Sunday, May 10, 2009

Eyewitness confirmation of the Rachel Imeinu Miracle Story?

A video making the rounds is one showing the miracles in the course of the recent war in Gaza. Within that video, there is eyewitness testimony from a soldier who was in Gaza, explaining how Rachel appeared to him. Oferet Yezuka called my attention to it, in a comment on this post, and it also appears at Yeranen Yaakov. The soldier's testimony occurs at the 27 minute, 30 second mark.

Let me preface this all with the statement that whichever version actually occurred, if any version actually occurred, even in the least "impressive" version, it was an instance of yad Hashem protecting our soldiers.

Now Rafi G. at Life In Israel notes that this video allays some of the concern about the authenticity of the miracle:
A side note, when there was the big "debate" about the Rachel Imeinu story and whether it is true or not that she appeared to soldiers and warned them away from buildings laced with explosives, one of the reasons people opposed it was because "where are the soldiers that saw her?" - nobody interviewed anybody who saw her directly. It was all second hand information. Just after minute 27 in the video, a soldier gives firsthand testimony to seeing Rachel Imeinu and to being warned by her.
Is this truly firsthand testimony? Where he says "we entered," it could mean "we" as in members of his company, as opposed to a description of this soldier experiencing this firsthand. I am offering this suggestion as a means of being dan lekaf zechut, because I do not find this firsthand testimony persuasive.

Rather, I believe the account given by Rabbi Lazer Brody. Back when this all began, Rabbi Brody wrote on his blog, Lazer Beams:

Just now, right after midnight on Saturday night, an emotional father from Jerusalem called me and said that he had something important to tell me. His son is an NCO is a special forces unit operating in Gaza. He and his squad were about to storm a house with suspected Hamas terrorists inside. A woman in long black local attire came out and pleaded with them not to storm the house. During the fierce house-to-house fighting, the same woman appeared to the NCO and his unit in three other houses. It turned out that all four houses were booby-trapped.

Who was that woman? Sounds to me like Rachel Imenu...

I believe this version of the story to be most accurate for several reasons:

  1. Rabbi Brody is an established personality and is well-known, and there is no reason to suspect him of falsifying the account.

  2. His account is the earlier one I've seen, with other accounts seeming to be urban-legend twists on the first one.

  3. The other twists, if he had been told them initially, he would have no reason to suppress, because they just reinforce his point about the miracle.

  4. This soldier is recounting a much more elaborate version of the story, in a way we witnessed it evolve from one retelling to the next.
Now, Rabbi Brody account differs from this soldier's account in at least two important ways.

, in Rabbi Brody's account, it is just an Arab woman appearing in this house and three other houses. (The soldiers, from another account, guessed that she was traveling between houses via underground tunnels which Chamas contructed.) She does not identify herself as Rochel Imeinu! Rather, this is Rabbi Brody's speculation that this woman is Rachel. (I confirmed this with him.) Why her, and not someone else, such as Rivkah, Leah, or Devorah? Good question, and I would disagree with him, but this was his guess.

Now, what are the chances that Rabbi Brody would come up with this random idea by himself, and at the same time, this actually occurred, that she identified herself as such, though Rabbi Brody was not informed of it? And if this person is breathlessly telling Rabbi Brody of the tremendous miracle that happened to his son, what are the chances that he would omit this most miraculous part of it?

On the other hand, what are the chances that indeed the woman did not in fact identify herself as Rochel Imeinu, but any subsequent accounts built off of Rabbi Lazer Brody's supposition? I find this scenario much more likely.

Secondly, within Rabbi Brody's account, no mention was made by the woman that the houses were booby-trapped. Rather, this is what they discovered after the fact. (And such that, as some expanded it, they guessed that this was because she was trying to protect her home.) This is a very different picture than what this soldier tells us, that in this revelation of Mama Rachel, she also explicitly was warning them about the booby-traps.

Now, I do not blindly believe eye-witness account, such that my brain shuts down. If there was a video of a soldier talking about how he suddenly flew into the air and was aided by UFOs from the planet Krypton, I would not automatically believe it, even if he said so as eyewitness testimony to a video camera.

Similarly over here. He is giving an eyewitness account of a miraculous event, but he is choosing the version which organically developed from the original story. Did this really occur to specifically him? Did it occur to someone in his unit, such that he is retelling what he thinks happened -- and he is being inexact in his words or other people are misinterpreting his words? Did it occur to him, did he misremember because of the public accounts? Is expanding on the actual miracle because this is what people expect, and the kavod of certain prominent Sefardic rabbis is on the line? Did it not happen to him, but he is trying to inspire people? Sometimes, people try to inspire others with sheker. (See, for example, here.)

Now that we know this soldier's face, we can get to the bottom of it. Rather than just appearing in an inspirational video, we can ascertain his name, ask him to engage in an interview with a reporter who is willing to ask these tough questions, and see what actually happened. But just putting up a video does not convince me.


Michael said...

Very moving video. Brought me back five months in time. You could feel the complete Achdut here in Israel at the time. Gave me a better perspective on Ahavat Yisrael. No opportunity for the mekatreg to speak. Whatever actually happened, Yad Hashem could be seen.
Mi k'amkha yisrael, goy ehad ba'aretz.

moish said...

I must say I agree with you on this one


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