Salant, Joseph Sundel ben Benjamin Benish

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SALANT, JOSEPH SUNDEL BEN BENJAMIN BENISH (1786–1866), spiritual father of the *Musar movement. A pupil of Ḥayyim *Volozhiner and of R. Akiva *Eger, he lived in Salant in Lithuania. Despite his great learning, he refused to accept a position as rabbi and barely earned a living as a small merchant, working only a few hours a day and for the rest of the day studying Torah. He conducted himself with extreme modesty, dressing as a humble peasant and never indicating his knowledge of the Torah. In 1831, during the Polish revolution, he was suspected of spying and miraculously saved from hanging. The First of Kislev, the day of his deliverance, was observed by his descendants as a holiday. In 1837 he went to Ereẓ Israel, settling in Jerusalem. While he was still in Vilna, the heads of the Vilna kolel in Jerusalem appointed him to be their rabbi. However, when his son-in-law, R. Samuel *Salant, went to Ereẓ Israel he vacated the office in his favor. Nevertheless, many continued to turn to R. Joseph Sundel. He established several institutions in Jerusalem, but occupied no official position in them. In Jerusalem too he refused to support himself from public funds and opened a vinegar factory. His humility and good-heartedness, which became legendary, greatly influenced his student R. Israel *Lipkin (Salanter), founder of the Musar movement, who held up Joseph Sundel as the ideal ethical man. In his will he requested no title of honor. He had two additional distinguished sons-in-law, Uri Shabbetai, a member of the Jerusalem bet din, and Nathan Nata Natkin, one of the emissaries of the Holy Land.


E. Rivlin, Ha-Ẓaddik Rabbi Yosef Zundel mi-Salant ve-Rabbotav (1927); Frumkin-Rivlin, 3 (1929), 220f.; Malachi, in: Hadoar, 32 (1953/54), 273–5; D. Katz, Tenu'at ha-Musar, 1 (19583), 93–136.

[Itzhak Alfassi]