Israel Salanter: Religious-Ethical Thinker
The Story of a Religious-Ethical Current in Nineteenth Century Judaism

ISBN 1-933143-02-9, Hardcover, $24.95
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By Menahem G. Glenn

Rabbi Israel Salanter was arguably the most influential leader of nineteenth century non-Hasidic Orthodox Judaism. This book is a carefully researched biography and a detailed analysis of his thought and his religious-ethical program to revitalize Judaism. Salanter was a renowned Talmudic genius who, troubled by the breakdown of Orthodox Judaism in nineteenth century Eastern Europe, sought to reform the Jewish world from which he emerged. He introduced an ethical curriculum to fight corruption, spiritual malaise and non-religious forces, a program that still retains impact today. However, these reform measures were initially met with great resistance from the very rabbinic elite of which he was a respected member.

Rabbi Israel fought the battle for Musar, as his innovations were called, by founding Talmudic academies and preaching to the masses. His difficult ethical program grew successful as his disciples began founding their own academies and experimenting with derivative Musar methods. As Rabbi Israel's influence grew in Eastern Europe, he left his native lands and traveled to very disparate regions of Western Europe.

This book, an adaptation of the author's doctoral dissertation and originally published in 1953, follows Rabbi Israel's life through his travels and documents the successes of his students in his absence. Biographies of some of his most important disciples, such as Rabbi Isaac Blaser, Rabbi Jacob Joseph and Rabbi Joseph Yoizel Horowitz, complete the book's portrayal of Rabbi Israel's lasting legacy.

Blurbs about 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."

— Shaul Stampfer, Hebrew University

"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."

— Zalman Alpert, Yeshiva University

Inside the Book

Table of Contents

Foreword by Professor Solomon Zeitlin

1. Formative Years
2. Rabbi Israel Salanter in Vilna
3. New Currents and Crises
4. Rabbi Israel in Kovno, Musar Schools Founded
5. Years of Wandering
6. Rabbi Israel's Disciples
7. Last Years of Rabbi Israel
8. Musar

Epistle of Musar


Chapter 3
New Currents and Crises

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