Sunday, February 17, 2008

The Lack of Mussar

In the years leading up to the Russian Revolution, a spirit of discontent swept through many of the Russian and Lithuanian yeshivos. During one particular period, there was such strong opposition to the study of mussar in Slabodka yeshiva itself, that a number of former talmidim decided to publish their views. One of the dropouts even announced that he would stop at nothing until they succeeded. This young man was known to have been quite a brilliant student. After much effort, however, the group didn’t seem to be any closer to achieving its aims. Discomfited, they decided to try a different tactic.

The most radical student said, “It’s obvious that our problem is Rav Noson Tzvi Finkel, zt”l, himself! It is the Alter of Slabodka who keeps on incommoding our every plan. All we need to do is get him out of the way and it will be no trouble to remove the study of mussar from the yeshiva.” The others agreed.

It never crossed their minds that it would be a challenge to get the Alter out of the way; they would simply visit him and see how he reacted to being threatened at gunpoint!

“And if he won’t resign, well, we just can't be held responsible for the consequences,” the ringleader said.

A group of these renegades forced their way into the Alter’s house soon after and made their demands. The Alter, however, was unperturbed. He merely gazed sadly at the leader, and said calmly, “You only left us and our mussar a short while ago, and look what has happened to you already.”

The ringleader's puffed up arrogance was deflated by the Alter’s caring words. Completely chastened, he turned tail and the whole group followed suit.


Neil Harris said...

Interesting post, would you mind emailing me the source?
I had learned that there was more of an anti-mussar strain within Teshe.

Micha Golshevsky said...

The source for this story is: Tenuos Hamussar III, pg. 43-44. Page 36 records that even earlier, Slabodka split in two due to opposition to Mussar within the Yeshivah. Interestingly enough the bigger group was against Mussar!
Kol tuv,

Neil Harris said...

Ah, when I got home I looked it up, too. Thanks.

Micha Golshevsky said...

My pleasure!