Tuesday, December 12, 2006

What's in a picture?




Hirshel Tzig asked me, Mekushor, to assist him with his blog duties. Since he pays so well, I agreed to occasionally post my thoughts (he pays extra for each comment, so keep the conversation going - ok?. Today's submission:

About a year ago, someone came to my house and informed me:

"You know, you have over 10 pictures of the Lubavtcher Rebbe in your home."

I said: "Interesting, I hadn’t ever counted."

He said: "So, you really think you need that many?"

I said: “I probably need more."

He said: "Why would you?"

I said: "Because I often forget the proper way to behave - I'm weak that way - if I would see a picture of a tzaddik this helps me. Those who don't have my problems don't need pictures - they themselves are their own Rebbes. You probably fit into that category"

He said: “I have no pictures of Rebbes in my home."

I said: "I thought so - you have a mirror instead, right?"

He was speechless, so I smiled and said, "What were you asking again?"

No big deal. But since then I’ve noticed that this is not an exclusively Chassidic practice these days. I see picture books of Litvishe gedolim past & present and I see homes with pictures of many Roshei Yeshiva and Litvishe figures. Why, on my block there is a house where they make a minyan for ma’ariv Motzoi Shabbos; I have been there a few times – a very nice Litvishe guy, described by a fellow there as the “last bastion of normalcy in an ever growing Chassidic Brooklyn” (they daven nussach Ashkenaz, of course) – and I noticed the pictures on the wall of the Vilna Goan and a couple other Litvishe figures, and it stuck me as odd: Since when did the Litvishe make their godolim into Rebbes? How old is this custom if hanging Litvishe gedolim on the wall? Does anyone oppose this practice?

Seems to me that this is an example of the world we live in: Oppose, lose, adopt the approach of the enemy, claim them as your own, claim yourself the victor. Yea, yea, politics as usual I guess. But I wonder, isn’t there a Litvak out there saddened by this?

But it’s really not the same anyway. When a Litvak hangs a picture on his wall, it doesn’t mean the same thing – they weren’t brought up with the concept of a Tzaddik/Rebbe figure.

I have an old friend from 8th grade - a Litvishe fellow; we don’t live close to each other, but we were good friends. He got a job as a rov out-of-town, but he would come to visit me from time to time. We spoke quite a bit, and I found it odd that in his life – even though he would, from time to time, speak to his former Rosh Yeshiva – he was quite sure of himself as the sole decision maker. He was very confident that as a rov, he was above the masses and atop the community. He isn’t an ego maniac or anything – he’s a very down to earth and friendly guy, but he doesn’t have the concept of bittul to someone else.

In truth, the vast majority of Litvishe folks that I’ve known – quite many – don’t relate at all to the concept of our individual smallness. It seems that without a Rebbe they don’t really have to take a backseat to anyone, so, they have a much easier time being comfortable putting themselves on equal footing with anyone. This seems to be somewhat of a Korach-ian ideal: who needs Moshe and Aharon? Veameich kulam kedoshim! Isn’t there something terribly lacking when the concept of tzaddikim is eroded to the point that we are all on one level?

I know that Mussar deals with this, but I haven’t seen it in practice; I went to some Litvishe yeshivos, and I lived near, and was friendly with, many fine Litvishe Yidden, but I feel bad for them in this way – you just can’t have it without a Chossid-Rebbe concept. This is not to say that everything is rosy in Chassidic-land, but on the conceptual level, this is a sad lack for them to live with.

30 comments:

Snag said...

Do you have pictures of the MahaRaSh in your house?

Anonymous said...

you start by saying "that mussar deals with this, yet you haven't seen it in practice." okay.
Then you go on to say "that in the chasidic world not everything is rosy, yet the concept exists". Huh?
So, how are chasidim better off?
Conceptually, both groups have the concept, while practically none follow it.
Do you think that chasiddic rabbonim are more willing to take backseats than others. Get real.
The only thing is that you think that you're alot better due to your supreme bittul, which kind of, well...

nemo said...

There are no pictures of the Maharash or the Mitteler Rebbe for that matter.

snag2 said...

Oy vey.

Is this supposed to be an improvement over Hirshel or just a Hirshel clone ?

""You know, you have over 10 pictures of the Lubavtcher Rebbe in your home."

I said: "Interesting, I hadn’t ever counted."

He said: "So, you really think you need that many?"

I said: “I probably need more."

Maybe it's time to be koveia a halocho in this matter. Does every room in the Lubavitch house need a picture of the Rebbe, like a mezuza ? Is there is shiur limayloh, like 18 wives for Dovid hamelech, or is it kol hamarbeh harei zeh mishuboch ?

