Friday, July 31, 2009

Fascinating historical anachronism in Spinka Rebbe's speech at Agudah asifah

The Rebbe also said the US is a kingdom of chessed, a nation that helps everybody. Our forefathers arrived here after the terrible churbon and they gave us permission to go and take in the refugees. “The Chossom Sofer wrote about the Kaiser Franz Yosef and his government, saying they were Hashem’s agents. The same can be said of the US government. They make sure we have an opportunity to live here with freedom and keep all of the mitzvahs, and we have to follow the law. There is no good deed, mitzvah or even bikkur cholim or hachnasas kalloh that permits violating the law,” he concluded.
Caveat; I did not watch or listen to the speech on YouTube. Thus, it is possible that the above report is not what he said. HOWEVER, assuming that it is, I found it interesting that the Spinka Rebbe referred to the Chasam Sofer (d. 1839) praising "the Kaiser Franz Joseph" (unless he only misspoke).

Franz Joseph (d. 1916) was born in 1830 and did not rule until 1848. He was indeed beloved by his Jewish subjects, so much so that he was nicknamed Yossel. Of course the Chasam Sofer might have been speaking about a Knight of the Golden Fleece, Franz Joseph of Liechtenstein (d. 1781).

In all, I think the point is that if this is even an accurate quote (that is, the Chasam Sofer praised a benevolent ruler of his time) it wasn't Franz Joseph. In the Spinka Rebbe's mouth it almost seems as if "the Kaiser Franz Joseph" becomes an archetype title for a benevolent ruler. Still, it is probably too much to construct a pilpul about historical memory or ahistoricism and Chassidism, but it is still a bit of interest.

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