Monday, February 16, 2015

R. Chaim Halberstam of Sanz on Chasidic stories

R. Chaim Sanzer is a legendary Chasidic figure, father of Hasidism in Galicia, the progenitor of many Chasidim and Chasidic groups, such as Sanz, Bobov, Klausenberg, Zmigrod, Gorlitz, etc.

He said the following related to Chasidic stories - 'When a Chasid says he saw a miracle, he heard it. When he says he heard it, he plainly invented it.'

So states Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz in "My Rebbe", his recent book on the last Lubavitcher Rebbe, on p.173.

There is also an old Chasidic teaching re stories of the Baal Shem Tov, that says 'If someone believes all the stories of the Baal Shem Tov, he is a fool. If he says that they couldn't have happened, then he is an apikoros.'

The above two Chasidic teachings (there are other of the kind as well) are an admission by Chasidim themselves that reliability is an issue with Chasidic stories.

It seems that there are a number of different aspects of this.

Firstly, in general, stories often become transformed as they are passed along by people. That is a general problem of accuracy of transmission, not limited to Chasidic stories. Secondly, with Chasidic stories, there is also a problem of exaggeration, if not fabrication. Some people believe that they are allowed to change the facts for (in their eyes) a good cause. Like 'frumkeit', or 'emunas tzadikim'. Some of these issues re veracity of stories exist for some outside the Chasidic world as well.

The Satmar Rebbe, R. Joel Teitelbaum, who was heavily influenced by Sanz, was known to make fun of Chasidic miracle tales.

I believe other Chasidic leaders came out strongly against falsification of history too.

The main thing is, we must remember what our Torah teaches - מדבר שקר תרחק - one should stay far away from falsehood. There is a Chasidic vort that interprets  מדבר שקר תרחק homiletically, that midevar sheker, from falsehood, tirchak, you will distance yourself from Hashem. One cannot sell or build a religion of truth, a Toras Emes, with falsehood. Maybe Hashem help us stay on the path of truth.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Should a Jew dance on Tisha Be'Av? Examining a Chasidic story

Rabbi Moshe Weinberger, Rabbi of Cong. Aish Kodesh in Woodmere, NY, and Mashpia at Yeshiva University, tells the following story every year to his congregation when Tisha be'Av comes around (heard from Rabbi Weinberger). You can hear it here, around 16-17 minutes into the recording.

The Koidenover Rebbe (he uses the term Koidenover tzadik, but I think it means the same thing here) used to dance on Tisha Be'Av. His puzzled Chasidim asked him about it. He responded to them as follows. Tisha be'Av there is a mitzvah to be be'aveilus (in mourning for the Beis Hamikdash). And we know that every mitzvah must be done besimcha (with joy). That is why I am dancing.

Now that is an interesting story, but the whole thing does not add up, due to the following

a) Do Rabbi Weinberger himself, and his congregation, dance on Tisha be'Av, and follow the way of the Koidenover Rebbe? If not, why not? If he holds it is correct, why not do so? And if he holds it is not correct, why does he repeat it every year?

b) According to this story, people should dance at a levaya (funeral), and burial as well, as well as when visiting a shiva house for nichum aveilim (condolence call). After all, those are mitzvos too. Do they do so?

Rabbi Weinberger states, regarding this story, that 'the Misnagdim bichlal can't hear it'. Well, maybe the Misnagdim can't hear it, because it doesn't add up, as above. So it is actually a praise for the Misnagdim, that they don't accept it!

It seems like this is another cute Chasidic story that should be discarded, as it doesn't add up. Even among Chasidim, I am not aware of anyone who actually follows the story and actually dances on Tisha Be'Av.

File it away in the recycle bin.