Monday, April 20, 2009

Interesting Posts and Articles #140

  1. From the parsha sheet of the Chevra Lomdei Mishnayos, parshas Shemini of this year:
    A disciple of the Chofetz Chaim overheard a private prayer uttered by his rebbi. Apparently, the Chofetz Chaim would beseech Hashem: “Please, allow me to die al kiddush Hashem (for the sanctification of Your Name)!” (Sichos HaChofetz Chaim, sec. 86).

    At first glance, this may seem difficult to understand. While many surely recognize the nobility of this act when a situation arises, the Chofetz Chaim seemed to carry the idea to a new level: he specifically sought an opportunity to give his life for Hashem’s Name.
    Rav Yosef Karo, as well, deeply desired that his death be al kiddush Hashem, and was falsely promised this by his maggid. And Rabbi Akiva was joyous when the opportunity was presented to him to die al kiddush Hashem. So the Chafetz Chaim was not alone in this. Of course, the Jewish idea of martyrdom al kiddush Hashem is not taking a bunch of innocent people with you, as is popular today in a certain other religion. Rather, it is remaining true to Hashem in the process of death, not just in life; and getting the chance to prove one's fealty to Hashem, that one will not renounce one's religion, even at the truly intended threat of death. It is indeed viscerally difficult to understand this attitude. But it is understandable, not necessarily for the reasons they give in the parsha sheet, but also because it takes an event which will happen anyway (in the Divinely ordained time) and makes it more meaningful; and gives a chance to prove something about yourself. Plus, all sorts of mystical or religious explanations, true or contrived, to help people cope with the tragic reality of people (in certain times and places) dying al kiddush Hashem may be internalized and adopted, such that it becomes something to envy and hope for. I don't know the context in which the Chafetz Chaim hoped for this, or if this report is entirely accurate, but I could grok it.

  2. While on the subject of those who died al kiddush Hashem, as Shirat Devorah points out, TheCoolJew reports:
    THECOOLJEW got a call today from someone in crown heights who spoke this morning to Nachman Holtberg the father of Gavi Holtzberg who was killed in Mumbi India. He reported that for the first time since his son was killed in a the November attack he saw his son in a dream. It apprently took place around two weeks agol. His son told him in heaven their is a big tumolt and alot of excitment. Moshiach is but seconds away....
    a report that was later confirmed in person by the father of Gavriel Hotzberg in 770.

    It is interesting how passing on in such a matter gives credence to a person such that he is a credible source after death for such information. I do not doubt (assuming it was actually confirmed) that the father had this dream. It is in part a coping mechanism, and in part understandable due to the mashiach-focus of general Chabad. His friend eulogized him by showing, via gematria, how he was connected with the coming of mashiach. People seized upon a false interpretation of a Zohar that connected him with the coming of mashiach. To cite Berachot 55b:
    R. Samuel b. Nahmani said in the name of R. Jonathan: A man is shown in a dream only what is suggested by his own thoughts, as it says, As for thee, Oh King, thy thoughts came into thy mind upon thy bed. Or if you like, I can derive it from here: That thou mayest know the thoughts of the heart. Raba said: This is proved by the fact that a man is never shown in a dream a date palm of gold, or an elephant going through the eye of a needle.
  3. On a related note of the elevated status in people's eyes of someone who died on Kiddush Hashem, see this post at Circus Tent about "playing the Holtzberg card." If a position is correct, it is correct even in the more heart-rending situation. Trading on the fact that a certain person is popular and trading on the fact that one is looked at as callous for not treating that person gingerly does not seem to me to be an intellectually honest way of conducting a real debate.

  4. Dixie Yid on the phenomenon of going away to a hotel for Pesach. Check out the comment section. I have some thought on this, but they are in development in my own post on parshablog, so we will have to see if I ever get around to posting them.

  5. Check out the recent Haveil Havalim, Jewish blog carnival, at The Real Shliach.

  6. Topical to sefirat HaOmer, Balashon has a nice, lengthy, analysis of the word omer and whether it means "sheaf" or is a measure of volume.


Wolf2191 said...

The "exaggerated" value of dying Al Kiddush Hashem - is one of the things satirized by Saul Belin in his K'sav Yosher -

This could be used as another proof towards Besamim Rosj's forgery

Devorah said...

Having a dream about a deceased relative is not a "coping mechanism".

My sister a"h was tragically killed over a year ago. Since then I have had a couple of dreams about her. Neither of them would fall under the category of "coping mechanism". If that were the case, then these dreams would come much sooner than six months after their death (as in the case of both mine and the Holtzberg dream).

A dream of someone who is no longer here is a message from them. Both of my dreams contained messages from my sister, both messages proved to be very useful to me.

Also, the passage that you claim as being a false interpretation is just your opinion. Many others (no not all Chabad) have confirmed it as a truthful interpretation.

People don't have to disclose their dreams, and in fact we are told not to do so if the people we are disclosing them to will ridicule or interpret them badly. The reason dreams such as this one are publicised is to give chizzuk to others. When you degrade the dream and the dreamer, you are defeating the purpose.

have you never had a dream of a deceased person? I guess you haven't, because if you had, you would realise that such a dream is incredibly valuable and in fact a message from the deceased.

There is an excellent book "Dream Interpretation" by the great Rabbi Shelomo Almoli written in the 16th century (published by Ktav)
and some further info on dreams can be read at

joshwaxman said...

you certainly can tell yourself that, but I don't buy it. people's emotional needs change over time, and perhaps at a specific point in time in the healing process one is able to deal with it in this way.

i am sorry for your loss. but i don't believe your sister is communicating with you via your dreams, any more than i believe Gavriel Holtzberg is communicating with his father via dreams.

while you consider this a matter of giving chizzuk to others, i consider it possibly encouraging an out-of-control apocalyptic messianic cult in their end-of-times scenario; and allowing anyone with a dream to guide the religious movement, as opposed to those who perhaps might be more qualified, such as rabbonim.

while we differ in this, i do not think that in this post i degraded the dream or the dreamer.

in terms of Mumbai, there is nothing to it, even if non-Chabad amaratzim who don't know how to read a text, or else wishful dreamers, read the same message into it.

it did not match the Zohar back then in ANY details back then, mismatching e.g. in the number of people, the non-mention of a synagogue (rather than an assembly), referring to Pesach rather than Chanukkah, etc. And Nothing happened X days later. It is all wishful misinterpretation, and nonsense. That people can still maintain today that it was fulfilled just shows how much people can delude themselves.

kol tuv,

Anonymous said...

"Rav Yosef Karo, as well, deeply desired that his death be al kiddush Hashem, and was falsely promised this by his maggid."

It is brought down that R' Karo was indeed going to merit to die al kiddush Hashem but due to an unspecified incident, this was taken away from him and he (only!) merited to be the author of the shulchan aruch...


joshwaxman said...

interesting. but brought down by whom? and who can know this, and how, and how certain? that is, i am certain that enough people were troubled by this that someone would try to rationalize and suggest an answer...



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