Re Litvishe and pictures - I have reservations about it. However, it is not new. I think that circa 100 years ago there was a famous poster with pictures of Rav Yitzchok Elchonon and the Gaon zeicher tzaddikim livrocho, in many Litvishe houses.

But it's one thing to want to be mikayeim vihoyu einecho ro'os es morecha and the like and another to have such pictures all over.

Re bittul - yes, there is such an inyan. Limoshol, on erev Pesach, we are mivateil chometz. But a Yid is not chometz. He should know to listen to a Rav, Rosh yeshiva, talmid chochom when necessary, yes. But too much emphasis on bittul can lead to problems as seen very openly in Lubavitch (as well as elsewhere).

"the vast majority of Litvishe folks that I’ve known – quite many – don’t relate at all to the concept of our individual smallness. It seems that without a Rebbe they don’t really have to take a backseat to anyone, so, they have a much easier time being comfortable putting themselves on equal footing with anyone."

What are you talking about ? Stam tzu machen noch an alila, noch a bilbul on snags ? Normal Litvishe have a Rav, Rosh Yeshiva, or someone else they feel is above them.

hmmm said...

Every Jew has chometz. You need to search yourself better.

Mekushor, you've introduced yourself well.

Anonymous said...

Litvaks were crazy about pictures in the old country. See Daniel Charny's "Vilna", which is a collection of memoires from turn of the century Vilna. Every house had a picture of the Vilna Gaon.

tzibaleh said...

personally, i don't like the name mkushor, it sort of reminds me of the term "porush" that was used in pre-chassidic times.
,ער איז א מקושר
ugh!

MEKUSHOR said...

Anon,
First of all, Mussar is not synonymous with Litvak. Second of all, I don't know if the bittul they refer to is the same, since I dont see it. What I meant is that I think it's a different kind of bittul.

Snag,
I never told anyone to hang a picture - every person had the ability and my blessing to do what they want in this area - as long as you don't blast someone for making the choice the make.
Like I said, I was speaking only about myself - many other people don't need these things, that's fine with me. To the contrary, I think that people that oppose pictures shouldn't have them.

Now, I know that the (relatively new) concept of Daas Torah is Litvish code for bittul to the words of their Rosh Yeshiva. (and I suspect it is another case of lifting the idea from Chassidim and calling it their own.) However, I know many ehrliche Litvishe guys, and that concept of bittul is not at all like a Chossid-Rebbe bittul.

Tzib,
I'm not crazy about the name either... it's a long story.

Anonymous said...

I COME FROM A HUNGIRIAN CHASSIDISH BACKROUND WHO TURNED OUT FAR FROM THE CHASSIDHE VELT ETC. THE KESHER THAT I FEEL WITH THE REBBE IS EN LESHAR: I HAVE A PICTURE OF THE REBBE IN MY APT. WITH A CLOCK ON TOP. A PICTURE OF THE REBBE HANGING ON MY KEY CHAIN. HE DOES WONDERS

EEC said...

Is there a Livishe concept of hiskashrus bichlal?

Anonymous said...

Not sure what you are talking about. There always were pictures of Gedolim in Litvishe homes and schools. They didnt take this from Chassidim. You need to visit more litvaks.

As far as bittul you are also wrong. As mentioned, there is the idea of Daas Torah in which ones Rebbi or Rav is the person to whom they are machniah.

The difference between chassidim and Misnagdim in this area is that (Chabad) Chassidim have so many pictures of just one person that it looks like there are no other Gedolim or people worthy of respect. It makes it look idolatrous (which it in fact is for some people).

As far as 'hiskashrus', it depends on the definition. We dont meditate on the image of our Rebbi, but we ask him our Sheilos and hashkafa questions. The Chassidic style of hiskashrus wherein someone meditates on the image or idea of the Rebbi is Chassidic (perhaps only Chabad).

Zak said...

Mekushor
You have 'bittul' to a Rebbe, you don't decide on your own.Wait a sec, I thought your Rebbe was niftar, no?So you mock the Lutvack friend of yours and don't realize that this is the unfortunate case in Lubavitch today:Ein manhig beyisroel veish hayoshor beinov ya'aseh.
I guess it's above your 'binah' but I''ll still try:'People who live in glass houses should not throw stones' Ever heard of the saying?.Lubab, get with the chasidic program:A chassidus is built on a leader,get yourself a new rebbe,NOW!

MEKUSHOR said...

I knew that the gaonei hador would have some very insightful comments, but since this is the best they could come up with I am convinced that I was more right than I had even realized!

