Handwritten Letter by
Rabbi Yisrael Salanter
Handwritten Letter by Rabbi Yisrael Salanter together with Rabbi Yosef Feimer, Av Beis Din of Slutsk. 1858
“ I have never found a servant of G-d such as my master and teacher.”
Handwritten letter by Rabbi Yisrael Salanter, founder of the mussar movement, together with Rabbi Yosef Feimer, Av Beis Din of Slutsk and one of the prime disciples of Rabbi Chaim of Volozhin, father of Lithuanian yeshivos.
In this letter, Rabbi Yisrael Salanter describes his spiritual master Rabbi Yosef Zundel of Salant. In the course of this heartwarming letter, he relates,
“While serving my master and teacher, the genius and pious…Rabbi Yosef Zundel נ”י for several years, I was aware of his awe-inspiring piety…I summoned the courage to approach one who is honorable and pure of heart, for by my estimation I have never found a servant of G-d such as my master and teacher.”
While studying in the beis medrash in the town of Salant, Rabbi Yisrael Salanter’s gaze once fell upon “a holy, extraordinary man” who was learning there and whose consummate character traits filled him with awe. This man, he soon learned, was Rabbi Yosef Zundel of Salant. Rabbi Yisrael began discreetly observing the tzaddik and emulating his qualities, until one day he was noticed…
“Yisrael!” Rabbi Yosef Zundel exhorted.
“Learn mussar, and you will become a yarei Shamayim!”
Rabbi Naftali of Amsterdam related in Ohr Yisrael p. 124: “When [Rabbi Yisrael Salanter] heard the voice emerging from his master commanding him to learn mussar, it was as if a fire had entered the chambers of his heart”
Rabbi Yisrael Lipkin Salanter (1810-1883), legendary founder of the mussar movement, is renowned throughout the Jewish world “… for his spiritual greatness and righteousness, He illuminated the eyes of Yisrael with his Torah and fear of heaven, to restore their hearts to their Father in heaven, to ingrain fear of heaven and pure attributes in their souls, and with his sweet words, inspired many to repent from sin… He taught the nation to establish set hours for the daily study of mussar and fear of heaven with flaming lips, a yearning voice and enchanted spirit” (excerpted from Rabbi Itzele Blazer preface to Ohr Yisrael).
A renowned genius and Torah scholar whose in-depth lectures attracted the greates of aspiring Torah scholars, Rabbi Yisrael Salanter Traveled from city to town to village, with the message “As long as the candle burns, it is still possible to fix [one’s character].”
This important letter was cited by Rabbi Yisrael’s talmid Rabbi Itzele Blazer when inscribing Rabbi Yisrael’s personal history (Ohr Yisrael, “Shaarei Ohr” #7).
Rabbi Yosef Feimer (1796-1864), Av Beis Din of Slutsk, was one of the prime disciples of Rabbi Chaim of Volozhin (Aliyos Eliyahu #122). Renowned for his genius and piety, Rabbi Feimer was one of the foremost Lithuanian Rabbanim and Meishivim in his generation. In 1829, Rabbi Yosef was appointed Rav of Slutsk where he served faithfully for 33 years. He was succeeded by the Beis Halevi.
Rabbi Yisrael studied under Rabbi Yosef Feimer during his tenure as Rav of Luknik, Lithuania. He referred to him as “Admor” and signed his name as his talmid. (introduction to Shu”t Rabbi Yosef MiSlutsk Comment 11). The above explains why Rabbi Yisrael wrote his own letter beneath the letter of Rabbi Yosef’s.
The above letters were printed in Hatzaddik Rabbi Yosef Zundel MiSalant V’Rabbosav p. 130 (Jerusalem, 1928).
1858. Page size: 21×16 cm. Miniscule holes and signs of tears on fold with minor damage to several letters. Signs of tape.
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