Tuesday, June 26, 2007

How The Trickster Maggid Fleeced A Misnaged

With all the hubbub recently about Artscroll's editorial decision to omit negative details about subjects of Rabbinic biographies, transforming such works into hagiographies, it is interesting to encounter a negative story, told over by Shlomo Carlebach and Susan Yael MeSinai, about a certain Chassidishe Rebbe.

Of cource, he actually believes it is a positive story, not recognizing the story's true import. Kind of like if he had told the misnagdish Chassidic story of "there was Shabbos to the left of us, Shabbos to the right of us, but where my Rebbe was, there was no Shabbos!" thinking this was in fact a powerful story. And I would venture, based on certain details, that it is in fact a true story. I encountered it at Heichal HeNegina:
Introduction
Most people are so out of touch with life in this world that they think it's crazy to speak of life on the Other Side. But it isn't. There's life in this world and the next. According to Jewish tradition, while Heaven is more pure, life in this world is the central focus. Men come here to be fixed and made whole.
Word has it that the tzaddikim run both worlds. Essentially, they run the whole show. The Heavenly Court is governed by tzaddikim who have died recently. They replace other righteous men, tzaddikim who've been in Heaven too long to remember the reality of struggle in this world.
Once Rebbe Michel Zlotchever passed away, he was called to judge on the Heavenly Court. As soon as he took his place, he came down harshly on all those he had to review.
"How could you do such wrong?" he yelled at them.
Finally, one of the tzaddikim on earth realized what was happening and began to complain: "You can't appoint, as a judge, a man who has never sinned! What does the Zlotchever know of the hardships of Moishe the Water Carrier? He comes from a family that for thirteen generations made no mistakes."
The worldly tzaddikim protested his severity so much that it was finally decreed that the Zlotchever would be retired and the tzaddik who had first complained should take his place. The decree went out just before Shabbos. The tzaddik on earth barely had enough time to say good-bye to his wife.
Judging is done in heaven, but fixing takes place in this world, sometimes before the Judgment, sometimes after. We are speaking here of fixing the souls of those who have left this world. Judging will determine whether you go to Heaven or Hell, whether you are permitted to come back to life.
But if the merchandise is damaged, it's not a question of Paradise or reincarnation. The vessels are broken. They need to be mended and made whole again. This kind of repair doesn't take place in Heaven. Nor can we do it ourselves.
A soul who needs fixing has to come back into the world and look for a tzaddik to help him. Naturally, if he was close to one while he was alive he will have no problem, because his soul is still attached to that tzaddik. But what happens to a person who was never attached to a tzaddik during his lifetime?


The Story
Everybody knows that the Trisker Maggid, Reb Avromoleh, was one of the eight sons of Rebbe Motteleh of Chernobyl who was mamash a tzaddik gadol. Reb Motteleh was the center of all the tzaddikim. He took care of the living and the dead and was the master of the lamed-vav tzaddikim, the Thirty-Six Righteous Men who hold up the world.
Before he passed away, Reb Motteleh divided his kingdom among his children and put the Trisker Maggid in charge of the people from the Other Side.
Reb Avromoleh lived like this. At eight o'clock in the morning he'd get up, go to the mikveh and pray. At two o'clock in the afternoon, he would start to yawn. "I'm so tired, I've got to lie down a little bit." He'd go to his room until three, then pray both afternoon and evening prayers. At ten o'clock at night he might start yawning again. "I'm so tired. I've got to go back to my room."
The fact of the matter is that the Trisker Maggid never ate and never slept. He also never kept any books in his room, because - as everybody knows - when he closed the door to his room he was dealing with souls from the Other World who needed fixing.
People from the Other Side are not able to read Torah. In order to avoid making them feel bad, the Trisker Maggid never permitted books in his room. If he found one, he put it out.
The Trisker Maggid once came to a village where only one Yiddeleh [Jew] had enough room in his house to accommodate the Rebbe and his Chassidim. But this man was a real Misnagid [an opponent of Chassidus]. He had heard many stories from his fellow Misnagdim and was suspicious of the rumor that the Trisker Maggid never slept and never ate.
"Eating I can believe. He sleeps so much, he doesn't need to eat. But he doesn't even keep a book in his room, so you can't tell me he isn't up there napping!"
This wealthy Yiddeleh was more than happy to have the Trisker Maggid as his guest, because it would give him a chance to prove what Reb Avromoleh was doing behind closed doors. "He's snoring, I'm sure."
While the Trisker Maggid was davening Ma'ariv, the evening prayer, the Yiddeleh managed to get into Reb Avromoleh's room and to hide under the bed.

