Wednesday, May 5, 2021

The Horses of Chelm

Once upon a time, there was a town called Chelm. It was a small town, where nothing much happened, and it ran happily under the leadership of its wise men.

As time went on, the town grew, and grew, and spread out. It began to take a long time to get from one side to the other, even riding on a pony. Fortunately, however, some fast and powerful horses became available. Everyone bought them, and was thrilled to be able to gallop to their destination, with tremendous horsepower.

A maskil from another city once came to visit. He was appalled to see hundreds of people galloping around at great speed in all directions, among pedestrians, even children. Some of the horses were even pulling rickety wagons, packed with passengers, along treacherous hillside curves at tremendous speed.

"Are you crazy?" he said. "This is so dangerous! It's a miracle that you haven't had lots of casualties! First, you have to separate the streets into areas for horses, and sidewalks for pedestrians. Then, the people who ride the horses should wear helmets, for their own protection. There should also be speed limits. At busy junctions, someone should direct traffic! And most importantly, you have to stop the situation of large numbers of passengers being rushed around hillside curves at breakneck speeds!"

The Wise Men of Chelm were dismissive, even hostile, to the maskil. "You don't know what you're talking about," they said. "We are the Wise Men; what do city-bred maskilim know? And do you know how much bittul Torah it will cause if you try to restrain traffic? Finally, the proof that your concerns are completely misplaced is that nobody has ever yet been hurt! We've been running things this way for years without problems; that shows that we know what we are doing."

Dismayed, the maskil tried to do what he could. He stood at the busiest street every day, and tried to direct the horses away from the people. 

Eventually, the inevitable happened. A horse trampled over some children. The maskil rushed over to the severely injured children, and frantically waved his arms and yelled to prevent any other horses from stepping on the prone bodies. The horses, scared by the yelling man, reared away, and one of them collided with another person and killed him.

The maskil was hauled before the Wise Men. "It is your fault that a man was killed!" they thundered. "Everything was fine until you got here! Couldn't you even do your job properly?!"

"But... but..." he stammered... "It was an impossible situation! It was obviously going to result in tragedy!"

"How dare you criticize us, especially at a time like this, when an innocent man has lost his life!" the Wise Men thundered. "Have you no heart? And have you no respect?"

"But... but... what about the injured children?" asked the maskil

"We do not know why the Lord does these things," said the Wise Men. "The only thing to be done is to encourage our children to learn more Torah, and our women to be more modest."

And they banished the maskil from the village, and continued exactly as before.

A week later, a wagon careened off the hillside path, killing all twenty children on board. But the Wise Men decided that it was an incomprehensible Act of God, and called for everyone to stop speaking lashon hara.

66 comments:

  1. Just in case anyone thought you weren't bitter insensitive and obsessive...

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    1. Yeah, forty-five dead people can do that to some people.

      Whereas some people just keep whistling past the graveyard, apparently.

      Delete
  2. Without commenting on the nimshal, your true colors shine bright when the hero (although tragic, but still the hero) in your story is a davka a maskil.

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    1. Don't look now, but I think the point just went flying over your head. I'm pretty sure it effected you the exact way R' Slifkin was implying it effected the chachamim of Chelm.

      As it happens, many of the maskilim were completely frum people, including even many talmidei chachamim, but I imagine that fact is *way* too much for you to handle.

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    2. For example, the מהר"ץ חיות has been labeled a maskil by Rav Hutner's daughter (and BJJ head) Bruria David.
      There's a very popular modern commentary (early 20th century) on the Chumash which is found in 90% of Charedi Yeshivot/homes. One of the Lakewood Gedolim referred to its author as a half-maskil.

      Delete
    3. Nachum, you're wrong in just one thing: it's "affected," not "effected."

      Delete
    4. R' Slifkin: D'oh!

      Ephraim: Which?

      Delete
  3. This is how your ridiculous mashal should go:

    In Amishtown, most folks resisted secular education and government efforts to draft them in the military. However, they generally obeyed laws. One of those laws was the fire code, which they generally complied with when building.

    But there was one selfish man who did not obey the fire code, as he felt it was too expensive and time consuming. One day, one of the houses he built burned down, killing the family inside.

