Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Vintage hisnagdus and some other observations from Jerusalem, 1869.

From The literary remains of the late Charles F. Tyrwhitt Drake (London 1877).

Drake (1846-1874) was in Palestine in 1869, so this is the place and era he is writing about. Most of his account of Jerusalem isn't the sort of thing that you wouldn't read in a hundred other books of that era. In a couple of paragraphs he really laces into the rabbis of Jerusalem (accusing them, among other things, of parading poor people in special "almshouses" for a visit by Montefiore, after which they were summarily ejected. The idea is that these houses were built by Montefiore, but were actually being used by friends and askanim of the rabbis). This isn't so interesting as a footnote where he assures that "I must here remark that I have received all the above account from the mouths of Jews."

One thing which is sort of nice is how he clearly doesn't really understand exactly what he is writing. Yet what he reports, we who do know, can see has some truth. So for example, he correctly writes that the Perushim don't believe in the גוטע יידן (i.e., the Chassidic rebbes):

Writing further about Chabad, he says that they resemble the Chasidim but "are more learned and pious," and are into hospitality, charity, and especially visiting the sick.

He also notes that the Sephardim will pray with the Chasidim or Chabad if they need to, but not the Perushim.

The book includes a phote of the late lamented Drake:


  1. Well, now, this is very interesting. This article, written in 1877, says the misnagdim disparaged Chabad by saying the letters stand for "Chamor Bli Daas". But if you add up the gematriya of Chamor Bli Daas, it comes to . . . 770.

  2. Written in 1869, published in 1877.

    I thought of mentioning, but decided not to, that the saw that "Chabad stands for . . . " was very much alive and well when I was in yeshiva. The Gematriya too, but isn't Gematriya as inane as Notrikon?

    Actually, in Maagal Tov the Chida refers to the gossiping Sephardic wags of Amsterdam, London and Bordeaux as "אבל."

  3. "I thought of mentioning, but decided not to. . ."

    So you let me do it for you. Nice! בזמן שישראל עושין רצונו של מקום מלאכתן נעשית ע"י אחרים

    Actually, the point I was trying to make is that the "old saw" you refer to about the gematriya could not have been based on the Rebbe's address, because we see here it was around a long time before he ever moved to Crown Heights. That was a chiddush to me.

  4. Maybe I'm missing something, but who are the Vashri?

  5. It just didn't seem right to be in the post, sowing seeds of baseless hatred.

    Shimon S, I don't know exactly, but "Varshi" obviously means "Varsha," ie. Warsaw. I guess they were Polish Jews known by that name, but not Chassidim. Interestingly, my own ancestor, who lived in Jerusalem a little later was known as "Varshaver," although that wasn't his surname. I always assumed that he was born in Warsaw, but who knows.

    Come to think of it, it could refer to a single shul.

    DF, of course it was based on the address. The chiddush is that "chamor bli daas" is so old that it was originally thought of because of the initials and only the initials.

  6. Yeah, Warsha was my first guess but

    1. They have even longer/wider "love-locks" than chassidim.

    2. Their nusach is much different from the Perushim.

    Maybe Poilishe chassidim (Gur etc.)?

    "Come to think of it, it could refer to a single shul."

    More likely referring to Batei Warshaw compound/neighborhood.

  7. Yes, Poylish is more like it. He refers to the Chasidim as from Volhynia, Austria-Hungary and Galitzia. I would guess the Varshi are Poyleshe. Question is why he didn't see them as Chasidim. But of course that's moot, since we're not dealing with a trained/ keen anthropologist, but more like a tourist, I think, albeit one who obviously did spend some time talking with people.

    How old is Batei Warshaw?

  8. And why wouldn't Gur and so forth have wider love locks? I mean, I see the irony, but this was 1869. Styles change.

  9. Anyway, it's definitely Kollel Warsaw.

    From my limited understanding, Batei Warsaw was not built until much later.

  10. "Question is why he didn't see them as Chasidim."

    Judging by his exclusion of Chabad, different appearance and customs would be enough.

    "How old is Batei Warshaw?"

    Good question.

  11. DF, indeed, it seems that little has changed - Chassidim remain zahir b'mitzvos, and the 'Pirushim' remain nasty. ;)

  12. what do you mean that gematriya is inane? the talmud uses gematriyos to learn essential halachos, such as that a nazirite vow lasts for 30 days. perhaps you meant that people who try to invent their own gematriyos are inane?
    also you call nutrikun inane when this is used extensively in the talmud as in tractate shabbos by the laws of writing on shabbos where the talmud cites many nutrikun.



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