Sunday, June 27, 2010
Guest Post by Guravitzer (He's baaaaaack!!)
"Sabonim" is the most awful epithet I've ever heard. The intellectual secular European-based Zionists, spiritual yorshim of the Maskilim, Conversos, and Misyavnim, tossed aside all valor not given to action. Holocaust murdered and survivors alike were named Sabonim after the soap made of human flesh in the concentration camps. Epitomizing their disdain for sheep led to the slaughter, these upper crust Jew-hating-Jews had no use for quiet dignity, for humanity maintained under the Nazi boot. A group of people allow their minds and egos to lead them as sheep to spiritual slaughter. One of their calls to arms is the Rebbe's attendance at Sorbonne University. Simply a matter of history, of no influence on anyone in any way, they insisted that the Rebbe never attended Sorbonne, therefore chasidim lie, therefore chasidus is a lie. They continue to insist this although JEM uncovered the signature of the Rebbe's inscription as a student. Therefore, I call these people "Sarbonim". Recently, the Sarbonim rejoiced as two of their members published a biography denigrating the Rebbe. Thankfully, a man of courage and wisdom, Rabbi Chaim Rapoport, took down their unscholarly and untruthful work in a 45 page article. The hosts of the site where it is published are to be commended for their interest in truth and justice. Their actions here qualify as tzedek, tzedek tirdof.
The Sarbonim believe they have another reason to rejoice. The purported analysis of the Rebbe Rashab by an associate of Sigmund Freud is published and discussed in an academic article. As a chosid, before knowing details of the article or analysis, there is a certain anticipation. The most noble possibility is a record of a conversation about chasidus or a high-minded subject, similar to the short record of a conversation between the Rebbe Rashab and Dr. Freud given by the Frierdike Rebbe. A less-exciting possibility is the simple details of the treatment of the Rebbe Rashab. The unfortunate possibility is that of a denigrating portrayal. We got the last option. It might have been sorrowful if it wasn't fiction. There is no point in discussing the validity of the historical truth of the analysis. You either believe it or not, there is no corroborating proof for any of it. To wit:
A. Dr. Stekel does not give a name, only the title Rabbi. The identity is a guess.
B. The guess might be based on symptoms and personal data, but the data in the analysis doesn't match much told by others, including the Frierdike Rebbe.
C. There is one outright mistake. He mentions at the end that the Rebbe Rashab sent a daughter for treatment later on. The Rebbe Rashab had no daughter and only one son.
There are two points of conversation in the article that do not make any sense. Dr. Stekel writes, "’How can thoughts produce a severe bodily disease? How can mental things be transformed into physical ones?’ asked the astonished patient." The gemara describes a case of a man so taken with a woman that he became physically ill. This statement should have caused no wonder for the Rebbe Rashab, although it was a novelty in medical circles. Additionally, he mentions a lack of awareness of issues involving shemiras habris. Lack of awareness and knowledge of these issues was very common in general society at the time, and formed the basis of Freud’s theories, but not in learned Jewish circles - Tanya for one mentions the kapara for lack of shemiras habris many times. Both of these points lead to the thought that Dr. Stekel was trying to prove a point to psychotherapy's opponents, not accurately describe conversations with a patient. My opinion, for what it's worth, is that Dr. Stekel wrote a fictional account of a Rabbi's treatment loosely based on the Rebbe Rashab's conversations with Dr. Freud, and possibly even with Dr. Stekel. I haven't read the academic article, only Dr. Stekel's case description and the online discussion of the academic article. There is considerable academic discussion questioning the truth of the cases published by the early psychotherapists including Freud. Their ideas did not survive the test of time either, and they seem to be credited only with giving birth to the treatment of mental issues and disorders through therapy. There is nothing disrespectful academically in suggesting that Dr. Stekel would write a fictional account if he thought it would further the cause of psychotherapy. This is very unfortunate, as it would have been interesting to read a truthful account of the Rebbe Rashab's treatment, warts and all.
To further clarify this account as fiction, Rabbi Sholom Ber Levin released letters of the Rebbe Rashab concerning his treatment. These letters detail a consultation with Freud as a neurologist, who together with an internist named Dr. Nothnagel prescribed electric shock treatment. Yup, folks. The Rebbe Rashab had a neurological disorder of the hand which disappeared after electric treatment. No psychoanalysis, no consultation with Freud because of his new medical ideas. Dr. Stekel claimed that no other treatment had worked, and that his treatment brought a cure. Pure fiction. Again as a chosid, the details of the analysis itself, whether in character of what we know of the Rebbe Rashab or not, make no difference, just as the Rebbe's attendance at university makes no difference. In Lubavitch our Rebbeim are human and we portray them with their human detail as well as the eloki. The wonder is the guf gashmi, that a series of humans with varying personalities can live lives both earth-some and faultless. Einenu ra'u meoros, we saw the Rebbe's behavior and chasidus and we study the Rebbe Rashab's chasidus and life. The details of their lives are interesting and often instructive. Once our eyes judged them to be truth and elokus, it's beyond us to rejudge with every new detail subject to interpretation. Our stories are great when they follow the line of R' Shmuel Gurary remaining a chosid when the Rebbe's advice lost him money. Stories of miracles instruct us about the greatness of Hashem, as the Rebbe wrote explicitly, they teach us nothing about our Rebbeim. Interesting, yes, helpful, no, truthful, not always. The same may be said for the revelations treasured by the Sarbonim.
[ I wonder if I'm doing the right thing here by throwing this out on the floor...]