Friday, July 11, 2008

The Ger Tzedek and the Gra

RaP asserted that the fact that the Gra insisted on being buried next to the Ger Tzedek shows that he had a different attitude towards geirm than the Syrian Rabbinate.

Aside from RaP's continued insistence that he "knows" that they don't like geirm and yet he can not find a single significnat rabbi [at this point not even an insignificnt rabbi] willing to state this - there is a question of the validity of the assertion that the Gra insisted on being buried next to the Ger Tzedek. I am of course not questioning that the Gra valued geirim. I am simple not convinced that it is a historical fact that the Gra insisted on being buried next to the Ger Tzedek or even whether the story of the Ger Tzedek happened as described.

The burning of the Ger Tzedek is reported to have happened in 1749 in Vilna in a public execution. However the very first explicit mention of the event was in 1822 by an apostate who claimed that have heard about it from a rabbi.There is no mention of the Ger Tzedek in the Gra's writings or in that of any of his students. R' Eliach wrote a whole chapter on this his 3 volume set of the Gra - but he doesn't have any convincing evidence prior to 1822 nor does he offer a convincing justification for why this public event is not mentioned in any sources -public or private - until 70 years later! There is a similar pattern concerning the story of the Golem which the Maharal was supposed to have made. No mention of it until the early 1800's.

Let me provide links to some of the relevant discussions:

R Eliach, Prof. Magda Teter, Prof. Leiman.


  1. Those who do not learn from history are destined to repeat it.

    Magda Teter:

    "Frank and his supporters attacked the rabbinic Jews, whom they called “Talmudists,” on religious questions, especially the Talmud, casting them as blasphemers
    and heretics for using the Talmud. This was a prelude to the longer conflict and the two disputations between Frank and his followers and the Jews in 1757 in Kamieniec Podolski and in 1759 in Lwów, held under the auspices of the Catholic
    Church leadership. The two debates became known in Poland as debates between the Talmudists and Counter-Talmudists. This whole affair opened up possibilities
    of further incursions by the Catholic clergy into Jewish communities. Indeed, Bishop
    De˛bowski was able to summon Jewish rabbis to attend these debates under a threat of corporal punishment (sub poenis etiam corporis afflictivis) . In 1760,
    a special catechism was published by an anonymous Jesuit in Lwów for instruction of “those who come from the Jewish faith to Christian Catholic faith” as a result
    of Jacob Frank’s activity, or the “Counter-Talmudists.”

    The Frankists were a semi-Christian religious organization which came into being among the Jews of Poland about the middle of the eighteenth century. This organization was the ultimate result of two causes: (1) the Messianic movement which agitated the Jewish world after the appearance of Shabbethai Ẓebi, the pseudo-Messiah from Smyrna, and which degenerated later into religious mysticism; and (2) the social and economic upheaval in the life of the Polish Jewry. The spread of the Messianic movement (1660-70) occurred in the period following the harrying and killing of the Jews inthe days of Bogdan Chmielnicki. Hundreds of ruined communities, in which almost every family mourned its martyred dead, awaited aid from Heaven. They were inclined to see in the Ukraine massacres the pre-Messianic sufferings (see Eschatology), and in Shabbethai Ẓebi the coming Messiah-Deliverer. The fall of the false Messiah and his conversion to Mohammedanism estranged him from many of his followers, but among the more uncultured portion of the Jewish people the belief in the mystic mission of Shabbethai persisted for a long time."

  2. Do you have similar links for extended treatments on the Maharal and the Golem?

  3. Tzurah said...

    Do you have similar links for extended treatments on the Maharal and the Golem?

    No links but the following should answer your questions:

    Idel, Mosche (1990). Golem: Jewish Magical and Mystical Traditions on the Artificial Anthropoid. Albany (NY): State University of New York Press. ISBN 0-7914-0160-X.


please use either your real name or a pseudonym.