Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Rav Chaim Kanievsky and the Grasshopper

There's a famous "miracle story" about Rav Chaim Kanievsky and a grasshopper. (It's relevant in light of the continuing comments, to the post "Daas Torah is in the Eye of the Beholder," about miracle stories and Gedolim.) The story goes that Rav Chaim was learning the Gemara in Chullin about identifying kosher grasshoppers (more properly called locusts, but we'll go with grasshopper here). He was struggling to understand certain aspects of the Gemara's discussion. Just then, a grasshopper miraculously jumped through the window (or, according to other versions, jumped off the wall) and landed on the Gemara! By looking at it, he was able to resolve the difficulties in understanding the Gemara's discussion.

I'm not going to go into extensive discussion of this - you can see Rabbi Josh Waxman's excellent discussion here. I just want to share two photos which I came across, as part of a series of photos on the theme of amazing coincidences:


In other locust-related news, I'm happy to report that although we killed all the kosher locusts at The Biblical Museum of Natural History for the Feast of Exotic Curiosities, they did lay eggs before they died, many of which have now hatched. Mazel tov!


49 comments:

  1. I don't know if the story about Rav Chaim Kanievsky and the grasshopper is true, mostly true but embellished (the version cited by R'Waxman), or false. Such a basic story of the grasshopper flying in when RCK was studying the topic is, however, believable. I experienced such a 'coincidence' years ago. I was visiting family in Boca Raton and discovered that they had a translation of Rav Herzog's Ph.D.thesis o n the 'purple' dye (techeilet) - a subject of interest to me for a number of years. I finished the book then went out to the beach for a stroll. I encountered a Portugese Man-o-War lying stranded on the sand. It had a brilliant blue-indigo color which I immediately associated with a 'proper' techeilet color. I then encountered 3 gastropods clinging to a twig. They had their raspers (spelling?) out ('tongues') and were moving them in unison. The gastropods reminded me of the murex trunculex (hexaplex) gastropod that is the identified source of the techeilet dye. I took the incident as a possible sign of divine assistance in understanding a torah issue. I don't consider myself a tzaddik, nor do others - to my knowledge, yet such assistance is not precluded. I believe, in fact, that all important discoveries are made by somehow tapping into a divinely regulated knowledge channel - a-la Plato's world of ideas. I don't know the rules for such communication except that it requires a prepared mind.

    Y. Aharon

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. @ Y. Aharon Amazing coincidences occasionally happen to me. For example, one Monday I wanted a certain antique tool, but had no idea how I could obtain one, at least inexpensively and without alot of effort. Amazingly, within a week or so I happen to go into a Salvation Army store and right there was the tool I was looking for ! Similar things have happened to me regarding studying various topics etc: These kind of things are expected to happen. Then too, we remember these events forgetting the numerous times nothing special happened. Confirmation Bias.

      Delete
  2. I believe the story because I've experienced a similar phenomenon. Whenever I really want to know about something, it is enough to type the word into my computer or speak it into my phone and I immediately get pictures and encyclopedia entries that coincidentally match the subject I was looking for. It is quite miraculous, although the younger readers here may scoff and not recognize it as such.

    ReplyDelete
  3. How can one know whether the coincidences you posted weren't staged?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. How can one know that the story with Rav Chaim is true?

      Delete
    2. Ask Reb Chaim? Or maybe one of his Talmidim. I actually know one of his Talmidim. If I get an answer, I will tell you.

      Delete
  4. How can anyone in his right mind eat locusts, grasshoppers, whatever, even for $250 a plate?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Who says that you have to eat them? For $250 a plate, I'm guessing that they won't object even if you kneel for Hatikvah ;)

      Delete
  5. Is it your contention that all cases of "serendipity" are just that and nothing more? I don't see how finding other fortuitous events demonstrates that a particular fortuitous event is meaningless.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So your position is that the story about Rav Kanievsky describes something that happens all the time to lots of people and is not a reflection on the holiness of Rav Kanievsky? I don't think that this is what most believers of the story are thinking.

      Delete
    2. "Happens all the time to lots of people" is a bit of a stretch. I don't recall it ever happening to me. And according to the account Rabbi Slifkin mentioned, it happened to Rabbi Kanievsky at a particular fortuitous moment. Is seeing some element of hashgacha really so far-fetched?

