Shmuel Salant

Rabbi Shmuel Salant (January 2, 1816 – August 16, 1909) served as the Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem and was a renowned Talmudist and Torah scholar.

He was born in Białystok, then part of Russia. After marrying Toiva (Yonah), the eldest daughter of Rabbi Yosef Zundel of Salant, he adopted his father-in-law's surname. At an early age his lungs became damaged, and he was advised to seek a warm climate. This induced him in 1840 to go with his wife and son Binyomin Beinish to Jerusalem. [ [ CHIEF RABBI SALANT DIES IN JERUSALEM; Head of the Ashkanezic Congregat... - Article Preview - The New York Times ] ]

En route, in Constantinople, he met and gained the friendship of Sir Moses Montefiore, then on his way to defend the Jews falsely accused in the Damascus Blood Libel. Rabbi Salant arrived in Jerusalem in 1841, rejoining his father-in-law and about 500 other Ashkenazim who had preceded him. From 1848 to 1851 he served as a "meshulach" (itinerant fund-raiser), visiting the principal cities of Lithuania and Poland to collect money for the impoverished Jews of the Old Yishuv. This age-old practice was termed the Chaluka.

In 1860, Rabbi Salant travelled to Germany, Amsterdam, and London to collect funds. Upon his return to Jerusalem, he succeeded in ensuring that his contributions were equally divided between the Sephardim and Ashkenazim. He also collected donations for the building of the Beis Yaakov Synagogue in Jerusalem. In 1871 he succeeded Rabbi Meir Auerbach as chief rabbi of the Ashkenazim. [ [ CHIEF RABBI SALANT DIES IN JERUSALEM; Head of the Ashkanezic Congregat... - Article Preview - The New York Times ] ]

In 1871, a time of universal poverty and hardship, Rabbi Salant founded the Rabbi Meir Baal Haneis Salant charity to provide for all of Israel's poor and impoverished, Sefardi and Ashkenazi alike. In 1888 Rabbi Salant's eyesight began to fail, and a few years later he became blind. This did not stop his extensive activity in communal affairs. In 1900, however, Rabbi Salant requested an assistant. Rabbi Elijah David Rabinowitz-Teomim, a world renowned rabbi and author, had just arrived in Israel from Russia. He was immediately selected for the position. However, Rabbi Rabinowitz-Teomim predeceased Rabbi Salant in 1905.

Rabbi Salant and Rabbi Meir Aurbach highly supported the Balady citron which was cultivated at the Arabic village of "Um el-Faum", since it was considered by them as the most kosher. [ [ Kuntres Pri Etz Hadar (Jerusalem תרל"ח)] ]

Rabbi Salant did not author any major works, but was regarded as a distinguished Talmudist and an excellent and learned leader. Many of halachic (legal) positions are known through the prodigious writing of his student, Rabbi Yechiel Michel Tukichinsky.

He was also known for his moderation and tolerance of all classes of Jews. As Ashkenazic chief rabbi, he was on friendly terms with his Sephardic counterpart, Chief Rabbi Yaakov Shaul Elyashar, and they generally acted in harmony concerning the welfare matters of the community.

Rabbi Salant was instrumental in the establishment of the Etz Chaim Yeshiva in Jerusalem. He also helped found Bikur Cholim Hospital and encouraged people to move into new neighborhoods outside of the Old City walls. During his tenure as chief rabbi, the population of Jerusalem grew from 5,000 to 30,000 Jews.

Rabbi Salant died on Monday, 16 August (29th Av), 1909 and is buried on the Mount of Olives. His student, Rabbi Yechiel Michel Tukichinsky writes that though funerals in Jerusalem are generally performed within the same day or night as the passing, Rabbi Salant's was an exception. He died at night and the funeral was not held until daybreak because the Rabbis were concerned that the massive attendance to a nighttime funeral procession would lead to injuries or worse. In 2006, Rabbi Salant was memorialized in an Israeli postage stamp, pictured.


External links

* [ Rabbi Meir Baal Haneis Salant charity]

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