Sublimity vs. Stupidity in Shul Hand-Outs
Last Shabbos I picked up two Torah leaflets in my local shul. One was sublime, inspirational, amazing, educational. The other... not so much.
Rabbi Yitzchak Yaakov ReinesThe former was the inaugural issue of HaMizrachi, the official publication of World Mizrachi, the religious Zionist movement founded by Rabbi Yitzchak Yaakov Reines. It actually commemorates one hundred years since the publication of the first HaMizrachi in Poland. The booklet includes articles by such illustrious figures as Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, Rabbanit Racheli Frankel, Rabbi Yosef Rimon, Rabbanit Shani Taragin, and others. It can downloaded at www.mizrachi.org/hamizrachi, and I very much look forward to future issues.
Reading the introduction by Rabbi Doron Perez (who also authored a fantastic piece in the Koren/Mizrachi Yom Ha-Atzma'ut Machzor), I learned something surprising. The organization's name, Mizrachi, is actually an acronym for MercaZ RuChanI, expressing its goal of providing a spiritual base for Zionism. Who knew?!
The other leaflet that I picked up was the official publication of a certain branch of chassidus. I've picked up a few of them, and they inevitably irk me, because they are chock-full of implausible miracle stories. I don't mind the occasional chassidishe miracle story (preferably told with a twinkle in one's eye) which has an inspirational message, and I recognize how such an approach is beneficial for many people. But, at least with the few issues of this publication that I have seen, that's all it is! Miracle story after miracle story after miracle story.
This particular issue had a section about the holiness of Shabbos, and it was really over the top. It contained several short anecdotes, and as I read them, my eyebrows kept going higher and higher, until finally they shot off my face and hit the ceiling.
The first anecdote was regarding der heiliker Ruzhiner, and about how when Shabbos started, his appearance changed so dramatically that anyone who wasn't watching would think that it was a different person.
The second was about how a "famous doctor" testified that there is an actual change in the pulse of a Yid's hand on Shabbos.
The third was about how the Baal Shem Tov's Shabbos clothes were a much larger size than his weekday clothing, but both sets fitted him perfectly, because on Shabbos he was much bigger.
The fourth was about how Reb Chayim of Chertovitch had to change his place in Shul every Shabbos, because his weekday seat was under a beam, which cleared his head during the week, but did not do so on Shabbos, when he was a full head taller.
Extra-tall hassidic rabbi spotted in Crown HeightsGood grief!
As nonsensical as all this is, in the past I would still have just dismissed it as harmless entertainment. But lately I have grown increasingly concerned about the effects of teaching people to be utterly naive and gullible about Holy Men. Ha-aretz had a frightening article about the cult surrounding convicted sexual predator Rav Eliezer Berland, whose followers believe that he is God in human form, and that it is permitted for him to engage in actions that would be forbidden for others. And I've posted here several times about people getting taken advantage of by other "holy men," or making other damaging choices due to their complete lack of critical thought. I am beginning to think that such Torah leaflets could be downright dangerous.
Although, I must say, my suit does feel smaller on me by the end of Shabbos!