At ten o'clock, the Trisker Maggid said to his Chassidim, "I have to go back to my room."
The rich Yiddeleh heard Reb Avromoleh come into the chamber and felt him sit down on the bed.
No sooner had the Chassidim closed the door to give the Rebbe a little privacy when it seemed to open again. A crowd pushed their way into the room. The man could hear the shuffle of feet, the murmuring appeals.
During the day, the host had already witnessed the Trisker Maggid's audiences with ten, maybe even thirty people, at a time. But this sounded like thousands. What was happening? Where were all these people coming from? How could there even be a place for them in this little bedroom?
During the day, people would complain: "Rabbi! I'm sick. Please cure my back." "I need money for my business."
"Would you find a wife for my son?"
But by night, the people were saying, "Rebbe! I'm so broken! They won't let me into Paradise. They won't let me into Hell. All I can do is wander. Rebbe, please fix my soul."
The worst was that the Misnagid heard so many voices in the room. But when he peeked out from underneath the bed, he couldn't see any feet. The Yiddeleh was so frightened that he was shaking and had to do his best to keep his teeth from chattering.
Suddenly, he heard another, different voice cry out: "Rebbe! Have compassion on my tormented neshama [soul]. Fix me! Fix my soul!"
"What can I do for you?" the Trisker Maggid asked. "While you were alive, you never bothered to come to me. You didn't even give me one kopeck for tzedaka, one penny for charity, to connect yourself to me. So how can I help you now?"
"There must be a way!" The poor soul pleaded with the Rebbe, from a place of deep anguish.
"Actually, there is one way. Your neighbor, Shmuelik, was one of my top Chassidim. Shmuelik gave me a great deal of charity during his lifetime. If he were to tell me now that one penny of the riches he gave as tzedaka was for you, then I could find a way to help you."
"Shmuelik would do that for me, I'm sure."
"Fine! Then I want you to go and ask him!"
"How can I do that? He won't believe that I come from you."
"Then I'll send somebody along to act as your witness." At this point, the Trisker Maggid gave a strong, swift kick under the bed and said to the Yiddeleh: "Come out!"
When the Yiddeleh realized that the Trisker Maggid was about to send him into the Other World as witness to an exchange between two souls, he began pleading from under the bed. "Please, Rebbe! Don't do this to me! I promise I won't tell anybody what I saw!"
"Come out!"
The Yiddeleh came out, crawling on his stomach. He was crying, screaming, clinging to the Rebbe's feet.
"Please, Rebbe! You've seen! I have a wife and three children. I don't want to die yet. I'm not ready to die!"
"G-d forbid you should die. But if you're going to spy on me, you must go as my witness. Take my stick and walk with the soul of this man to the cemetery."
The Yiddeleh looked around. The greatest nightmare of all was that there was absolutely no one else in the room, only himself and the Trisker Maggid.
"Knock on the first grave in the second row and say that Avraham ben Chana orders Shmuel ben Rivka to give one penny to fix the neshama of this Yiddeleh - Yosseleh, his neighbor."
Postscripts:
Reb Shlomo concluded the story by saying: The beautiful aspect of this story is that I actually heard it from the great-great-grandson of the man who hid under the bed. It goes without saying that he lived to become a very great Trisker Chassid.

And Yrachmiel of Ascent added: [This was] confirmed by the general manager of Ascent, who is the great-great-grandson of the Trisker Maggid.

