Section: Stories   Category: Gedolim Biographies
Rav Yisroel Salanter - A Gaon With A Life Full Of Stories

After seeing chiddushim written by Rav Yisroel Salanter's chiddushim at age 14,Rebbi Akiva Eiger said that they were genius of the genius. Rav Chaim Brisker said that had he lived in the generation of the Rema he would have been considered a Gaon B'Yisroel. His Talmid the ALter of Kelm said that although he doesn't know if he has Ruach HaKodesh, he knows that he has all the qualifications given by Chazal. Yet the world knows Reb Yisroel as a Gaon in mussar and middos. Reb Yisroel preferred to turn man into the embodiment of Torah, living examples of the sweetness of Torah.

In 1810 Rav Yisroel was born to his father Rav Zev Wolf, the Rov of the city Zagar in Russia. He learned Torah from his father and his main rebbi Rav Tzvi Hirsh Broide who was highly regarded by Rebbi Akiva Eiger. Later he joined a chaburah formed under the great Rav Yosef Zundel of Salant who was a Talmid of Rav Chaim Volozhin. Rav Yisroel remained in this chabura for 18 years. It was from Rav Yosef Zundel that Rav Yisroel acquired his guidance in mussar, the limud that shaped his life's work.

At almost 30 years old Rav Yisroel accepted the position of Rosh Yeshiva at the renowned Yeshiva Rameiles in in Vilna. Due to his overwhelming popularity at the expense of other Rebbein, Rav Yisroel left the Yeshiva and started his own Yeshiva in a suburb of Vilna. The following years was when Rav Yisroel began his mussar movement, encouraging the reprinting of many of out of print mussar classics.

IN 1848 the Russian government started a "Rabbinical Seminary" and considered Rav Yisroel as a strong potential candidate to head it. Not wanting to be involved in certifying puppet rabbis and fearing the backlash of the Russian regime, Rav Yisroel, left Russia and opened up a yeshiva in Kovno, Lithuania. This is where he produced his finest talmidim who themselves became Marbitzei Torah and Gedolei HaDor in Rav Itzele Blazer, Rav Naftoli Amsterdam, Rav Leizer Gordon of Telz, Rav Yeruchom Perlman, Rav Yaakov Yosef of New York, and Rav Simcha Zissel of Kelm.

He devoted the next approximately ten years of his life in Kovno until he became ill and left Kovno to recover. In 1861 Rav Yisroel started a monthly Torah publication called HaTevuna which eventually folded for lack of funding and sufficient subscriptions to keep it going. From there he spent time in various cities in Germay trying to strengthen Yehadus, including stints in Mamel and Koenigsburg. He even spent two years in Paris towards the end of life in order to be Michazek the community there.

Aside from some letter printed in Ohr Yisroel by his Talmid Rav Itzele Blazer, there is no vast source of Rav Yisroel's writings. His impact is felt constantly because from all the people who set out to, Rav Yisroel actually did change the world. His legacy is through his talmidim and the yeshivos they started and the people they influenced. Beyond that Rav Yisroel Salanter lives on in the hundred of stories documented describing his impeccable character and his sharp and caring mind. Rav Yisroel was niftar in Koenigsburg at age 73 on 25 Shvat 5683/1883. Yehi Zichro Boruch!