    Came the maskil, an ex-amish, and said "listen here, this is not really the builder's fault, this is really a systemic problem of your society's rejection of secular education and the military. You must completely reform your society, and integrate with modern society, so that your houses won't burn".

    And everyone said "Shut up, moron".

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    Replies
    1. If it was 1 person, I would agree, but I think you're missing the part of the story where the elders of Amishtown exert their social and politial pressure to prevent the government from enforcing the fire code upon the selfish man.

      -> http://www.rationalistjudaism.com/2021/05/the-writing-was-on-wall.html

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    2. Except here, as it happens, the maskil is *right*.

      Also, the Amish aren't 10% of the American population and don't control the government.

      Delete
    3. But the elders did no such thing. The evidence that they did is.... a paskevil. That's right. The famously accurate and reliable paskevilin.

      Delete
  4. I am a fan of yours, R Natan.

    Your first post on Meron was unusually restrained. I was surprised, but credit where credit due.

    Now there is an endless stream of articles from you along the same theme.

    I would politely suggest you hold off posting more of these until some new development comes to light.

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    1. New developments have indeed come to light. Two, in fact.
      The first is all the evidence about how elements of the charedi community fought against government control for years.
      The second is how many people on this blog refuse to acknowledge this long-standing fault, and are instead determined to blame a particular police action for the entire disaster.

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    2. That's a disingenuous mischaracterisation.

      45 people are dead, due to a combination of different factors. Negligence on the part of the in organisers, a corrupt political culture which spans more than one religious tribe, and police incompetence or aggression to Charedim are all live areas of investigation.

      People who aren't still trying to relitigate the Cherem want to understand what happened and make sure that it doesn't happen again. We think 45 people dying is significantly in itself.

      You just want the 'general public' to be concerned with 'wider societal issues'. You've preselected those on sectarian grounds. You say in defiance of empirical facts that an accident like 'this' only happens to Charedim, and when challenged grow increasingly arbitrary about what 'this' is.

      People are telling you what you wrote was sectarian and dehumanising.

      Delete
    3. Wow, the callousness of some of these responses is sickening.

      Delete
  5. Nb.

    The Moshol is spot on, and well written as you would expect.

    But it doesn't add anything substantial to the debate. Noone will change their viewpoint because of it.

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  6. In the previous post, I mentioned the Satmar Rebbe of KJ's remarks about the three bochurim who were murdered in the West Bank near their yeshiva. He blamed the parents' Zionistic worldview for allowing their sons to be killed. When I read about those remarks, I was appalled at the insensitivity (see https://www.timesofisrael.com/satmar-rebbe-blames-parents-for-kidnapped-teenagers-murders/).

    Well Rabbi Slifkin, you are doing the same thing here, blaming the tragedy on the chareidi worldview. While the families are still in shiva. Except you are doing it with far less sensitivity than the Satmar Rebbe, in the maximally offensive way, comparing the entire chareidi society to moronic Chelmites.

    It would be one thing if you blamed the organizers, and demanded that their heads roll. That would be understandable and perhaps justified, even at this early stage, despite all the current unknowns. But instead, you blame the entire chareidi society, the entire chareidi worldview. This includes the victims and their grieving families. As well as people who have nothing to do with Meron. And not only that, you insult them in the most egregious manner. While the families are still in shiva.

    If this post was calculated to cause the maximum offense and pain to the grieving families, it could not be more successful.

    But it is all worth it, to carry out your decade long campaign of revenge against your chareidi enemies.

    You say "but..but..but...it's true, I really think it's true, and I can't hold back, and it's necessary for people to hear". Yeah, guess what. The Satmar Rebbe of KJ would say exactly the same thing. You are no better, and in fact far worse.

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    1. The reason havdalah is included in the bracha of Atta Chonen is because it takes bina to make a hevdel.

      What that means is that superficial similarities don't always mean the same thing. The Satmar is, simply, wrong. R' Slifkin is, simply, right. As is clear from anyone who just looks at the situation.

      Delete
    2. Satmars would say the opposite. That the Satmar Rebbe is right and Rabbi Slifkin is wrong. "As is clear from anyone who just looks at the situation."

