There are some things that most of us take for granted. Things that we are so accustomed to that we can’t think of life without them. Electricity, cell phones, shoes, shampoo, indoor plumbing, silverware…these are just random examples. In 1877 Rabbi Yisrael (Lipkin) Salanter zt’l (his yahrtzeit is today, the 25th of Shevat) started the Kovno Kollel. Not only did he start it, but, to quote from Tenuas HaMussar, The Mussar Movement, by R Dov Katz zt’l:
He [Rabbi Yisrael Salanter] established a special fund, supported by the affluent Kovno residents, from which a regular, monthly stipend was allocated to each couple or family to enable them to live comfortably and respectably. This, too, was a complete novelty; it became the norm for the Kollelim, either of Avrechim (i.e. those living with their families) and Perushim (who lived apart from their families while they studied), which later came into existence, and enabled Yeshiva students to pursue advanced studies after marriage.
Many of those who have taught me and taught my own children have spent time learning in kollel and we both owe gratitude to Rabbi Salanter’s vision and hard work.