was considered one of the most eminent Orthodox rabbis of the nineteenth century because of his broad Talmudic scholarship, and his deep piety.

Rabbi Lipkin had a son who became a noted mathematics professor at the University of St. Petersburg in the nineteenth century and no longer followed an Orthodox way of life. In response to this appointment, some of the leading maskilim placed a congratulatory advertisement in one of the Hebrew newspapers of the time. It blessed Rabbi Yisrael for the "nachat" (derived satisfaction) that his son's appointment to the college faculty must have brought to him.

Rabbi Lipkin then placed his own counter-advertisement in the next issue of that paper and stated that he had no nachat whatsoever from his son because of the latter's forsaking Jewish life and practice. And he further stated that he would be grateful in this world and in the next world to anyone who could induce his son to return to a life of Jewish tradition and observance. [Rabbi Berel Wein on [http://rabbiwein.com/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=1020 his website] ]

Famous disciples

Among Rabbi Lipkin's most famous students were:
*Rabbi Naftali Amsterdam (נפתלי אמסטרדאם)
*Rabbi Yitzchok Blazer
*Rabbi Eliezer Gordon
*Rabbi Jacob Joseph
*Rabbi Yerucham Perlman
*Rabbi Simcha Zissel Ziv

Published works

Many of his articles from the journal "Tevunah" were collected and published in "Imrei Binah" (1878). His "Iggeres HaMussar" ("Ethical Letter") was first published in 1858 and then repeatedly thereafter. Many of his letters were published in "Ohr Yisrael" ("The Light of Israel") in 1890 (Edited by Rabbi Yitzchak Blazer). His disciples collected many of his discourses and published them in "Even Yisrael" (1853) and "Eitz Peri" (1880).


article=Lipkin / Israel Lipkin
author=Herman Rosenthal and J. G. Lipman


* Finkelman S. "The story of Reb Yisrael Salanter; the legendary founder of the mussar movement". New York, NY: Mesorah Publications, . ISBN 0-89906-798-0.
*Etkes, Immanuel. "Rabbi Israel Salanter and the Mussar Movement". Jewish Publication Society. ISBN 0827604386.

External links

* [http://www.ou.org/about/judaism/rabbis/salanter.htm Biography on www.ou.com]
* [http://www.ucalgary.ca/~elsegal/363_Transp/Orthodoxy/Musar.html Biography on Eli Segal's page]
* [http://www.tzemachdovid.org/gedolim/jo/tprofile/rsalanter.html An examination of the life and accomplishments of Reb Yisroel Salanter]
* [http://www.aishdas.org/igeresHamussar.pdf Iggeret ha-Mussar, the Letter of Ethics - Rabbi Salanter's most well-known work] (PDF)
* [http://lvov.judaica.spb.ru/salanter-en.shtml Rabbi Isroel Salanter, the Haskalah and the "Theory of Secularization": An Analysis from a Folkloristic Point of View]
* [http://www.werbel.net/genealogy/getperson.php?personID=I0166&tree=werbel Family Tree]

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