13 Admirable Character Traits of Rabbi Salanter

The following are the thirteen character traits that Rabbi Yisroel Salanter, the founder of the Mussar movement, encouraged folks to work on attaining

י”ג מדות מרב ישראל סאלנטר זצ”ל

 אמת:  שלא להוציא מן הפה דבר שאין הלב מעיד על אמיתתו

TRUTH:  Out of our mouth no word shall spew, when our heart knows that word is untrue

 זריזות:  שלא לבטל רגע לבטלה.  לעשות מיד מה שדרוש לעשות

ALARCITY:  Since time wasn’t given for us to abuse, each minute of life we’ll put to good use.

 חריצות:  לעשות מה שהוחלט לעשות בשקידה וברגש

DILIGENCE:  Any project we’ve set for ourselves to do, until it’s completed, our efforts must continue.

 כבוד:  להזהר בכבוד כל אדם

RESPECT:  Every person is entitled to his dignity; therefore, we’ll interact respectfully.

מנוחת הנפש:  לבלי ליהיות מבוהל ולעשות כל דבר במנוחה

TRANQUILITY:  Smooth like the lake, not churning like the sea, when we act, our actions will be done calmly.

 נחת:  “דברי חכמים בנחת נשמעים”

PLEASANTNESS:  Gentle and soft speech should be the tone of our voice.  Yelling and screaming is clearly the wrong choice.

 נקיון:  נקיון וטהרה בגופו ובדגיו

CLEANLINESS:  In order to be a vessel where Kedusha can be secure, our bodies and clothing will be kept clean and pure.

 סבלנות:  לסבול במנוחה כל מקרה וכל פגע בחיים

FORBEARANCE:  We’ll bend our heads and accept even the bitterest blows, accepting that what is good for us, only Hashem knows.

 סדר:  לעשות כל מעשיו ועניניו בסדר.  עונה על ראשון ראשון

ORDER:  To bring order to what we do and what we say, “First things, first” will be the motto of the day.

 ענוה:  להכיר חסרונות עצמו ולהסיח דעת ממומי חברו

HUMILITY:  We know our faults and what’s wrong with us, but about the faults of others, we’ll make no fuss.

 צדק:  יושר

JUSTICE:  Of what constitutes wronging others we are aware, so that we’ll conduct our dealings in manners that are fair.

 קמוץ:  שלא להוציא פרוטה שלא לצורך – “וצרת את הכסף”

THRIFT:  Money will be used wisely, not frittered away.  Control of our resources will make our wealth stay.

 שתיקה:  יחשוב התועלת שבדבריו קודם שיוציא אותם

SILENCE:  Silence is better than a babble of nonsense, so we’ll think twice before uttering any sentence.



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8 Responses to 13 Admirable Character Traits of Rabbi Salanter

  1. Neil Harris says:

    I was wondering what your source was for the the Hebrew?

    • A tattered one-sheet copy of something I taught years ago and unearthed from my old files recently — I would assume it was an old Torah U’Mesorah handout, but if anyone out there can correct me, please do so in order that credit can go where credit is due.
      There is also a Yiddish version of it floating around Satmar in Williburg (if anyone wants to get it in Yiddish).

  2. neilsharris says:

    I know that Tenuas HaMussr lists them as recorded in Mikor Baruch (R Baruch Esptein).
    Also I think R Zecharia Fendel lists them in one of his books.

  3. Choirmistress says:

    It’s a nice idea to have the English translations rhyme — except when a) rhyming is unnecessary since the original Lashon Kodesh doesn’t rhyme; and b) the results are inaccuracy and awkward rhythm/syllabication.
    Don’t mind me, it’s part of my “Gotcha!” nature as a professional proofreader.
    This is me climbing down from my soapbox. We not return you to your regular program.

    • Ah, you don’t like the rhymes
      ain’t that just a sign of the times
      to wonder aloud and criticize
      yup, you’re right, there was no must
      and the rhymes might look over-fussed
      but comments for no reason are just unjust
      ya’ see, my friend, parts of our mind
      have routes that our thoughts do find
      and rhymes stay apart from daily word grinds
      which might be why rhymes often stick
      and that is an education trick
      and concepts often have a better click
      so pardon me that you don’t like my work
      but from rhymes I’ll never shirk
      even if critics lurk!!

  4. David Rude says:

    So easy to say but a challenge to do!

    • Which is why the great sage said, it is way easier to learn the entire Shas (Talmud) than to change on character trait.
      Yet, even when it is hard, seemingly impossible, trying to change is precious. To quote Robert Browning: “”Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, Or what’s a heaven for?”

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