Sefer Ha-Hayim Blog
Tuesday, February 08, 2005
Rabbi Israel Salanter: Religious-Ethical Thinker
R. Nosson Slifkin, Rabbi Israel Salanter: Religious-Ethical Thinker

I just received the first copies of Rabbi Israel Salanter:Religious-Ethical Thinker, a reprint of a little-known academic biography of R. Yisrael Salanter from 1953, and I am blown away by how great the book looks. I know, don't judge a book by its cover. But this has a great cover and, if I may say so with full prejudice, great insides as well.

When I first contacted Prof. Shaul Stampfer of Hebrew U for a blurb, I didn't think he would even respond to my e-mail. He is, after all, probably the world's foremost expert on the yeshiva world of the nineteenth century and has better things to do than to respond to e-mails from someone out to make a buck off his name. But he was so enthusiastic I could sense his excitement over the book. Here is his blurb that graces the back cover of the book:

Menahem Glenn's classic study, Israel Salanter: Religious-Ethical Thinker, was a pioneering biography of one of the most creative and influential thinkers in the East European world of Torah scholarship. In his sober and carefully documented study, Glenn carefully described the life and ideas of R. Israel in their historical context as well as in the context of Jewish thought. By doing so, he opened the world of the East European Musar movement to the English speaking reader. Even after the publication of subsequent important works on R. Israel, Glenn's work remains a valuable resource and contains materials and information not available elsewhere.
And, not to be outdone, here is Zalman Alpert of Yeshiva University's blurb:

This volume is a classic in the study of the 19th century Musar movement and its leader Rabbi Israel Salanter. Not only is the reader presented with a critical study of the life and teachings of R. Salanter in English, but we also get a critical English translation of Salanter's major work the Iggereth Ha-Musar, the Epistle of Musar. The book fills an important lacuna in English for the serious student of the Musar movement. As this movement gains prominence in 21st century America, this classic volume gains new importance as a valuable tool in understanding Salanter and his teachings.
A colleague of mine referred to this book as a "Making of a Godol"-style biography, in that it is full of fascinating historical tidbits that you simply will not find anywhere else. Interestingly, the book contains the only biography I have seen of Rabbi Jacob Joseph (chief rabbi of New York) that focuses on his time in Europe. He was a student of R. Yisrael Salanter and, along with other students, is biographied (is that a word?) in this book.

More info on the book here. You can buy it here. A few copies will be available at the Seforim Sale.

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