      Delete
    3. You suggested that these other pictures off of the internet are also signs of Divine intervention. But these pictures do not come from Holy people. So your interpretation means that the story about Rav Kanievsky, if true, says nothing at all about Rav Kanievsky. That is not why people cite the story.

      Delete
  6. Have a look at the topic of synchronicity (see wikipedia)

    In his book Synchronicity Jung tells the following story as an example of a synchronistic event:

    My example concerns a young woman patient who, in spite of efforts made on both sides, proved to be psychologically inaccessible. The difficulty lay in the fact that she always knew better about everything. Her excellent education had provided her with a weapon ideally suited to this purpose, namely a highly polished Cartesian rationalism with an impeccably "geometrical" idea of reality. After several fruitless attempts to sweeten her rationalism with a somewhat more human understanding, I had to confine myself to the hope that something unexpected and irrational would turn up, something that would burst the intellectual retort into which she had sealed herself. Well, I was sitting opposite her one day, with my back to the window, listening to her flow of rhetoric. She had an impressive dream the night before, in which someone had given her a golden scarab — a costly piece of jewellery. While she was still telling me this dream, I heard something behind me gently tapping on the window. I turned round and saw that it was a fairly large flying insect that was knocking against the window-pane from outside in the obvious effort to get into the dark room. This seemed to me very strange. I opened the window immediately and caught the insect in the air as it flew in. It was a scarabaeid beetle, or common rose-chafer (Cetonia aurata), whose gold-green colour most nearly resembles that of a golden scarab. I handed the beetle to my patient with the words, "Here is your scarab." This experience punctured the desired hole in her rationalism and broke the ice of her intellectual resistance. The treatment could now be continued with satisfactory results.

    — Carl Jung, [17]

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree completely. The grasshopper story has the same level of validity as Jung's theory of synchronicity.

      Delete
    2. Hi David - sorry to be off topic, but is there a way I can PM you a question?

      Thanks

      Delete
    3. Email R. Slifkin and ask him to pass it on to me.

      Delete
  7. RNS - you need to start turning down your critical focus of RCK.

    Yiftach Bedoro Kishmuel Bedoro. There are lots and lots of stories about Gedolim from the previous generation - e.g. the Chazon Ish and Baba Sali - which are I believe unanimously accepted. Or are you similarly skeptical of them too?

    I recently read the book "20 years beside the Chazon Ish" - given your recent posts, I think you would struggle greatly to accept the medical stories related there, where the CI defied doctors' prognoses and advice and was proven correct.

    I would add the caveat that in at least one story, the CI stated "I did not *know* that my advice was correct, but I *felt* it." I guess that is Siyata Dishmaya/Ruach Hakodesh more than Daas Torah.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well, I asked one of the Chazon Ish's talmidim about those stories, and he said that they weren't true. He said that the CI did not know much, and what he knew, he knew from reading German medical journals.

      Delete
    2. Ashkenazi charedim themselves no more believe the miracle stories told about Baba Sali than they believe stories about Mother Teresa appearing on somebody's breakfast toast. In fact, they laugh at the naiveté of those believers. People believe only their own stories, and - little secret here - even many of the supposed believers don't really believe the stories either. They just wont admit that to outsiders.

      The RCK story is hardly a miracle. He probably has grasshoppers hopping on his Gemara all the time. It just took on more importance one day when he happened to be learning Chulin at the same time. I've had similar "miracle stories" occur to me many times, and so has everyone else.

      Delete
    3. How did the Talmid you asked (not sure why you have hidden his name, as a quick Google search reveals who it is) *know* that the Chazon Ish's medical knowledge came solely from the journals? How does the fact that he read some journals preclude the possibility of Ruach Hakodesh and/or Daas Torah?
      Or more precisely....is this the Talmids conjecture or something he was told directly by the CI?

      Delete
    4. http://www.hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=21194&pgnum=504

      how did the chazon ish over rule top doctors over mr greenwald from lakewood's brain surgery and be proven right, just from reading old german manuals.

      Delete
    5. Baal Ha Boss: you seem to be trying to the burden of proof. What is your evidence that the Chazon Ish had knowledge of medicine that he did not learn in a conventional manner?

      Shimmi: How do you overrule a brain surgeon? Do you put a gun to his head and force him to perform an operation?

      Delete
    6. I'm glad shimmi referenced the famous brain sketch. Has anyone made heads or tails of what the CI was trying to convey? I asked an accomplished veteran neurologist about it and he found the sketch meaningless.

