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Is there an authentic source for the below story?

The story is told of a man who asked Rabbi Yisroel Salanter a question. "Rebbi, I have only 15 minutes a day to learn Torah. What should I study?" Replies Rabbi Salanter, "Learn Mussar !" "Why, mussar?" asked the man. "Because," responded Rabbi Salanter, "if you start learning mussar, you'll realize that you have more than 15 minutes a day to learn!"

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    How early of a source can you find for a story that took place a maximum of 200 years ago? I've definitely seen the story in multiple books that were written over fifty years ago.
    – Schmerel
    Jan 26 '20 at 16:59
  • The same is written in Chaye Adam or Chochmat Adam
    – kouty
    Jan 26 '20 at 17:22
  • Any specific references?
    – Tesvov
    Jan 27 '20 at 1:30
  • It's in R Dov Katz's Tenu'as haMussar vol I. I'll write an answer when I have the time to look for the story and get you a page number. R Dov Katz was a student of the Alter of Slabodka in the Alter's final years, in the branch of Keneses Yisrael ("Slabodka Yeshiva") in Chevron. His 6 volume set are pretty much "the" source of Mussar stories. (5 are available, "Pulmus HaMussar" about the battles between the Mussar and Yeshiva movements can be found on HebrewBooks.com.) He wrote a combination history, ideological summary, stories and aphorisms of each of Mussar's major figures. Jan 27 '20 at 16:08
  • To reinforce the authority of this source... On pg 262 of my book, I retell a story about Rav Yisrael Salanter sitting next to a smoker on a train. My editor, a kollelnik with an interest in Mussar, challenged my version of the story because Tenu'as haMussar has it differently. I added a footnote citing the source of my version. But note that R Dov Katz's version is assumed by people in the know. Jan 27 '20 at 16:11

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