Category Archives: Mussar

Sunday’s mussar morsel

Photo of R E Lopian from here
Rabbi Eliyahu Lopian zt’l:
The verse says, “And let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell within them” (Shemos/Exodus 25:8), upon which our rabbis comment that since it does not state “within it”, but “within them”, it means within the heart of every single Israelite.  Thus the heart is the site wherein dwells the sacred divine presence, i.e., one must feel Godliness in the heart; the source of faith is the heart, i.e., one must feel faith in one’s heart. (From the sefer Lev Eliyahu)

Sunday’s Kernel from Knesses Yisrael-Chevron

Graphic from here
My son decided, on his own, this past Shabbos night to read the chapter in the book Prince of the Torah Kingdom (the biography of the Rosh Yeshiva of Knesses Yisrael-Chevron Rav Simcha Zissel Broide zt”l) that is about the massacre in Chevron* and the lives lost in Yeshiva Knesses Yisrael-Chevron in 1929.  It’s in his merit for even asking me about where to read information about this terrible moment in history that prompted me to post the following.
When a vending machine that sold cake was installed in the yeshiva, some bachurim found an excuse to shirk Torah study by striking up a conversation with their friends when they came to use the machine.

Nevertheless, when the Rosh Yeshiva was told about this, he reacted positively to the installation of the machine, saying that it didn’t benefit the hone of a ben Torah to take the the trouble of going all teh way to the store when it rains, or in the scorching heat.
*To learn more about the 1929 massacre, click here.

Sunday’s super-sleuth Salanter selection (Sherlock style)

Photo from here

Last Tuesday, January 31, 2012 the following story about Rabbi Yisrael Salanter was included in a letter to the editor of the Palm Beach Post (no, I don’t read this paper, but the link showed up in my Google Alert for “Salanter”).

I recall a story recounted in the name of Rabbi Yisrael Salanter, a founder of an ethical movement in Judaism. Rabbi Yisrael saw two boys squabbling over who was taller than the other. One boy took an aggressive action to sustain his view that he was taller by pushing the other into a hole. Rabbi Salanter went over and said, “If you wish to prove that you are taller, put a stone under you, don’t shove another into a hole.”

So, I emailed to people, whom I consider to be fairly well versed in the teaching of R Yisrael Salanter to see if they had heard of this story.  Both were not familar with it.

Now, there’s a quote from R Yisrael Salanter that states, “”Promote yourself, but do not demote another.”  This idea behind this quote seems similar to the story above, however it’s not an exact fit.

Over Shabbos I happened to find the quote below on page 123 of R L Oschry’s translation of Tnuas HaMussar, “The Mussar Movement” by R Dov Katz.  This seems like the missing piece of the puzzle.

To surpass someone else, one must not dig a pit for him, but build a higher platform for oneself.

Update:  A message was sent me regarding the story printed in the Palm Beach Post and I’d like to clarify that the story is, most likely, apocryphal.  Most probably it was created around the quote above.

Yahrtzeit of Rav Dessler zt’l

The 25th of Teves is the yahrtzeit of Rav Eliyahu Eliezer Dessler zt’l, one of the most influential post World War II baalei mussar.

I’d like to re-examine one of my favorite about him, originally posted here

When Rav Dessler came to America in 1948, he met up with his son, Nachum Velvel in New York. Rav Dessler asked his son who had help him during his years alone in America? His son mentioned several people in New York along with Rabbi Eliezer Silver, the head of Agudah Israel and the rav of Cincinnati. Rav Dessler said, “We must thank him.”
His son offered to place a telephone call to Rabbi Silver, but Rav Dessler wanted to show personal hakaros hatov to Rabbi Silver. Nachum Velvel and his father then took a nine hour train ride to Ohio, arriving at 5:00 am in Cincinnati. Then went to Rabbi Silver’s home and waited on the porch to meet Rabbi Silver as he left his house for davening.
Rabbi Silver met his two guests when he woke up and they all went to shul and then back to the Silver’s for breakfast. After a bite to eat, Rabbi Silver said, “So, Rav Dessler, what brings you to Cincinnati?” Rav Dessler said that he had only come to show appreciation to Rabbi Silver for all he had done for his son.
Rabbi Silver thought about this and again asked, “So, Rav Dessler, what really brings you to Cincinnati?”
Rav Dessler said that he had no other purpose that to show hakaros hatov. Rabbi Silver asked, “Rav Dessler, what can I do for you?”
Rav Dessler, for a third time, repeated that he only wished to show gratitude to Rabbi Silver in person.
Rabbi Silver finally gave up and muttered, “This must be mussar.”
(Paraphrased from the Artscroll biography of Rav Dessler, by Yonoson Rosenbloom) 

I had originally thought about writing something regarding Rav Desslers view of perfecting middos and our own subjectivity or his view on the importance of tefillah (praying), but I am going with a more down to earth message.  

A common theme among mussar teaching is the need to emphasize the mitzvos bein adam l’chavero (between person and person), while keeping in mind that recognizing the “Godliness” within each person falls into the venue of bein adam l’makom (between a person and Hashem).

Those who are great people in the arena of character development are such because they think.  Most of the times we feel slighted, turned off, distance or conflicted about relationships with others is because one party simply didn’t think about the other person.  We don’t take time to really appreciate others or truly think about how someone else would feel when we give our opinion about something.

So, as we come to the end of a week and start another, I will try to think more about those I interact with and attempt to bring kiddusha (holiness) to my relationships.  The greatness of the story above, in my opinion, is that Rav Dessler gave thought to what he could do to show appreciation.

For other postings about Rav Dessler please click here.

Sunday’s Slabodka selection

R Avraham-Elya Kaplan, a beloved student of the Alter, wrote the following poem, “As I Listen” in 1912. The poem describes the how the Alter “captured the hearts of his talmidim:
The spark of the heart of the sage of Israel,
fanned by his past,
Guided by the force of his presence,
solaced by his morrow,
Angered by the rebellion of his challengers,
constrained by the cry of his pain,
Is carried atop his storm
in a desert of exile and wandering.

(from page 573 of MAKING OF A GODOL by R Nosson Kamenetsky)

New Shiur starting in Chicago: Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh on Messilas Yesharim

Starting the Wednesday, December 14 at Ohel Shalom, 2949 West Touhy Ave, Chicago (SE corner of Touhy and Sacramento) at 8:30 is a new shiur given by Rabbi Daniel Raccah that I am very excited about.

Rabbi Raccah will be teaching Messilas Yesharim with the commentary of Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh.  I’ve heard some shiurim from Rav Weinberger based on this sefer, but I am uber-happy to have an opportunity to actually learn it inside with a tremendous Rav like Rabbi Raccah.  I have been hearing about him since I came to Chicago and was zoche to hear him speak this past Shavuos.  This blurb was emailed to me:

Rabbi Daniel Raccah’s Wednesday Night Shiur has B”H completed the Maharal’s
Ner Mitzvah. The Shiur will BE”H begin the classic Misilat Yisharim viewed
primarily through the unique  and very practical lenses of the Bilvavi
Mishkan Evneh on Wed. Dec. 14th with an earlier start time of 8:30PM at Ohel
Shalom, 2949 W. Touhy. Please join us.