Yisrael Kristal in
, 1931, aged 28
Kristal was born to a religious
Jewish family in
Maleniec, Końskie County near
Żarnów, then part of
Congress Poland of the
Russian Empire, on September 15, 1903. His father was a
Torah scholar who ensured his son had a religious education, and Kristal would remain religiously observant all his life. He attended a
cheder at age three, where he studied Judaism and
Hebrew. He learned the
Hebrew Bible at four and the
Mishnah at six. In a 2012 interview, he recalled his father waking him at five in the morning to begin his religious instruction.
His mother died in 1910 when he was 7 years old. After
World War I broke out in 1914, he saw Kaiser
Franz Joseph in person when the monarch rode through his town in a car, and recalled them throwing sweets as he passed. His father was drafted into the
Imperial Russian Army and died soon after.
 Meanwhile, Kristal moved in with his uncles.
In 1920, at age 17, he moved to
Łódź. After briefly laboring as a metalworker, he opened a candy store with an uncle. While initially working as a physical laborer, he later became a renowned expert candy-maker. He married Chaja Feige Frucht
 in 1928, and had two children.