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Rabbi Eliyahu Dessler

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About The Rabbi

Rabbi Eliyahu Dessler (1892– 31 December 1953) was an Orthodox rabbi, Talmudic scholar, and Jewish philosopher of the 20th century.

In the early 1940s, Dessler assumed leadership of the newly formed Gateshead kollel, an institute of religious study for married men, then a novelty in Western Europe. During the ensuing years he led the kollel, raised its funds, and also tutored small groups of young people.

In the late 1940s, the leadership of the Ponevezh yeshiva in the Israeli town of Bnei Berak convinced Dessler to become mashgiach ruchani (spiritual counsellor and lecturer on ethical issues). He relocated to Israel, again gathering a small circle of students. One of his pupils, Chaim Friedländer, would later fill his position as Ponevezh mashgiach.

While it is difficult to determine which teachers had most influence on Rabbi Dessler, it is apparent that he is a child of the yeshiva world of the early 20th century, which was then influenced heavily by the ethical Musar movement, but has similarly gained proficiency in Kabbalah and works of Hasidic Judaism and Jewish philosophy. His method in interpreting tenets of Jewish philosophy reveals an adherence to the principles of the Maharal (Rabbi Loeb of Prague, 16th century). He drew inspiration from the teachings of Rabbi Nahman of Bratslav. A minor influence appears to have been the 19th century Hasidic work, Tanya.

Rabbi Eliyahu Dessler died quite suddenly on December 31, 1953 (Hebrew date 25 Tevet 5714), presumably of ischemic heart disease. He had suffered from peripheral vascular disease in the months prior to his death.

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