Sunday, August 20, 2023

Rav Nosson Kaminetsky: Those who questioned the validity of the Chofetz Chaim's dibbuq

page 678 in Making of a Godol

It is definite that the Chafetz-Chaim's family made short shrift of the entire dibbuq story. This author has spoken to present-day ancestors who question its veracity. R' Shlomo Fisher reported that his mekhuton, the late R' Hirsh Zaks, grandson of the Chafetz-Chaim, quashed the story. R' David Mostofsky divulged - that R' Mendel Zaks, the examiner at his alma mater, Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS), scoffed at it. R' Benzion Sobel disclosed , that R' Rephael Wallerstein, "someone very close to R' Mendel Zaks", had informed him that R' Mendel denied the entire story. When R' Benzion asked R' Mendel directly if the story was factual, he retorted, "Who is the one who supposedly told the story?" And when R' Benzion replied, "R' Elchonon," R' Zaks was simply silent - which implies that, while denying the story, R' Mendel did not want to clash head-on with R' Elchonon. The Chafetz-Chaim's oldest son, R' Aryeh-Laib Poupko, reprinted in his ככח"ח an article written a month after his father's passing in the newspaper הדרך under the pseudonym מחר הלוי by someone claiming to have been "close to the Chafetz- Chaim's house". R' Poupko introduces the piece positively with the words, "[The article's] words and descriptions are without exaggeration. They are exalted and sublime and are true." Inter alia, the article tells the following: "The Chafetz-Chaim's outlook was clearly rational without mystical fogginess and 'climbing on ladders, without delusions, without superstitions. They tell how aggrieved and broken Jews once brought him some young girl who crowed like a cock and uttered odd sounds. 'Our holy teacher,' the Jews cried bitterly and supplicated him, 'save us! A dibbuq has entered the girl - may the Merciful One spare us - and you, our master, must expel it from within her.' The Chafetz-Chaim commiserated with them, comforted them, spoke kindly to their heart: 'It is not a dibbuq,' he said. 'It is a kind of sickness. Go to the doctor - he will be the Holy One's messenger and heal her...'" It is clear from the context, that מחר הלוי discounted all stories of the occult pertaining to the Chafetz- Chaim, and from R' Poupko's approbation it is clear that he agreed with 'מחר הלוי R' Shlomo Wolbe reported that R' Yeruham Levovitz, the Mashgiah of Mir, who played a part in the dibbuq story, held that it was no dibbuq that entered the young girl in question; rather, she was suffering from mental illness. R' Yoseph-Shlomo Kahanneman, the Ponivezher Rav, who was another of the participants in the dialogue with the girl ", told his protoge in London, R' Yaakov Levison, that the fact that she - "a daughter of R' Nahum Strelcer from the small, Polish hamlet of Fascoli" - was using foul language while in her state of seizure in- dicated that she was not "possessed" by a spiritual creature. (The Ponivezher Rav added that it seems possible for a spirit to speak words of heresy and blasphemy, matters of a philosophical nature, but not [obscenities].) R' Yoseph-Shlomo maintained that the Chafetz-Chaim had smiled approvingly when this opinion was expressed, leaving the impression that the master, too, did not believe a dibbuq had overtaken the young woman. R' Kahanneman believed that the reason the Chafetz-Chaim did not declare openly that the young woman had no dibbuq but a mental condition was so that the stigma of insanity not mar the good reputation of the young lady and of the entire Strelcer family -,. My son R' Yoseph related that, according to R' Noson Shulman, R' Naphtali Trop had denied the dibbuq story - though his name had been linked to the tale. (When R' Noson's uncle R' Binyamin Shulman, a Radin talmid of the middle 5680's [1920's] who was present when his nephew made the statement, objected that the dibbuq story was common knowledge in the Yeshiva of Radin in his day, R' Noson rejoined facetiously that this was not the first case of his uncle disagreeing with what R' Naphtali said.) Also cf. מאיר עיני ישראל where another Radin talmid, R' Kalman Farber, who came to the yeshiva somewhat later than R' Shulman, reports, "The [yeshiva people] declined to talk about the [dibbuq] tale and tried not to publicize it because they were concerned that people would not believe it and laugh at it." Also cf. ibid. where another Radin talmid who arrived there later yet, R' Shlomo Epstein - he joined the yeshiva in 5690 (1930) - goes further in his account, to wit, "The Chafetz-Chaim did not permit (emphasis added) talking about the story of the dibbuq - in fact, I cannot recall that it was spoken about during all the time I spent at the yeshiva, and except for R' Elchonon Wasserman, not one of us knew its full details. The Chafetz-Chaim knew the true story, but he did not allow it to be spoken about." It seems that as time went on, the story of the dibbuq was being progressively suppressed in Radin.

No comments :

Post a Comment

please use either your real name or a pseudonym.