I never said that you should have a living Rebbe, pictures or what you should do with any of those things anyway. I said that there should be a bittul; there should be an attitude of uncertainty and a higher - divinely inspired - authority.

I'm not sure exactly what all the weird accusations you throw out there are all about, but your incapability to think straight is probably a result of your Yeshiva system.

Zevi said...

Mekushor
Go continue to leck that despicable shtick yeshus' mechila,Berl.You are a talmid neomon to that rosho and sonei yisroel

MEKUSHOR said...

Profound words Zevi, very deep and intuitive. Another product of the great Yishivos.

UnBerl said...

Fast Quiz
Which yeshiva or chasidic sect has produced members who proclaim their deceased leader as either alive many years after his passing or Creator of the world
*Ponovizh---
*Satmar----
*Breslav---
*general 'Snags----
*Our 'thinking'friends over in Crown Height

Mekushor what is it about your 'thinking' friends that attracts all the hemorrhoids?

MEKUSHOR said...

You should complain to G-d; this bechira thing was really a bad idea, huh?

Are all of you too stupid to have an intelligent conversation?
Don't bother answering; the question was rhetorical (if you are smart enough to understand what that means).

Anonymous said...

to Unberl
which religion belives that Elijah the Prophet shows up at every Bris
or that Rebbe made kiddush for his family every week even after his death,
Sunni
Dalai Lamai
Sikhs
or the Jews that claim to be the Am chochom venoven

just wondering said...

Why do people still respect R' Akiva (who was convinced BarKochba was Moshiach)? I mean, obviosly, he was way off.
And bichlal Judaism has a problem - do you have any idea how many chashuvei hador thought Shabtai Tzvi was Moshiach? It wasn't just the asafsuf my friends.

Maybe belief in Moshiach is the problem.

but wait, their's more! said...

Did you know that Achiya Hashiloni - Eliyahu Hanavi's rebbe, and the Gadol hador in his life - was fooled by Yerovom! He even sanctioned activities that resulted in avoda zara mamash (not just the libelous accusations of avroda zara that people make every day here)!

How does he get away without severe reprecussions by the Snags?

Milhouse said...

He doesn't. That's why they're so opposed to his talmid, the Baal Shem Tov...

Anonymous said...

Its funny how the Fringy Chabadskers here are defending their approach by citing people like Achiya. If taking actions which lead to Avoda Zara is your model, you are spot on, as the Rebbe never took action to stop what was inevitable and obviously going to happen after his death. The distortions of the nuts within Chabad are a real issue and to defend it by citing that other great people made terrible mistakes is not much of a defense.

MEKUSHOR said...

Another genius named Anonymous,

I realize this is hard for you since you guys don't use that brain much, but here goes:

Some moron always pipes up with the imbecilic statement basically saying that (use your thumb here):

[Paraphrasing] "Siiiince Lubavitch has some folks that may have flipped their lid, then we must conclude that they are the natural product of a movement that is inherently deviant. And therefore the Rebbeim, chassidus, and all chassidim of Lubavitch are corrupt."

And someone always attempts to point out (although, I agree that it's really not worth it) that there is no proof of anything here, other than since G-d given bechira chofshis.

So, people try to point out to you that Lubavitch maintains no positions more radical than mainstream Yiddishkeit, and that people being wrong about Moshiach isn't a horrific crime (R' Akiva, Achiya Hashiloni, etc), in fact - if you believe in Moshiach, it's possible to err - and clearly that is not criminal.

But I know that you wont [want to] understand something that is so simple.

Anonymous said...

But why are all the meshugoim attracted to Lubavitch??

Anon2 said...

Anon,
Why are all the meshugoim attracted to Judaism?

Anonymous said...

The Muslims attract enough, Lubavitch attract second best, and I don't know that meshugoim are attrqacted to Judaism.........unless Lubavitch is Jewish, but that was some time ago.Btw, have a merry Yat Kislev and a happy new year.Yechi

Der Shygetz said...

Or Schmuck, I mean Ohr Somayach, and similar mental institutions, I mean institutions of learning, get their share of nuts as well. But they clean them out fast whereas Chabad lets them hang around out of ahavas Yisroel. In some cases, however, these people shoulc be in the mental health system and Chabad does no one any favors by keeping them around.

Ian said...

Shygetz
You above comment is quite objectionable, clean up the language and raise the level of debate or post under Creedmoor

Der Shygetz said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Der Shygetz said...

Fool Hashie boy, der Shygetz is Creedmoor. You seem to have escaped again and you're dirtying Tzig the way you tried to dirty Sultan Knish.

Get a life. Even a low life costs only 99 cents on Ebay.