      The lesson is, don't say extremely inappropriate and insensitive things just because you think you're right. Even of you think it's "clear".

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    3. Happygolucky, you are comparing two very different things.

      One person said that a tragedy was a divine punishment for adhering to an ideology. Which is a statement motivated by their own personal views and can't be proven or disproven.

      The other person says that a tragedy was a natural, foreseeable consequence of one aspect of a culture. Which is also a reflection of their views on that culture and might be proven right or wrong. If proven right, it doesn't mean that the whole culture had to be discarded but rather that is actors must act to avoid it happening again.

      At no point has the author implied that the victims' parents were the ones to blame.

      Delete
    4. Anonymous, no. The Satmar Rebbe said it was a natural, foreseeable consequence of sending the kids to a yeshiva in close proximity to hostile, murderous enemies. And he blamed the Zionist mentality. The author here blamed everybody with the "chareidi mentality", which includes the parents who are chareidi and share that mentality.

      Delete
    5. Well, then, he's not following Satmar ideology himself, ironically.

      Delete
    6. happy has a pointMay 7, 2021 at 1:47 PM

      happy is correct. religious zionists intentionally put themselves and their families in harm's way by living near hostile arab communities for ideological reasons. Why is this any different than chareidim flocking in dangerous crowds to unsafe places for religious reasons?

      Delete
  7. Re-write the mashal, only the Maskil is now a Rabbi, Chelm is now Tel Aviv, and the horse accident is now intermarriage and apostasy.

    Perspective.

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  8. Dr Slifkin, there is another factor to consider here. Even if for the sake of argument only your claims regarding Charedim had merit, you are far from the right person to be raising them. Consider your position from their perspective: You abandoned the Charedi world, wrote books questionable at best and heretical at worst, and enthusiastically joined the far-left world of academia. You've spent years attacking Charedim obsessively, including on things like Corona, the results of which only served to prove that they were in fact right all along. Again, I am writing from their perspective, not yours. Can you possibly expect anyone to listen to you?

    My advice would be to give up on the Charedim. Whether you are right or wrong on any particular subject (and my own view in their regard is rather nuanced, FWIW) is beside the point. You've "passuled" yourself up from any positive impact you might have had. Stick with the original programme of this blog, of exploring the contours of Rationalist Judaism. I believe you personally will be in a better place, and so will we, your readers.

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    1. "the far-left world of academia". Too funny. Somehow I must have missed that in the Jewish Studies department of Bar-Ilan University.

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    2. Is the aim of this blog to persuade Charedim? If so, I really don't think it would be very effective. For Modern Yeshivish / Anglo Chardal types like me though, it's priceless. When you see giant banners posted around your city advertising that the Gedolim demand you vote for a mayor that appears to be ruining your city, and you wonder "am I a bad Jew for voting for economic/social freedom?", it makes a big difference.

      Delete
    3. Perhaps far-left, but hardly academia.

      Delete
    4. The charedim were right all along regarding (their behavior as it related to) the Wuhan virus? Please explain. I'm serious.

      Delete
  9. You are not a rationalist in the sense that the Rambam was. You call yourself rationalist so that whenever something Torah related does not appeal, you can dismiss it as being "anti-rationalist".

    I think this post highlights the point. You seem to enjoy that the maskil is the smart guy.

    The rationalist maskil was the one who yearned to assimilate and cast off the old Jewish ways. The Torah wasn't good enough. In the end their descendants became unreligious and many married out of the faith.

    A Jew who loves his religion, whether he leans rationalist or mystic, wouldn't tell a story where the Jewish defector is the winner. They would opt for a different character.

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    1. I was wondering who would fall for this trap.

      You have clearly been taught a charedi revisionist version of history, regarding the maskilim and their motivations.

      And, just like the Gedolim who opposed handing over control of Meron to the government because of "the evil Zionists", this blinds you to looking at the larger factors to consider.

      Delete
    2. It would be interesting to hear your complete version of what the maskilim were and what they did - no holds barred. Please write such a post.

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    3. "It would be interesting to hear your complete version of what the maskilim were and what they did - no holds barred. Please write such a post."