      Delete
    7. David Ohsie

      I am loathe to call you a pedant. but you tell the patient the surgeon is wrong and the patient being charedi trusts you more. so surgeon is over-ruled.

      Delete
    8. Shimmi look up the image center Koach Hamedame that can receive images and can be used to see things. It's part of nefesh hasichlis.

      Delete
    9. Shimmi: That works if the surgeon wants to do surgery and you choose not to, which is something that happens all the time. The claim in the story is that the surgeon did not want to operate but was somehow overruled and what? Did the surgery against his own judgement? Didn't follow his medical training, but proceeded with brain surgery according to the patient's instructions? What exactly?

      Delete
    10. according to this, does not say, if Dr. Ashkenazi, did the operation against his better judgement, or relaised the chazon ish had spotted a method that he had not thought of.

      should not be difficult to find out. mr greenwald died about 10-15 years ago and was well known in lakewood. I believe he had children.
      a couple of phone calls should be enough to speak to his family.

      http://dovbear.blogspot.co.uk/2010/08/follow-up-hazzon-ish-and-his-famous.html

      Above is the drawing with which the Chazon Ish answered when consulted by Dr. Ashkenazi, the famous brain surgeon. The respected professor refused to perform brain surgery on a patient who'd been referred to him by the Chazon Ish. He'd even answered arrogantly, "If he wants, let him tell me how to operate." Indeed, the Chazon Ish did draw him a diagram of how to operate, and wrote on it: "I am troubled, for the decision has fallen to me, and Heaven will help."

      Delete
    11. "CI overruled the surgeon ..."

      Actually the surgeon didn't listen to the CI and Mr. G suffered his whole short life as a result.

      Delete
    12. @shimmi

      according to this, does not say, if Dr. Ashkenazi, did the operation against his better judgement, or relaised the chazon ish had spotted a method that he had not thought of.

      should not be difficult to find out. mr greenwald died about 10-15 years ago and was well known in lakewood. I believe he had children.
      a couple of phone calls should be enough to speak to his family.


      OK, so we can discard the "overruled" story. If you have actual facts, please bring them. It sounds like the Chazon Ish was upset about something. There isn't much evidence for the claim of miraculous knowledge.

      @Chaim
      "CI overruled the surgeon ..."

      Actually the surgeon didn't listen to the CI and Mr. G suffered his whole short life as a result.


      Suffered as a result of what?

      Delete
    13. if the chazon ish told professor ashkenazi how to do a brain operation based upon some old german textbooks he had read, because the professor did not know how to do it, and the operation was a success, the professor indeed would not have been over ruled.
      but it is not a natural think to happen. could you imagine a history professor doing such a thing after reading a few odd books on medicine.?

      (mr greenwald was disfigured)

      Delete
    14. list of greenwald's in lakewood. anyone with a spare 30 minutes to make a few calls.?

      http://www.lakewooddirectory.com/residential/index.php?letter=G&ListingID=40

      Delete
    15. You don't have to be a brain surgeon to know that the sketch is meaningless.

      Delete
    16. if the chazon ish told professor ashkenazi how to do a brain operation based upon some old german textbooks he had read, because the professor did not know how to do it, and the operation was a success, the professor indeed would not have been over ruled.

      I don't want to keep going around in circles. What specifically are you asserting happened? Give the entire sequence of events and your evidence.

      Delete
    17. It's not spelled "Greenwald" but something similar. In the interest of privacy I'm not saying the correct spelling. I don't think the correct spelling is in that web directory. The widow does part time book-binding and bound my son's Gemara. She is not American born.

      Delete
    18. have you ever heard the story first hand or do you have any interest in doing so?

      Delete
    19. david ohsie

      from the link is the sequence of events to somebody called greenwald/grunwald ffrom lakewood.
      I could not imagine a law professor reading a few old medical textbooks doing this.

      1. Guy gets a brain tumor
      2. Doctors decide the tumor is inoperable
      3. Guy and his doctor go to see the Hazon Ish, an Israeli sage of the last century, who
      4. draws a sketch illustrating the correct way to do the operation.
      5. The operation is a success;

      Delete

    20. Thank you.

      What is your evidence for this? The sketch doesn't illustrate how to do an operation and physicians who looked at it could not make out what it means. In addition, physicians follow their training and experience, not sketches and directions from an amateur, not matter how righteous. Others have reported that the operation was not done. The fact that you don't have the actual name of a person but some possible names also don't give a lot credence to the story. Finally, what link are you talking about? The linked text does not list your sequence of events at all. What is the basis for your sequence?

