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The View From The Beis Medrash


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Rav Eichler, the Rebbe’s representative to Yahadut Hatorah, asked the Belzer Rebbe to give a berachah to the faction members. The Rebbe complied and stressed the importance of achdus, placing an emphasis on bringing the rabbanim together, which he feels will undoubtedly add to the achdus of the MKs and the tzibur at large.

Yahrzeit Of Reb Yisroel Salanter

This past Tuesday, 25 Shevat, was the yahrzeit of Rav Yisroel Lipkin of Salant, commonly known as Reb Yisroel Salanter (1810-1883). He was born in Zager (near Kovno), Lithuania to Rav Ze’ev Wolf Lipkin, a descendant of the Vilna Gaon. Rav Yisroel became a close talmid of Rav Zundel of Salant, who influenced him to begin the study of mussar. In 1840, he became rosh yeshiva of the Rameillas Yeshiva in Vilna, and later opened a yeshiva in Kovno. One of his closest talmidim, Rav Yitzchak Blazer of Petersburg – commonly known as Rav Itzeleh – compiled many of his teachings and memorable stories about Reb Yisroel’s life in the sefer, Or Yisroel. Another one of his famous talmidim was Rabbi Yaakov Yosef of New York.

Title page of Rabbi Salanter’s Ohr Yisroel

Title page of Rabbi Salanter’s Ohr Yisroel

Reb Yisroel, considered a Torah giant, was most famously known for founding the Mussar movement. This movement focused on bettering the individual’s character traits. Many of his teachings remain the basis of learning mussar today. He taught that one must endlessly strive for perfection, and must never be content with his spiritual achievements.

Reb Yisroel faced much opposition when he initially began teaching mussar. However, his advanced level of scholarship helped him prevail and he succeeded in revolutionizing klal Yisrael – and founded the Mussar movement. On one occasion Reb Yisroel was to deliver a shiur to a large crowd. He had distributed mar mekomos that people could research prior to the shiur. In an effort to humiliate Reb Yisroel, several pranksters decided to change around the mar mekomos list and distributed a different list to the crowd. When Reb Yisroel reached the podium he noticed the switch of mar mekomos. He hesitated for a brief moment, and then proceeded to deliver a new shiur based on the new mar mekomos. Reb Itzeleh said that the reason why Reb Yisroel had hesitated was not because he was preparing a new shiur but rather because he was contemplating whether he should deliver the shiur at all, for he feared that this feat would impress the pranksters and perhaps be considered haughty.

On another occasion Reb Yisroel was asked to deliver a shiur to an audience that contained people who were opposed to learning mussar. At one point one of the big lamdanim asked a question and Reb Yisroel paused for a moment, then saying that the lamdin was right. Rav Elya Lapyan said that although Reb Yisroel paused he nevertheless had five different answers to the question that was posed to him. However, he knew that his solutions were not accurate. He also knew that if he would suggest his five solutions the questioner would accept his answers because he would not know why they were not accurate. But Reb Yisroel asked himself how he could sell emes with sheker. Thus he decided not to answer the question.

Here are a few quotes attributed to Reb Yisroel: “The Maharal of Prague created a golem, and this was a great wonder. But how much more wonderful is it to transform a corporeal human being into a mensch!” “A pious Jew is not one who worries about his fellow man’s soul and his own stomach; a pious Jew worries about his own soul and his fellow man’s stomach.”

Yahrzeit Of The Taz

This past Wednesday, 26 Shevat, was the yahrzeit of Rav Dovid HaLevi Segal (1586-1667). He is commonly known as the Taz, which is an acronym for the title of his commentary to the Shulchan Aruch, Turei Zahav. Although his commentary to Orach Chaim is titled Magen Dovid, he is referred to by the acronym of the title of his commentary to Choshen Mishpat, Even Haezer, and Yoreh De’ah, namely the Turei Zahav. He also wrote the Divrei Dovid a commentary on the Chumash. The Taz was born in Cracow, and was considered the unofficial rabbi of Posen for approximately 20 years. He headed the famous yeshiva at Ostro. His halachic rulings have become part of our mesorah of p’sak.

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