Friday, January 2, 2009

Teach truth through lies?

[guest post] has left a new comment on your post "EJF - Cost Benefit analysis":

On the subject of truth touched on at the end of the blog, here is some recent correspondence I had with a talmid chacham.

Rabbi X:
I do not know if vorts are dangerous, but they are usually not true...
My reply:
For a solid person like you, vorts are not dangerous. But most people cannot separate the wheat from the chaff.

I consider vorts as dangerous as fake Holocaust stories (a famous one just hit the news recently and I have spotted dubious Holocaust tales on the Aish site), and as dangerous as the golem tales which are presented to youngsters as Torah miSinai. A youngster or uncomplicated sort of person hears these vorts, fake Holocaust stories and golem tales. Five years down the line he realizes that the vorts are nonsense, the Holocaust stories are fake, and the golem stories are a rabbi's invention. Many are then struck with the thought that if people I trusted have fed me lokshen for the past five years, how can I trust anything they say? This can lead to extreme consequences. In addition, you have a frum press (papers and books) which censors and edits everything it prints and then tries to destroy frum weekend magazines that try to be a drop more truthful does little to strengthen people's belief in authority.

All this nonsense percolates into mainstream hashkofo leading to a split-personality tzibbur. The average Chareidi is quite cynical, while simulataneously willing to believe that any unusual tale ranks equal to Megillas Esther, and putting faith into a roster of segulos and alternative rostrums that would do a medicine man proud.
Rabbi X:
Your points are, as usual, excellent- and you definitely pointed out things that had not occurred to me.

For many of these reasons, I try to keep as low a profile as I can, and help people privately, discreetly. I realized many years ago that I am not very good at battling windmills, but can be helpful on a one-on-one basis.


  1. WADR to RDE, he should have repeated such things besheim omro -- the Rambam said this about taking the stories of the medrash as history. (Peirush haMishnayos, in the Vilna ed of Sanhedrin, 123 amudah c; ie 123 "amud b", 2/3 or so down the 1st column.)

    He defines three groups of people in their approach to medrash. The first category assume they are all literal historical truths, see them as foolish but representative of the Torah, and reject the Torah.

    (The second take them all as literal historical truths, do not see them as foolish, and therefore believe foolishness. And the third see the words as they are, metaphor masking a deep truth.)

    What the Rambam says about aggadic stories from Chazal definitely holds of modern tales.


  2. See editor's comment here

    joel rich

  3. I'm a bit puzzled as to how the word "vort" is being used here. Could someone offer a clarification?


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