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Hilula of Rabbi Eliyahu Dessler, Master of Jewish Thought

Published on Wednesday February 10th, 2021

On the Hilula (anniversary of death) of our beloved master, Rabbi Eliyahu Dessler, the Torah-Box team is pleased to share some of his life's experiences and anecdotes. Whoever speaks about the Tzaddik on the day of his Hilula, merits that the latter pray on his behalf! So, light a candle and recite: "In honor of Rabbi Dessler, zechuto tagen aleinu" and pray! May his merit protect all of Am Israel, Amen!

Rabbi Eliyahu Dessler was born in Lithuania in 1892. His father was one of Rav Simcha Zissel Ziv students. Rav Zissel was one of the most prominent leaders of the Mussar (ethics) Movement. At the age of two, the Rav lost his mom. Under his father's tutelage, he began learning Torah at a very young age, manifesting exceptional intellectual gifts. By the age of 13, he went away to study at the yeshiva of Kelm, absorbing himself in Torah study.

In 1948, the head of the Poniovitz yeshiva in Bnei Brak offered him the post of Mashgiach Ruchani (spiritual leader). The Rav accepted. Sadly, by December 1953, his health began to deteriorate, and he died one year later.

Rabbi Dessler is known to date in the yeshiva world as a master of Mussar and psychology. His most famous work, "Michtav M'eliyahu" has been translated into several languages.

Great Sensitivity

Many stories are told about Rabbi Dessler. Stories describing a person with exceptional spiritual sensitivity.

Before Rebbetzin Dessler joined him in Bnei Brak, Rabbi Dessler had meals at an orphanage, which was established by Rabbi Kahanman on behalf of Holocaust survivors. Mrs. Munk, who managed the diner showed great esteem for the Rav and often served him a little extra treat, which was not afforded to others. This was very embarrassing for Rabbi Dessler and he repeatedly asked Mrs. Munk to refrain from doing so.

One day, the Rabbi noticed a young boy running out of the dinner. He stopped to ask where he was running to. It turned out the boy had stolen a cherry which had been set aside for Rabbi Dessler. The Rav went to speak to Mrs. Munk and said: "I either eat the same menu as everyone else, or I cannot continue having my meals here."

Rabbi Dessler treated his students with utmost respect. When those paid him a visit during Chol Hamoed, he exclaimed: "What an honor to see you!" And he served them wine in silver goblets that he removed from an old cupboard. "I made this wine myself and I only serve it to my most important clients", he said.

This way of honoring others wasn't only manifested towards his students. Once, Rabbi Shlomo Wolbe was visiting Rabbi Dessler. When it was time to leave, Rabbi Dessler was distressed to have had nothing to offer his guest. But after rummaging through his kitchen, he found a chocolate bonbon. As Rabbi Wolbe took leave, Rabbi Dessler told him he also was heading somewhere, so as not to embarrass the latter by accompanying him on his way. He escorted him to the bus stop and waited until the bus arrived.

Rabbi Dessler had such a drive to honor his fellow man that he avoided asking people for favors as much as possible. After his wife's death, Shalom Ullman was a hired helper. But Rabbi Dessler would not even allow him to make a cup of coffee. Likewise, he refused the young man's offers to polish his shoes or to help him make wine for Shabbat.

It was said in the yeshiva that Rabbi Dessler served his helper more than Ullman served his master.

The Torah-Box Team - © Torah-Box Account

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