Friday, January 23, 2009

Doresh El HaMeisim and Rochel Imeinu's Appearance

Some followup to my post attempting to debunk the urban legend of Rochel Imeinu working in the bomb squad in Gaza.

1) The woman magically changed her clothing from black to white. From R' Lazer Brody, who purportedly heard from the soldier's father:
A woman in long black local attire came out and pleaded with them not to storm the house.
while in a recent post at Shiloh Musings:
Drawing near a building, a woman dressed in a white Jalabiya (the traditional clothing of North African Jews from places such as Morocco and Tunisia) came out.
This in addition to the other few important divergences in the story -- that R' Lazer is the one to suggest it was Mama Rachel, while now it is the woman herself who identified herself as such; and whether she spoke Arabic or Hebrew.
An anonymous commenter on the previous post told me that this is not a black and white issue. But apparently it is. ;)

This recent confirmation from Shiloh Musings, which is supposed to convince everyone, is from an anonymous blogger/teacher. Did she hear it directly from the soldier? No, as she writes, she heard it from a soldier in the unit, who was not actually there at the time, since they split up. So he did not see her, so see that she said that she was Rochel Imeinu. He also told her the name of the soldier. Great, so we can ask him directly? His name is "Yoel S." It is a pretty unique name, S with no other letters in the last name, so all we need to do is look him up. Nor does the soldier say explicitly that he heard it this account directly from Yoel S.

2) Vos Iz Neias has a post entitled "Rabbi Cherlow: Spreading Fables About Rachel Imenu is Like Communicating with the Dead" with an active comment section. Read the post, as well as the comments.

3) What are my thoughts about praying to Rachel Imeinu?

OK, you will tell me that that is not what Rav Eliyahu did. He spoke to Rachel Imeinu asking her to pray to Hashem. Is one allowed to do this? One generally accepted approach is yes, though this is actually a halachic dispute whether one is permitted to address the meis, which is what Rav Eliyahu says he did, or whether one should only address Hashem. (See e.g. Be'er Heitiv seif katan 17 here; see also here for a more detailed discussion of the dispute.) I have another post I've been sitting on for over a year, discussing the implication of various sources in the gemara, midrashim, and Zohar in this regard, where I do not think they say what people assume they say, but I do not want to take away attention from the main point.

4) My understanding of Rav Eliyahu's remarks is that he did not claim that he literally sent her. He said what he said. Which was:
'I told her: Rachel, a war is on! Don’t withhold your voice from crying [based on Jeremiah 31,14-16]! Go before G-d, and pray for the soldiers, who are sacrificing themselves for the Nation of Israel, that they should strike - and not be stricken.'
So all he asked was for her to pray to Hashem, just as she did in the pasuk of Rachel Mevakah Al Baneha. He did not say that he asked her to actually go out and act as a scout. He just deduced that that is what she decided to do on her own, and thus it is "as if" he sent her.

But people may well think that this means that one can go and ask dead tzaddikim to take action. That would be prayer to them, rather to Hashem. That would likely be doresh el haMeisim, even according to the accepted position that davening at kivrei tzaddikim is allowed, or that asking tzaddikim to daven for you is allowed. For this transforms the deceased tzaddikim into the saints of a certain other religion, and that is not good.

And this is indeed dangerous territory because we are dealing with an already superstitious hamon am, which performs segulahs directed towards specific deceased rabbis (such as the Chofetz Chaim) to achieve magical ends. And because there is a particular deceased tzaddik, buried in Queens, who people might just turn to in their requests, hoping for direct influence from him.

Postscript: I forgot, last time, to note some of the websites discussing this. See Shirat Devorah Yeranen Yaakov.


Anonymous said...

maybe it was the ghost of a different rachel, rachel corrie - seems just as likely to me...

seraphya said...

Just a thought:

" Ruchu min hon " does sound fairly similar to "Rachel Imeinu"

It could also explain confusion about her speaking Hebrew ora Arabic.

Lurker said...

Great comment from Menachem on Rafi G's blog:

It seems pretty clear now that it wasn't Rochel. Apparently when the soldiers woke up in the morning they realized it was Leah.

Lurker said...

This just in:

UN Human Rights Council votes 33-1 to condemn Rachel Imeinu for providing assistance and intelligence data to Zionist war criminals in Gaza
Resolution dismisses Matriarch's denial of involvement as 'Zionist disinformation'


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