      I second that

      Delete
    4. Indeed the maskilim are the very one who invented this idea that the sages of Chelm (which by the way wasn't small town where nothing much happened, but a busy market town and an industrial center, which it still is) were stupidly ruling their people (and I guess it would include the מהרש"א and מרכבת המשנה, both of whom served as rabbis there), and it was meant as a critic to the whole rabbinic institution in Poland.
      Now this sarcastic approach wasn't very successful back then, and I wonder why you think it could help further the cause of changing the chareidi community's view on this disaster, which we desperately need.

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    5. Even if your cartoonish ideas of what the maskilim were is true, you're just falling into the trap: If someone who's even viscously anti-religious (which neither the maskilim nor the Israeli police are) tell you that your life is in danger, maybe you should listen and not just yell "Maskil!"

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    6. i think , au contraire , the haredi community would rather literally die making its own mistakes , rather than learn from others . and make a mitzva out of it. and multiple chessed opportunities etc

      Delete
  10. Well done!

    You should consider submitting it to one of the national newspapers.

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  11. We get your point however it seems like in Meron the maskil was not doing his job and only making it worse.

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    1. If you say "not doing his job", it means you didn't get the point.

      Delete
    2. Please explain what job the maskil was doing in meron

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  12. Spot on....brilliant.

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  13. That those in Chelm don't listen to a maskil, I get. That a maskil as an individual cannot make a dent on ignorance of an entire town that way out number him, despite his best efforts, I get. When the maskil is one of the most successful first world nations on the planet, with a healthy democracy and an air force, and can barely muster משילות and exercise its sovereignty, I don't get it.

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    Replies
    1. Israel has a healthy democracy? I wasn't aware of that. Good to know.

      Delete
  14. You plagiarized this story from the comments in a previous post. Give credit.

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  15. More testimony from a veteran poster on Otzar Hachochma, whose son narrowly escaped, that there was no police barrier:

    הם טולטלו לאורך כל היציאה והירידה במדרון המעבר הצר, כאשר הם הגיעו למדדרגות אז התחילה הנפילה הנוראה. בני וחבירו היו מהשורות הראשונות ממש שנפלו, מתחת לבני היו רק שנים (שיצאו שלמים ב"ה), בני בנפילתו תפס תנוחה טובה כאשר על פניו וצוארו והנשימה והחזה וכו' לא היה לחץ במשך כל אותם דקות ארוכות שנדמו לנצח. גם הנוכחות הצמודה של החבר חיזקה אותו מאוד ונסכה בו חוזק.

    הלחץ היה איום ונורא. כל העת נשמעו קולות וגניחות של 'אני נחנק', אני רוצה לנשום, תזוז לי מן היד וכו', דברים נוראים. ב"ה, בני באותם רגעים לא אחז לגמרי את משמעות האירוע ומימדי הענין, כאשר נודע לו הוא כבר היה מבחוץ. למעשה, הוא לא שמע שום וידוי או שמע ישראל, רק נשימות חנוקות ומאמצי הישרדות עילאיים, זעקות אימה ופחד נוראי.

    https://forum.otzar.org/viewtopic.php?p=706006#p706006

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    1. בני והסמוכים לו הגישו ידים, שוטרים הגיעו למקום לפני כוחות ההצלה, וחילצו את מי שעלה בידם. את בני הם חילצו די בקלות, בנסיון שני. לאחר מכן את חבירו. הוא

      Delete
    2. And in a later post he writes something that reminds me of some of the comments here:

       כשאני מספר למישהו מחוגי הקנאים ששוטר זכה לחלץ את בני מהזוועה
      הוא מזדעזע ומתקיף כאילו עברתי כעת על 'לא תחנם'.

      https://forum.otzar.org/viewtopic.php?p=706149#p706149

      Delete
    3. Not necessarily.

      At the top of the stairs, he wouldn't have seen the police block around the corner and at the bottom of the stairs, but would have been, as he says, crushed against the walls. We know there were a line of policemen at the bottom of the stairs from the video.

      This is why we carry out investigations before rushing to judgment.

