Thursday, June 22, 2006

Are all gedolim stories praiseworthy?

Jewish Student relates a story someone said about the Satmar Rav. It was intended in praise of him, to be inspirational.

Last August I posted about someone telling me something about the Klausenberger Rebbe that seemed out of character for him to me, so I didn't believe it.

In general the phenomenon of repeating stories meant to be in praise but which are really the opposite is interesting. It apparently rests on the assumption that by definition if the subject said or did it then it is a praiseworthy action rather than an example, perhaps, of where a great person acted or said something unbecoming.

This reminds me of an interesting book I bought as a bahur about Rashi. It listed all the legends about Rashi (his father and the jewel, Rashi's prediction of Godfrey de Bouillon's returning from the Crusade etc.) and basically traced them and tried to assess whether they were true. One thing stood out: it repeated the legend of Rashi's father sweeping the floor of a bet ha-qenesset with his long beard and it dismissed this because it is just, well, wacked.

In fact, this legend (which I also heard--it is one of the stories repeated) is not about Rashi's father but a rebbe of Rashi, R. Yaakov ben Yakar and is in Sepher Hassidim. where it said that he would sweep the area in front of the aron ha-qodesh with his beard.

True? False? Does the reason employed by the book I mentioned make sense in this context to dismiss it as a legend? I don't know. Nevertheless it is interesting that people will repeat things which don't necessarily inspire apparently thinking that attaching an important name to the action or statement makes it inspiring. (Here I do not mean Sepher Hassidim.)

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