Monday, July 25, 2005

A "making of a godol" story about zealotry and hooliganism

On shabbos someone told me something he heard directly from R. Mordechai Gifter.

When R. Gifter was a bachur in the Telshe Yeshiva a certain maskil came to town with the intention of lecturing. R. Gifter and three friends would not let this be and had a plan. The four of them each took to a corner of the crowded hall in which the lecture was being given and no sooner had the maskil begun speaking, they all yelled "Fire!". Pandemonium ensued. There is a reason that "shouting fire in a crowded theater" is very nearly the textbook case of the limits of free speech. But the goal of disrupting the lecture was accomplished.

Feeling proud and certain of himself, young R. Gifter was shocked when the Telshe rosh yeshiva called him into his office and made it clear that he was very angry with him. He barred R. Gifter from entering or having anything to do with the yeshiva for two weeks and explained to him that there is a difference between zealotry and hooliganism.

Unfortunately the person who told me this didn't remember what the punchline was, if there was one; what R. Gifter was told the precise difference is. Come to think of it, the story itself is kind of the punchline.

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