      Delete
    21. I agree more evidence is needed.
      'The sketch doesn't illustrate how to do an operation and physicians who looked at it could not make out what it means....'
      which physicians have looked at it.?

      ' In addition, physicians follow their training and experience, not sketches and directions from an amateur, not matter how righteous.'
      correct. so I assume the surgeon followed it because he realised it was correct.

      'Others have reported that the operation was not done.'
      who

      'The fact that you don't have the actual name of a person but some possible names also don't give a lot credence to the story. '
      he was well known in lakewood. Chaim has been in contact with his widow and you can ask him for his exact name.

      ' Finally, what link are you talking about?'

      http://dovbear.blogspot.co.uk/2010/08/follow-up-hazzon-ish-and-his-famous.html

      Delete
    22. As reported above. But this shifting the burden of proof. Find a doctor who looks and that sketch and is enlightened and the doctor who followed the sketch and was successful.

      Delete
  8. WRT the butterfly and bird pictures. Wouldn't a bird or butterfly be attracted to a sufficiently realistic picture of a member of its own species?

    ReplyDelete
  9. Here's a coincidence that's hard to dismiss: In 1987, there was a Jewish man named Dave who had been trying to keep Shabbos but was finding it hard. One Friday night, he gave up and was watching David Letterman on TV. Tom Hanks was the guest. Tom Hanks had been in Israel and said the words: "Shabbat Shalom Dave" to David Letterman. At the end of the interview, he said "Shabbat Shalom" again. Dave took this as a sign that he should keep Shabbos and has kept it ever since.
    Here's the clip on youtube:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a-yOgcvjXTY&t=3s
    Tom Hanks starts talking about Israel at around the 5-minute mark.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No. If(!) the story is true, it's a bit better. Dave was back home from BT yeshiva and his family was fighting his observance. Worn down from all their nagging on a Friday night he got ready to throw in the towel and retired to his room and turned on the TV. IIRC, at some point he asked Hashem for a sign. Then he turned on the TV and as soon as he turned it on he only saw TH's mouth being zoomed into by the camera man and telling DL "good shabbos Dave".

      Delete
    2. I've heard that version of the story too, but if you watch the video, there's no zooming when Tom Hanks says "Shabbat Shalom Dave." Rabbi Allen Schwartz, the Rabbi of Ohab Zedek (OZ) in NYC and a Rabbi at YU has mentioned in several shiurim online that he knows the man this happened to and heard the story from him. If you want to confirm it with him, his email is ras@ozny.org

      Delete
    3. This comment has been removed by the author.

      Delete
    4. In the future, you may want to re-think the sarcasm, I found it hurtful. If you didn't find this story to be an example of hashgachas pratis, I think you could have found a nicer way to say it (or you could have refrained from saying anything). I do want to note that I was searching for this clip on youtube for several years before I found it. I watched around 10 or 12 clips of Tom Hanks on Letterman. He didn't come close to saying anything about Shabbos in any of the other clips. Also, as far as I can tell, despite all the movies Tom Hanks has been in, there's only one (Every time We Say Goodbye) that he shot in Israel. I do acknowledge that Dave is a common name.

      Delete
    5. I agree and I apologize. My comment should have been:

      1) There are lots of references to Jewish culture in American entertainment.

      2) David is a common name (which I share).

      Delete
  10. There is a follow up story to this one about the father who told his child he didn't believe the story and shortly afterwards a mysterious plague of locust entered his house

    The story is printed in a certain sefer, about which Reb Yankel Galinsky is supposed to have quipped "I would say I don't believe it, but I am scared a plague of that sefer will occupy my house.

    ReplyDelete
  11. you can see RJWs excellent discussion here....

    The accolade ought be more restrained. Being skeptical of such tales is well rotted in logic and Chareidi authority. But being proved from the implications of this story, if it is true, -- no. A minor league rabbi with bona fides doubted the story -- an excellent Hava Amina. But at the end of the day, he is sobered into caution.

    ReplyDelete

Comments for this blog are moderated. Please see this post about the comments policy for details. ANONYMOUS COMMENTS WILL NOT BE POSTED - please use either your real name or a pseudonym.

When Rabbis Don't Quack

In the all-time most-read post on this blog, When Rabbis Quack , I criticized an as-yet unpublished work on alternative medicine which fea...