Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Misnagdim of the world unite! You have nothing to lose...

(This will offend 50 percent of my readers, I predict; let me apologize to them in advance.)

Akiva wrote:
The Baal Shem Tov taught that a leaf doesn't turn over in the wind without it being hashgacha pratit (divine providence). Is it part of the divine plan that we all get annoyed?

In a fit of pique, I answered:
The Rambam absolutely disagreed, but as we all know, in the upside-down world that is 21st century Judaism, the Besht, who wrote no books and had no school, is bigger [by which I meant more widely revered] than the Rambam.

Am I the only one who finds this maddening? [Akiva, certain as ever, will say my anger is part of the divine plan.] It's topsy turvy. The Rambam is a Rishon, and a Spanish Rishon to boot. Why do Hasidim backseat him?

In fact, the more I think about this and related questions, the more maddening I find the whole of the Hasidic movement. The original Hasidim broke with the tradition of their ancestors, introduced approaches to learning and living the great men of their time found offensive, and changed the emphasis of the religion.

In another place and another time this would have been called reform.

Now, in our day, this reform is glorified by legions of long-coated Jews who insist, ever-so piously, on the absolute and final primacy of "tradition." If they are aware of the irony they pretend not to see it.

Their reform is further glorified by Jews who have no use for the wisdom of the Rishonim and instead prefer the culture of Eastern Europe. The Rishonim, for example, said magic was false, and decried it all as superstition. The peasant women of Poland disagreed, and in our mixed-up muddled up world their peasent view adheres. (and their peasent dishes are considered great delicacies.)

The original Hasidim chose clothing the emulated the non-Jewish noblemen of their day. Shtreimals and beckishes? Any Polack gentile with some money dressed like that in the 17th centruy; now these same outfits are glorified as "authentically Jewish."

These same Hasidim imported customs like upshurin and the nusach ha'tefillah from Israel because the wished to distinguish themselves from the European Jewish establishment; today their decendants are the very first people to look down their noses at the srugy-wearing, sefard speaking Jews who only wish to distinguish themselves from the American Jewish establishment.

Like I said: maddening

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