Rav Chaim's Pants
Holy Pants, Batman!
An unusual item came up for auction recently: second-hand pants. But they weren’t any old pants; they were pants worn by the “Sar HaTorah,” Rav Chaim Kanievsky. As such, they were advertised as being holy pants, and the bidding was set to start at $3200.
Lending legitimacy to the holy pants was a letter from the grandson-in-law and attendant of Rav Chaim Kanievsky, attesting to their autenthicity. But the sale set off a firestorm of ridicule and criticism, in a story that even made it to the New York Post, and the pants were pulled off the auction.
Now, initially this seems like an easy thing to ridicule. And it’s certainly consistent with Rav Chaim’s family’s pattern of taking advantage of him to turn him into a marketable commodity in order to gain power and wealth. (See my posts How I Helped Yanky Kanievsky Buy His Luxury Home, The Most Powerful Man in the Charedi Litvishe World, and The Kanievskys Blow The Whistle on Daas Torah.)
But when you look into it a little more, things become more complicated. Rav Chaim is not the first rabbinic figure to have his pants sold at auction. And the sellers provide prestigious rabbinic sources speaking of the holiness embedded into the utensils and clothing of a tzaddik, which can have an effect on people who use them. It turns out that some of those who condemn the sale of Rav Chaim’s pants might not be standing on the most consistent theological platform, and you might need to take a more whole-hearted rationalist approach in order to be able to legitimately dispute it.
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