Zechuso yagein aleinu v’al kol Yisrael
– May the Trisker Maggid’s merits protect us all!
The "problem" with this story -- well, actually, the problems are many, but one big "problem" is that this misnaged only heard the soul speaking while he was under the bed. Once he was out of the bed and was able to see the Trickster Maggid's lips, amazingly, the soul fell silent! One would almost think -- dare I say it? -- that the Trickster Maggid was changing his voice and throwing his voice, to make it seem that there were souls in the room. The same is used by channelers when conducting a seance.

Indeed, he obviously knew throughout that the misnagid was under the bed. That is how he was able to give him a kick at the proper moment. A cynic might say that this was all a put-on.

And indeed, what was the import of his words? That a tormented soul, in need of fixing, could not get it, because he did not give tzeddaka to the Trickster Maggid! As the story above that one illustrated (see on Heichal HaNegina website), the Rebbe would use this money for the expenses of maintaining a Rebbishe court, serving many at his table. Thus, he was in need of constant influx of money. And indeed, this misnaged, after being sent on a literal fool's errand to knock on a gravestone, accompanying a figment of his imagination -- this misnaged became a big chassid of the Maggid, and likely a big financial supporter as well.

There is also the fact that it is nonsense to say that the Rebbe did not eat or sleep. Indeed, the gemara on Teruma daf 3a states that if someone took an oath not to sleep for three days or not to eat for seven days, this is a shevuat shav. Why not say that this is indeed possible for some people? If the Trisker Maggid could do it, couldn't a Tanna as well? Indeed, where Moshe says that he didn't eat bread and didn't drink water on Har Sinai, it is either idiomatic, representing his great devotion to the cause, or else is a great miracle assisted by God.

Indeed, if the chassidim though the Trisker maggid didn't eat, it must have been at his own design, such that he did not eat in front of them. This means that he must have eaten in seclusion in his own room (or else in the mikveh before davening!), in order to foster this impression.

Indeed, this is just like Pharaoh, about whom the midrash relates that in order to create the impression that he was a deity, would immerse in the Nile each morning, where he would attend to his bodily needs. This is not a good thing for Pharaoh to do, and it was not a good thing for the maggid to do.

His not having seforim in his room is also a peculiarity that seems designed to further this impression that he communicated with dead souls. It is also possible that he did not like to learn, and preferred to spend this time in seclusion resting on his bed and eating.

Is it important that this story be told, despite its negative aspects? I would say yes, because of the insights it gives us into chassidism and what people would fall for in those times. And indeed, they fall for it in our times as well -- after all, this is still told as a positive story, and people go to all sorts of fake mekubalim for miracles.

Note: Initially, I misread the Heichal HeNegina account that this second story was in an Artscroll work - in fact, it was the first story, which does not appear here.

29 comments:

Anonymous said...

You maskil, you.

Actually, this is exactly what the people who didn't drink the Kool Aid were saying at the time, during the heydey of Hasidism.

Anonymous said...

How about the Ruzhiner Rebbe who lived like a multi-millionare and *supposedly* wore fancy shoes without soles?

yitz said...

A cynic might say that this was all a put-on.
I can't imagine who that cynic could be, ahem, hem....
Initially, I misread the Heichal HeNegina account...
Not just initially....
"Whoever believes every Chassidic story they hear is a na'ar; whoever doesn't believe they COULD have happened is an Aprikoris." Which are you?
one big "problem" is that this misnaged only heard the soul speaking while he was under the bed. Once he was out of the bed and was able to see the Trickster Maggid's lips, amazingly, the soul fell silent!
Nowhere in the story does it say that. Like I said above, not only "initally"... :))

yitz said...

PS - notice that the other cynics prefer to remain anonymous; altho there's no shortage of Chassidus-bashing on the Net...

Anonymous said...

""Whoever believes every Chassidic story they hear is a na'ar; whoever doesn't believe they COULD have happened is an Aprikoris." Which are you?"

That's a little self serving. Why could they have happened if it's naarish to believe they did?

yitz said...

Aha, mr anonymous...think about it a little!!! And whose self is it serving???

joshwaxman said...

Anonymous:
"How about the Ruzhiner Rebbe who lived like a multi-millionare and *supposedly* wore fancy shoes without soles?"

