The Mussar Institute

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Sayings of the Mussar Masters

"The Maharal of Prague [Rabbi Judah Loeb, d.1609] created a golem, and this was a great wonder. But how much more wonderful is it to transform a corporeal human being into a mensch!"

 – Rabbi Israel Salanter

"Spiritual life is superior to physical life. But the physical life of another is an obligation of my spiritual life."

 – Rabbi Israel Salanter

"A pious Jew is not one who worries about his fellow man's soul and his own stomach; a pious Jew worries about his own soul and his fellow man's stomach."

 – Rabbi Israel Salanter

"Both the hasidim and the mitnaggedim are in error - the former because they think they have a rebbe, and the latter because they think they do not need one."

 – Rabbi Israel Salanter

One night, as he walked past the home of a shoemaker, Rabbi Salanter noticed that despite the late hour, the man was still working by the light of a dying candle. "Why are you still working," he asked. "It is very late and soon that candle will go out." The shoemaker replied, "As long as the candle is still burning, it is still possible to accomplish and to mend." Salanter spent that entire night excitedly pacing his room and repeating to himself: "As long as the candle is still burning, it is still possible to accomplish and to mend."

"Take time, be exact, unclutter the mind."

 – Rabbi Simcha Zissel Ziv, Alter of Kelm

"Man wants to achieve greatness overnight, and he wants to sleep well that night too."

 – Rabbi Yosef Yozel Horwitz, Alter of Novarodok

"The worst thing that can happen to a person is to remain asleep and untamed."

 – Rabbi Simcha Zissel Ziv, Alter of Kelm

The Alter from Kelm also remarked that Darwin was able to formulate his theory of evolution only because he had never seen a real human being. Thus he could view men as no more than smarter monkeys. "Had he seen my rebbe, Reb Yisrael Salanter, who developed his character traits to a degree of perfection that fully expressed the essence of the Divine Image, he never could have entertained the possibility that human beings evolved from monkeys," said the Alter.

Rav Itzele (Peterburger) Blazer, a disciple of Rabbi Israel Salanter, says that there are two books in heaven, one of sins where you gave a sigh when you sinned and one when you didn't, and the difference in punishment between them is greater than the distance between heaven and earth.

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