The living yerusha of Rav Dessler zt’l

Photo from here

The 24th of Teves marks the 57th yarhtzeit of HaRav Eliyahu Eliezer Dessler. In the past I’ve posted stories regarding Rav Dessler (a link for those is at the end of this post), but I think, for myself, that it is important to remember that Rav Dessler was able to impact both the lives of Western Jews and also that of the Yeshiva world of E”Y. He influenced both baalei batim and yungerleit, This global effect might have been due to his Mussar upbringing while learning in Kelm. Unlike the next generation of baalei Mussar, the Alter of Kelm focused on creating people, not yeshivos or roshei yeshiva. His view was more concentrated and that was passed on to his talmidim.

It’s that focus that enabled Rav Dessler to teach in London, head the first kollel in the Western hemisphere, and go on to become the mashgiach of  Ponevezh . His focus was on how the individual can m’Kadesh Hashem through relationship. No matter if it was a rebbe-talmud relationship, a parent-teacher relationship, or a husband-wife relationship. Looking through Michtav M’Eliyahu or any of the volumes of Strive for Truth it is clear that Rav Dessler is speaking to the Jew of Today. We all struggle with our Yetzer Hora, we all want to look at our actions as choices not habits, and we want to emulate Hashem. Constant examination of how we can improve our mitzvos bein adam l’Makom and bein adam l’Chavero is part and parcel of being a Torah observant Jew.

I can think and dream about a vibrant resurgence of a Mussar movement for this generation. I can sit and email like-mind people about the importance of self-growth and the foundations of Mussar that, like a cassette tape, seem almost obsolete to the average twenty-something. I can and I do. However, I can also look at Rav Dessler’s life and see that had he confinded is ideas to the written word or interacted with a limited number of people, his impact might have been much more localized. He made the best of every enviorment he found himself in and constantly tried to reach is potential. For him Yiddishkeit and growth were inseparable and not a spectator sport.

I titled this post “the living yerusha” because no matter if you are learning full-time or working you are in contact with people. It’s those relationships that constantly require examination. How do we interact with others? Are we giving or taking from someone? What example are we setting for our children? Do we give enough? These questions are important, because within them lies the potential to make ourselves like Hashem. We can become a Giver and bring a level of kedusha to something as simple as offering directions to someone who is lost, complimenting a co-worker, or setting the table for dinner. That’s Rav Dessler’s living yerusha.

For previous posts regarding Rav Dessler click here.

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