Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Kol HaOmer Davar Beshem Omro, and Tipshim, Hizharu BeDivreichem

I see that the warning to be careful with one's words is not only well applied to chachamim, but to lesser figures such as myself, as well.

On occassion, I like to joke. Sometimes those jokes are overt, and sometimes they are inside jokes. Sometimes, the only one who gets them is me.

Such was the case a while back in a post on the subject of "with great power comes great responsibility," and how one must keep in mind how others will interpret and apply one's words. (Indeed ironic.) I wanted to lead off with a quote from a Spiderman character, Uncle Ben -- "with great power comes great responsibility," because it was a popular quote which captured nicely my message in that post. Jokingly, I attributed what I figured was a well-known quote to a maamar of Ben Chaviva. Now, there is a Rabbi Chaviva, but I don't believe that there is a Ben Chaviva. The idea was that Chaviva is Aramaic for Uncle, and Ben is Ben. But while I probably confused many, if anybody was bothering to read it, I misled at least one person into thinking that this maamar from Ben Chaviva preceded Stan Lee.

An aside on the source of "with great power comes great responsibility". I went looking for the source of this quote so I could properly attribute it. In his blog, Rabbi Josh Waxmanattributes it to a maamar (formal statement/discourse by a rabbi) by Rabbi ben Chaviva (details and background including an earlier reference to the Mishnas here.) My Hebrew scholarship is not good enough to find a date. There are a number of other theories as to it's origins, including references to similar statements in the New Testament (Luke and one of the Epistles.) All three of these originate in Judaism in the 3 centuries before or after the birth of Jesus, so Waxman's attribution is probably correct. The many people who attribute the original quote to Stan Lee - well they are probably wrong, even if Mr Lee is extremely talented.
Oops. My apologies to everyone, including the talented Stan Lee.

Related: See this Hirhurim post on kol haomer davar beshem omro.


Unknown said...

That's a funny story (though perhaps not to you...).

I always try to be makpid on 'kol haomer' to avoid something like that happening; to make it more difficult for something I've said to be misquoted (if you're quoting something else, the person would have to check it or remember it perfectly, or risk being shown that they must be wrong - sounds paranoid, but effective :) ) ; and most importantly, the person deserves the credit for what they're saying.

It's most interesting when a person has to reference something they said themselves; to quote yourself sounds egotistical, but to not do so implies that you don't care where it came from and are not giving proper credit. Yesterday I was in that situation, and after a few minutes of self-debate, I put my initials on it to show I am quoting someone, and this is the person, but at least I'm not saying outright "look at me!" (Except in this comment. :) )

joshwaxman said...

"though perhaps not to you..."
no, to me as well. :)


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