Actually, that I can believe. It sounds like an ascetic practice that one can adopt even when contradicted by a lavish lifestyle. Consider the Rothschild custom of sleeping in a coffin. And it is not in the realm of the impossible.

Anonymous said...

"Aha, mr anonymous...think about it a little!!! And whose self is it serving??"

The people who are inflated by these stories.

joshwaxman said...

yitz:
Yes, indeed, it was a tongue-in-cheek way of saying that I don't believe it.

and it *does* say that in the story. first the chassid hears the soul talk. then he comes out from under the bed. then,

"The Yiddeleh looked around. The greatest nightmare of all was that there was absolutely no one else in the room, only himself and the Trisker Maggid. 'Knock on the first grave in the second row and say that Avraham ben Chana orders Shmuel ben Rivka to give one penny to fix the neshama of this Yiddeleh - Yosseleh, his neighbor.'"

read between the lines. and don't you think the story would have mentioned it, had he heard the soul after it?

the problem is actually that I *do* believe this story occurred, just that the explanations of the phenomena described is different.

joshwaxman said...

"Whoever believes every Chassidic story they hear is a na'ar; whoever doesn't believe they COULD have happened is an Aprikoris."

Yes, that is a great quote. But state it beShem Omro. And just because it is a great quote does not mean that everyone subscribes to it, and that anyone who disagrees with the statement is indeed an apikores.

In that respect it is self-serving.

I can think of many religious rationalists who would likely (IMHO, admittedly) disagree with that statement.

yitz said...

and don't you think the story would have mentioned it, had he heard the soul after it?
How many departed souls have you encountered in your lifetime, Josh? And tell me, Mr. Rationality, isn't it at all possible that the man under the bed really didn't deserve to experience ANY contact with these souls? So he was "allowed" to hear the conversation they had with the Maggid when he couldn't see them... but when he came out, away they went. Just as plausible, if not more so, than your ventriloquist idea.

joshwaxman said...

"How many departed souls have you encountered in your lifetime, Josh?"

besides its irrelevance, how many departed souls have you encountered, yitz?

if away they went, how did he accompany the soul to the cemetery? for according to the story, the Trisker Rebbe said, "Take my stick and walk with the soul of this man to the cemetery."

look, any rationalization is possible. The question is plausibility, and it is only "just as plausibly, if not more so," from your particular world view. Most others would laugh.

(ps. I responded to you post on the Gerrer Rebbe's curse.)

Kol Tuv,
Josh

yitz said...

Josh, your eizeneh "Brisker" logic is going around in circles. Read between the lines, & make a Brisker hairsplitting diyuk on every word of... a Reb Shlomo Carlebach story! Come on!
The Rebbe's dialog with the neshama was over; all that was left was to give instructions to the man. And whatever other neshamos [that he certainly couldn't see, as the story says he couldn't see any feet!] took off! Just as plausible as your interpretation.

yitz said...

And oh, yes, the statement about the na'ar-apikoris was made by [gasp!] the Chozeh of Lublin, as recounted by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan [oh, no, another one of those crazy Chassidim!] :))
Kol tuv..........

LakewoodShmuck said...

bored FOOL

joshwaxman said...

oy. it is not a Brisker diyuk into "every word", but rather a recounting of the details of the story. it is simple reading comprehension.

my point about the BeShem Omro is that what you presented as a generic statement (which thus has the import of being absolute truth) is the opinion of one person. and that not everyone has to agree with the Chozeh of Lublin.

for example, if I relate a generic statement that "anyone who argues on the historicity of midrashim is an apikores," then it gives the impression that this is the only opinion on the subject matter. In fact, while it might represent the opinion of Rav Aharon Kotler and the Ran, it does not represent the opinion of e.g. Shmuel haNagid.

Finally, let me tell you a story about the Chozeh of Lublin. When he died, thousands of people saw that he ascended on high in a flaming chariot and was seated on the Throne of Glory, becoming part of the Godhead.

I just made it up. But do you believe that since it is a chassidishe story, someone who denies that it *could* have happened is an apikores? Is apotheosis now acceptable belief, because it "could have happened?"

