Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The Mouser Rebbe

When my brother had his year in Israel, there were mice in his room. This was unpleasant for several reasons, and he did not enjoy the situation.

One of his Rabbeim in his yeshiva in Israel recommended that he go to Geulah and get a picture of the rabbi who chases away mice, Rabbi Yeshayaleh. Dutifully, he got the picture, which was to act as a segulah to keep away mice, and put it up on the wall.

However, the mice did not go away, but rather stayed. My brother's roommates would then grab the picture of the "Mouser Rebbe" (as they called him) and chase the mice with it around the room. All in all, a good proof of the ineffectiveness of this particular segulah.

Alas, he did not know the name of the particular Rebbe when he told me about it on the phone, and I asked him to bring it back with him. Until that point, I speculated that the Rav's name was probably something along the lines of Rabbi Katz, but wanted to find out. But alas, it was left out of the suitcase when he left.

On a recent trip to Israel, I went to Geulah, to the outside stall where he bought the picture, and asked if they had the picture of the Rebbe who chases away mice. He had it, and I purchased the cheaper of the two.

I asked the man selling the picture if he knew the story behind this. Why was this particular Rabbi so effective against mice?

He told me that the story was that in the town, there were a bunch of mezuzot sitting around, in parchment form, not yet put on doors, and some mice nibbled and thus ruined the mezuzot. Rav Yeshayaleh was so upset that he cursed the mice.

An interesting story. ADDeRabbi posted on this last week, and the two stories he saw were different:
Two stories are mentioned: one is that he sent the local mice to the house of some local nobleman who was giving the Jews a hard time. This story includes eyewitness accounts of the mice marching in unison through the city to said nobleman's house. The second story describes how Reb Yeshayaleh promised someone who was sentenced to death for evading conscription would be saved. That night, mice entered the archive and destroyed the record of the guy's crime.
In those two stories, Reb Yeshayaleh is working together with the mice.

The story I was told has echoes of the Talmudic issue of mice eating sifrei kodesh: People said to store holy with holy and therefore stored terumah with sifrei kodesh. Mice came to eat the teruma and nibbled and thus destroyed the sifrei kodesh at the same time. This led to the institution of rabbinic ritual impurity of the hands for touching those sefarim, so that people should not make the association and would stop storing terumah with them.

ADDeRabbi brought this up because he saw the segulah in action:
Tuesday afternoon, before the doctor's visit that landed me in the hospital, I picked my son up at school. I noticed a picture of an old Jewish looking fellow which was captioned as a 'segulah' against mice and other harmful things. I saw the name, but couldn't get enough of a handle on it to figure out who it is. Later, speaking to a friend who tends to know about this kind of thing. He said that the name of the Rebbe in question is Reb Yeshayaleh Steiner of Kerestirer.
It is all very amusing.

However, there may be some problems with believing in and following such a segulah. The Catholics also have their patron saints, and even patron saints for keeping away mice and rats. Appealing to a particular rabbi and hanging up a picture of him for this purpose may well fall into the range of chukas emori.

Thus, we have Saint Gertrude of Nivelles (left). Why is she associated with mice? Well, as they say on that site:

"As late as 1822, offerings of gold and silver mice were left at her shrine in Cologne; mice represented souls in Purgatory, to whom she had a great devotion."

Offerings of golden mice are actually also found in I Shmuel 6, but as offerings from the Philistines to Hashem.
יז וְאֵלֶּה טְחֹרֵי הַזָּהָב, אֲשֶׁר הֵשִׁיבוּ פְלִשְׁתִּים {ר} אָשָׁם לַיהוָה: {ס} לְאַשְׁדּוֹד אֶחָד {ס} לְעַזָּה {ר} אֶחָד, {ס} לְאַשְׁקְלוֹן אֶחָד, {ס} לְגַת {ר} אֶחָד, {ס} לְעֶקְרוֹן אֶחָד. {ס}
17 And these are the golden emerods which the Philistines returned for a guilt-offering unto the LORD: for Ashdod one, for Gaza one, for Ashkelon one, for Gath one, for Ekron one;
יח וְעַכְבְּרֵי {ר} הַזָּהָב, מִסְפַּר כָּל-עָרֵי פְלִשְׁתִּים לַחֲמֵשֶׁת הַסְּרָנִים--מֵעִיר מִבְצָר, וְעַד כֹּפֶר הַפְּרָזִי; וְעַד אָבֵל הַגְּדוֹלָה, אֲשֶׁר הִנִּיחוּ עָלֶיהָ אֵת אֲרוֹן יְהוָה, עַד הַיּוֹם הַזֶּה, בִּשְׂדֵה יְהוֹשֻׁעַ בֵּית הַשִּׁמְשִׁי.
18 and the golden mice, according to the number of all the cities of the Philistines belonging to the five lords, both of fortified cities and of country villages, even unto Abel by the great stone, whereon they set down the ark of the LORD, which stone remaineth unto this day in the field of Joshua the Beth-shemite.
Another patron saint, to keep away mice, is Servatus. Another is Ulrich.

Another patron saint, against rats, is Martin de Porres (right). It makes sense. One of the things this Dominican brother did was:
Set up a shelter for the stray cats and dogs and nursed them back to health.
If he is good for cats, then he is bad for rats. Heh.

Thus, we are not the only people who associate certain deceased people with specific powers.

While I am at it, I will mention one more. Unfortunately, the practice of giving tzedaka and making reference specifically to Rabbi Meir Baal HaNes and to the God of Rabbi Meir Baal HaNes has its equivalent.

Namely, there is Anthony of Padua who is the patron saint of lost items.

A year or so ago, I was quite aggrieved to see a convert post on a web site how he lost an item. In the past, he would have invoked the patron saint of lost items, Anthony of Padua. Now Jewish, he instead invoked Rabbi Meir Baal HaNes, and was gratified to find the item shortly thereafter.

By the way, I found this news story amusing: A statue of the patron saint of lost items goes missing. Heh.


Zach Kessin said...

This reminds me of the story of the (reform) rabbi who had mice in his shul, so he gave them all a bar mitva and never saw them again.

Personally I have a very good tool to keep away mice, my cat.

v-afsi ode said...

i one time argued to an irrationalist that it must be chaza"l were not artists for had they been artists instead of being gozer that all yedim are shnieos to save kisvie kodesh from mice they could have drawn a picture of r shayle (they surly knew what he looked like with there undeniable ruach hakodesh ability's) and been gozer that such a picture be kept next to all kisvie hakodesh

Anonymous said...

The Keresztirer Rebbe was a big tzaddik - people came to him for brochos all the time. I was personally zoche to know his granddaughter Rebbetzin Malkah Grosz, who was was a very holy and ehrliche Rebbetzin.
Whatever has been made of the title he was given - please don't belittle such a tzaddik and such a special family.

Joels W. said...

And this picture is a segulah to attract money..


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