Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Napoleon's Soothsayer?



(Napoleon and his Staff 1868, Oil on panel 17 x 18 cm, Wallace Collection, London)


Here's the story:

During the war of 1812 The Alter Rebbe was again on the other side of the equation. Sounds Familiar, no? He and the Ropshitzer Rov were the only ones to "root" for Czar Alexander I.

My son was reading this Yiddish book called : רבי מענדעלע רימנובער, which is published by מוסד זכר נפתלי בהנהלת הרב אלי חיים קרליבך, but that's totally not part of the issue here, it's just a coincidence. When they speak of the battle of the Talmidei HaMagid as to who should be victorious, Napoleon or the Russians, one paragraph really caught my eye, on page 187,It goes as follows:

אין יענע צייטן האט נאפאליאן כסדר מצליח געווען שלא כדרך הטבע. מ'האט געוואוסט אז דאס האט ער צו דאנקען דעם רבי'ן ר' מענדעלע, ווייל אין דער נאפאליאנישער מלחמה-כראניק ווערט דערציילט, אז פונקט ווי ביי אלכסנדר מוקדון איז פאראויסגעגאנגען דאס געשטאלט פון שמעון הצדיק, אזוי האט נאפאליאן געזעהן אין זיינע מלחמות דאס געשטאלט פון א נידריק אידל מיט א רויט געזיכט, און אדאנק דעם דאזיגען אידל האט ער מנצח געווען. און ביי דער לעצטער שלאכט ביי וואטערלאה האט ער דאס אידל נישט געזעהן....
דאס דאזיגע אידל איז געווען נישט קיין אנדערע ווי דער הייליקער רבי ר' מענדעלע


In short: The holy Reb Mendelle of Rimanov would appear to Napoleon and tell him of his forthcoming victory. Until the battle of Waterloo, where he did not.

Most other stories have sources such as The Munkatcher Rov zt"l in Darkei Chaim V'Sholom, yet this story has no source. Rather the source is the "Napoleon's Chronicles", whatever they may be.

Your thoughts, whatever they may be, would be appreciated.

14 comments:

chabakuk elisha said...

There is a fascinating book about Napoleon's campaign of 1812:

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/search-handle-url/ref=br_ss_hs/102-6562886-2476153?platform=gurupa&url=index%3Dstripbooks%3Arelevance-above%26dispatch%3Dsearch%26results-process%3Dbin&field-keywords=napoleon%27s+russian+campaign&Go.x=7&Go.y=9

Interestingly, it turned out, to my surprise, that when napoleon arrived in Liadi they were running from the Russians and in full retreat. Jews are mentioned in the book in a positive light - as the Jews were the first to greet the great French army with food and drink. The Non-Jewish Russians were not friendly.
As to supernatural elements:
Napoleon did often check the starts before making various decisions, especially "his star," but it does seem that his defeat was somewhat more lemaala miderech hateva than his successes...

Hirshel Tzig said...

Hey, Chabakuk, nice to hear from you.

Is there a "Napoleon's Chronicles" where the story is mentioned? I like your story but it doesn't answer the question posed....

chabakuk elisha said...

Oops, the line, "Napoleon did often check the starts" should read "STARS" not "starts."

HT, I don't know. But you wrote:
"Your thoughts, whatever they may be, would be appreciated."

So I commented based on what I did know...

Anonymous said...

Maybe we can trace the animosity to Chabad to the differences then? Some people never can forgive.........

bpunbound said...

Hirshel,

Any way to block all anonymous posts. I would think using an identity is the least one could do if he is partaking in conversation with others. Otherwise, it bespeaks a lack of manners, if not being downright obnoxious.

zezmir said...

I think all annonymous posts are really hirshel trying to stir things up...
;-)

Hirshel Tzig said...

and I think zezmir is an arse.....

bpunbound said...

regardless, even in deceit, no need for bad manners

zezmir said...

I see Hirshel has adopted TA's touchy sense of humor... or lack thereof

Hirshel Tzig said...

BP
you talkin' to me?

bpunbound said...

I address myself to those who may frequent this blog and conduct themselves in an arrogant, repulsive manner.

Now, do you include yourself in that group?

Editor said...

I once saw a book published by YIVO, I have photocopies somewhere. It is a collection of stories related to Jews in France. Don't remember the title.
Anyway, it has a whole section on Napolean and the Jews. There are several paragraphs devoted to the Alter Rebbe.
One of the attributions is "gehert in Lubavitch". One quote that mirrors your story! Napolean would say "vu ich riet shtait far mir a yid mit a gele bord un riest fun mir shtiker" a reference to the Alter Rebbe's opposition..

RIETSguy said...

Fantasy stories like these, no matter which Tzaddik they're attributed to, do significant harm to the Jewish belief system. They cause educated adults not only to questions the validity of the story, but also to question the validity of any other Hashkafah they've been taught.

Nice blog though.

Hirshel Tzig said...

RIETSguy

with all due respect, I don't see why'd you say that. For some reason educated adults, mostly those educated in the secular style, do have a problem with fantastic stories such as these, I admit. However, that would stem more from the non-Jewish ideas that the above-mentioned adult has heard over the years. He cannot bring himself in a higher power, amongst humans that is, and questions the mere existence of it.

For some reason I believe that the true source of questioning Sippurei Tzaddikim is much greater and deeper, but I will refrain from accusing you of that.

ויאמינו בה' ובמשה עבדו
Believing in Tzaddikim is just as important.