What about the preceding story on your blog, that takes the judging of souls after death away from HaKadosh Baruck Hu and assigns it to tzaddikim, with human subjectivity? That is overturning Jewish religious belief just as much.

yitz said...

...that takes the judging of souls after death away from HaKadosh Baruck Hu and assigns it to tzaddikim, with human subjectivity?
We obviously have a very different take on what's going on here, & I don't see the point of arguing further. The concept of tikkun neshamos - does that mean anything to you? Sometimes a neshama needs to come back into this world [& not always as a human] to fix one thing - why can't tzaddikim help with that?

yitz said...

A few final PSs:
1. One man's reading comprehension is another's Brisker diyukim.
2. The Chozeh's statement is widely accepted amongst Chassidim. I'm sure there are those who attribute it to other Chassidic Rebbes as well.

joshwaxman said...

obviously not.
but i was talking about the story about the tzaddik who was judging neshamot when in the *next* world, and yelling at them "how could you do this." which does not have to do with tikkun neshamot.

gilgul, by the way is not necessarily a Jewish concept.

and the point of the statement seems to be an attempt to bridge the gap between Chassidic gullibility and misnagdish skepticism, so the fact that it is widely accepted by Chassidim does not really matter much to me.

Anonymous said...

יישר כחך !

It's about time someone shined a light on these Hassidic tales, put them under scrutiny and took them to task for the hatred they spread against Misnagdim.

They have getting a free ride for too long with their bubba mayses.

Anonymous said...

*They have been getting

Anonymous said...

Why in heaven's name do you think this story is true and if true why do you think Shlomo recounted the details accurately? He embellished stories all the time.

joshwaxman said...

well, true because both the great-great grandson of the misnaged turned chassid, and the great-great grandson of the maggid, confirmed it (after Shlomo Carlebach said it).

as for the details, sure some embellishment is possible, perhaps likely, but the base details don't seem like things added, and in fact smack of true things which were interpreted in various positive ways. for example the not eating and sleeping, and keeping any sefer out of the room. It is a judgment call.

what unembellished version of the story would you believe that does not have this same negative light cast, to a rationalist?

yitz said...

His not having seforim in his room is also a peculiarity that seems designed to further this impression that he communicated with dead souls. It is also possible that he did not like to learn, and preferred to spend this time in seclusion resting on his bed and eating.
You should know that you & your readers don't come up to his ankles, neither in Learning nor in Kedusha. Have you ever seen his Magen Avraham?
And Chassidim need to be taken "to task for the hatred they spread against Misnagdim."
Right!!! [not]

joshwaxman said...

Did he also not wear tzitzit in his room, for similar reasons (so as not to embarrass the souls)?

yitz said...

Who knows? Bottom line is, you can't analyze a Chassidic story, especially when told by R. Shlomo Carlebach, as you would a pasuk Chumash or a Gemara. And you are not Rashi, Tosfos, or R. Chaim Brisker, much as you probably would like to be. Stick to Chumash & Gemara.

joshwaxman said...

ignoring the repeated ad hominems, except to point out that that is what they are

...

it is interesting that people start denying the authenticity and accuracy of the story once they realize what negative consequences arise from assuming it is true, and not beforehand.

joshwaxman said...

by the way, since you like my analyses so much, you might like my analysis of a recent meshichist Gimmel Tammuz essay, which was reposted without the blog owner's realization that it was meshichist.

Here.

Anonymous said...

"And Chassidim need to be taken "to task for the hatred they spread against Misnagdim."
Right!!! [not]"

The fact is that many Hassidim regularly tell over tales that cast Misnagdim in a bad light. It is questionable whether they are accurate, but even if they are, they happened a long time ago, so what do they have to do with misnagdim of today ?

I haven't seen them including disclaimers when they tell such stories, such as 'that doesn't mean all misnagdim are like that' or 'that was a long time ago, nowadays things are different'. So those who hear the stories, often youngsters, are given the impression that misnagdim are just plain evil people, rather than just Yidden who have a different derech in avodas Hashem.

That is called spreading hate and encouraging animosity.

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