Monday, July 09, 2007

Those Who Refuse To Study History Are Doomed To Repeat It

From Emes Ve-Emunah:
Rabbi Wachsman has written a historical work entitled, ‘Medor Ledor’. He went to the trouble if getting endorsements from various rabbinic leaders, including the Karlsburger Rav and the Voidislaver Rav. The book went on sale. And wouldn’t you know it, some Askanim who bought it were shocked by what they read.

It contains the story of Shabsai Tzvi, one of the most infamous false messiahs of all time. In the span of two years, from his "coronation" in 1664 until his conversion to Islam in 1666, he created a major upheaval throughout the Jewish world. Many were duped by him and his followers, including great rabbinical figures. The controversy did not end even after his conversion to Islam. The Yaavitz, Rabbi Yaakov Emden, famously accused his contemporary, Rabbi Yonason Eibshitz of being a closet Sabbatean. In fact there are still Sabbateans around today.

These Askanim/Kanaim were not going to let a book with such negative information to be distributed. So they ‘snitched’ on him. They went to one of the rabbis who gave his approbation. What happened was as follows (as reported in the Jewish Press)...
As George Santayana said, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." Except here, it is refusal to remember the past. Indeed, it is extremely informative to look at the past when analyzing, for example, modern messianist movements. And that is one reason why a trend of rewriting history to conform to the most pristine version, editing out things that are somewhat negative, is a bad idea.

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