      Delete
    4. The policemen came to save people and there was no police block, as Hatzoloh's Nachman Cohen, who was there right at the start, has testified:
      https://twitter.com/ishaycoen/status/1390019925201276930?s=19


      R. Avigdor Chayut knows as well as anyone what happened - his son died and, as he says, he was right at the front. He says explicitly that there was no police barrier:
      https://youtu.be/RtbIbUAoOJg

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    5. That writer on otzar hachachma is one of the Kano'im, an unabashed supporter of Eitz.

      Delete
  16. There was an interview with C"K Pindros on the Knesset channel (Shachor Vlavan). My hebrew isn't that great but IIUC the gist of his response to a question of why the charedi parties didn't get meron fixed when they had finance responsibilities/negotiations was that there were higher priorities(education)
    KT

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  17. The nimshal, by the way, is the police situation. People have been calling to rein in (pun intended) their callous treatment of the citizenry, and now that dozen of people have been killed due to their blocking emergency exits, it is time for the chelmites, the israeli populous, to demand that the police not be used as a tool of oppression against haredites and teenage settlers just trying to keep the Torah.

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  18. I don't understand the last line. I thought that wagon accidents were caused by a lack of Tznius, not Lashon Hara

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  19. It's too late. The "cops are at fault" narrative has been sealed and is now mesora. No conclusive investigation, no water-tight evidence, no unimpeachable testimony will change the narrative. Like "one cow in Palestine" & Rav Kook's Hebrew University remarks it's become sacred history.
    Beyond the obvious "beneficiaries" of the narrative, are the grovelling politicians & the pseudo-toady public servants. They can all dump on the rank-and-file police & escape real scrutiny and consequences.
    Plus the Toldot Ahron & like minded fanatics need the narrative: Meron will be destroyed if it's saved. How? Satmarism, which is the closest religion to Ahrelehism, holds that the Kotel is off limits because it was conquered by the Zionists. A visit to the Kotel leads to הכרת הטוב of Zionists, and hence is forbidden. Will the Ahrehlists tolerate that access to their sacred grounds depends on Zionist approval? Any renovation- no matter how necessary or beautiful will be a תערובה or כלאים of the holy & Zionist. But if all blame is put on the cops, life at Meron will go on as before & the site will not be sullied by the Zionists.

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  20. The narrative omitted an critical thing. Riders were skilled enough to
    avoid collisions until some hostile outsiders came and close all streets leaving only path for everyone.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Shaulson reports:
    ישי כהן: ‏במשך ימים ארוכים מפיצים ברשתות פייק ניוז על ״מחסומי מוות״ של המשטרה. הערב חשף יוסי מזרחי בחדשות 12 את צילום האסון דקה אחרי דקה כפי שתועד במצלמת אבטחה. לא היה מחסום. פשוט שקר. האסון הזה כל כך גדול, לא צריך לייצר פייק ניוז סביבו.

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  22. Ironic also how even the chareidim are relying on the secular authorities and their evil scientific knowledge to figure out what happened. I guess their magical goral hagra machine is broken this week.

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  23. The fact that you are bending over backwards to exonerate the police from any possible guilt shows your agenda.
    You could have make your point about the dangers of a lax chareidi approach to safety and still leave room for government mismanagement/neglect/incompetence.
    The fact that you don't means you are not capable of being a good faith critic of the chareidim.

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    Replies
    1. The fact that you're bending over backwards to blame the police (and only the police) shows your agenda, as if we didn't know it already.

      Delete
    2. I did no such thing. I am fully capable of acknowledging the dangers of the lax chareidi approach to safety. In your zeal to attack me, you show that you are incapable of thinking straight.

      Delete
    3. "I am fully capable of acknowledging the dangers of the lax chareidi approach to safety. "
      So why don't you? So why not write "I acknowledge the dangers of the lax chareidi approach to safety." instead of boasting about your capability to do so?

      Delete
    4. duh, that *was* an acknowledgment.
      I see you are also incapable of thinking straight.

      Delete
  24. This is a wonderful analogy. Thank you Rabbi Slifkin.

    ReplyDelete
  25. Ignorant is, ignorant does. ACJA

    ReplyDelete

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