Maccabee's Wars

A venting rage against the ills of our society with some hopeful observations.

Monday, March 20, 2006

The Lie with No Legs to Stand On

As a followup to a shiur by Dr. Leiman two weeks, Dr. Leiman gave another shiur regarding how important truthfulness is to historical accuracy.

In short, the story of the Golem allegedly made by the Maharal of Prague has long been known to have been put into print by Rav Yudel Rosenberg in 1909. It was meant to be a story for children as the Marcus Lehmann stories had been.

Dr. Leiman, in previous shiurim had made mention of a Jubilee compendium of Rav Rosenberg's works which list some Talmudic discourses such as on Tractate Nedarim and his 'story books' which Niflo'os Maharal is listed as one.

The expose in Dei'ah VeDibur which quotes the Shineveh Rav as having 'his heart pierced' every time he read from Niflo'os Maharal 'since Rav Rosenberg admitted it was a forgery' is obviously a fallacy since the Shineveh Rav died in 1898 while the 'story book' was written in 1909.

Further when the retelling of the Shineveh Rav's angst was mentioned in front of the Peshvorsk Rav, the ADMOR Rav Yaakov Leizer of Peshvorsk refused to accept the incident as true.

The ADMOR refused to accept its veracity because he recognized the falsehood in the story. Why, you ask? How could he know whether it was true or not.

Well you see, the Peshvorsk Rav was the very same Rav who gave out the 'krechts' during davening when he felt pain from a broken arm. He was the very same Rav who called his students over to let them know the truth about the 'krechts.' It had nothing to do with his Kavanah during davening.

He wanted to make sure they would not accuse him of misleading them. He did not want them to become a "Ba'al Teshuva" based on a fallacy; moreover, if they would find out the truth independently, they would then reject all that he taught them.

Only a person such as the Peshvorsk Rav would recognize the fallacy in the story attributed to the Shineveh Rav. Only a person who was mindful of truth in all situations could recognize when a 'white lie' was being told.

Where people may go 'off the derech' because of a laxity in historical accuracy, 'the end does not justify the means.'

See below the related article with Dr. Leiman's letter to the internet.

As I noted previously, the Haredi mouthpiece Dei'ah veDibur had a rather insightful piece on the falicy of the Golem of Prauge. However, although the article ended with the hope that after bringing this fabrication to the readers attention people will only tell true stories. Rabbi Dr. S. Leiman, however, notes that the story itself in Dei'ah veDibur contains a rather glaring inaccuracy.

Letter by Dr. Leiman:

The March 1, 2006 issue of _Dei'ah Ve-Dibur_ -- a haredi journal -- includes an essay entitled: "The Golem of Prague -- Fact or Fiction?." Adducing evidence from a variety of sources, the essay concludes that "it is unclear whether or not the Maharal ever made a golem."
Much of the blame for leading people to think that the Maharal had made a golem, the essay suggests, rests with Y.Y. Rosenberg [sic: while all the other rabbis mentioned in the essay are entitled "Rav" or "Rabbi," only Y.Y. Rosenberg, who was a distinguished rabbi with ordination from the greatest rabbis in Poland, is defrocked], whose 1909 volume on the Golem of the Maharal (Sefer Nifla'ot Maharal) is identified as a forgery. The essay concludes with appropriate warnings that one should rely only on literature that is "historically reliable."
Such a critical reading of Jewish literature -- and concern with Historical truth -- is certainly a welcome breath of fresh air from a circle that has not always covered itself with glory regarding such matters. Alas, the essay fell into the very trap about which it was warning others: beware! One paragraph reads:
"At one point the author [Y.Y. Rosenberg] of the book actually admitted that he had invented the story. In _Halelu Avdei Hashem_, which contains stories in Yiddish about HaRavMoshe Aryeh Freund zt"l, av beis din of the Eida HaChareidis, Rav Yechezkel Halberstam zt"l of Shineveh, author of _Divrei Yechezkel_, is quoted as having made the following comment. "A shochet ubodek from Antwerp heard from the Rov z"l, who heard from his father the Rov of Honiad (an important Jewish community in Hungary), who heard from the Rov of Shineveh (eldest son of the Divrei Chaim zt"l of Sanz). The Shinever Rov said that whenever he sees the book _Niflo'os Maharal_ it pierces him because the author of the stories personally admitted to him that he fabricated the whole thing."
Leaving aside significant errors of translation, the Shinever Rov -- Rav Yechezkel Halberstam, author of _Divrei Yechezkel_ and eldest son of the Divrei Chaim -- died on 6 Teveth, 1898. Rabbi Yehudah Yudl Rosenberg published his _Nifla'ot Maharal_ for the first time in Warsaw, 1909. It can easily be proven that the book did not exist until shortly before it was published in 1909. The Shinever Rov never heard of the book, never saw it,and was not "pierced" by its content.
Indeed, one should rely only on literature that is "historically reliable."