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February 2: Rabbi Israel Salanter’s Musar Movement

February 2, 2011

Rabbi_Israel_SalanterRabbi Israel Lipkin, father of the musar movement of Jewish ethical conduct, died in Germany on this date in 1883. Better known as “Israel Salanter” after the Lithuanian town, Salant, in which he was educated, he founded or led three yeshivas, in Vilna and Kovno; he helped the Lithuanian Jewish community survive the cholera epidemic of 1848 by suspending the rules of the Sabbath in favor of saving lives; he developed the concept of the subconscious mind well before Sigmund Freud; he developed a system of meditation, prayer, self-reflection, service, and manual labor that emphasized the practical application of the moral teachings of Judaism to affect everyday behavior and perceptions. Salanter’s musar movement sought to elevate the spirit of Jewish law to be equal to the letter of Jewish law in the Orthodox world.

“Man is a drop of intellect drowning in a sea of instincts.” —Israel Salanter