Monday, January 26, 2009

Did Rachel Imeinu appear or not?

Guest Post by Rafi G.
(originally posted on LII)

In the story that just won't die, until now I have pretty much just brought reports of other people saying it is true or not. Rachel Imeinu appeared and saved our troops, or she did not (I generally brought those saying it is true, because that side is much more interesting).

A number of people have asked me if I believe the story or not, and if it happened or not. When answering the question at different times, a couple of different points and questions were brought up. So I have decided to make a post out of the answer.

Did it happen? Did Rachel Imeinu really show up and save our troops?

The truth is that I have no idea. If I did not witness it, all I know is what others tell me. The story spread. Truthfully, the story is one of those that are not really believable, or at least it has various explanations as to how it happened. A good Arab woman, perhaps. A Jewish woman living in Gaza married to an Arab but still wanted to help the IDF. It never happened at all.

But to say it did not happen, it could not have happened - to dismiss it out of hand - disturbs me.

We have all grown up, if you grew up religious, hearing the stories of miracles. We all heard how Eliyahu Ha'Navi appeared to this person or that person. How Eliyahu helped make a minyan in this forsaken village or learned b'chavrusa wuth that secret talmid chochom. We all grew up on the chassidishe maaslech of this or that spirit of some long dead gadol appearing to someone and direcing him how to proceed successfully to maneuver through some problem.

If all those stories could have happened, and I at least grew up believing them to be true, then there is no reason to think the story of Rachel Imeinu could not have happened. Did it happen? I don't know. Could it have happened? I see no reason why it could not have happened. And if you are going to dismiss this story with a wave of the hand, you also have to dismiss all those stories the same way.

Another point I would like to mnetion is the machlokes between various rabbis on whether we should or should not believe it, on whether it did or did not happen.

I noticed that the rabbis who said it happened are the great rabbis Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu and Rav Ovadia Yosef. The ones who prominently say it did not happen are the younger rabbis Rabbi Aviner, Rabbi Cherlow and some others.

I noticed that the ones claiming it did, are older rabbis. Rabbis who are involved in the world of kabbala. Rabbi Eliyahu is one of the greatest mekubalim alive today. Rabbi Yosef is as well.

The younger rabbis, I would hesitate to call them "second tier rabbis" out of respect to them, but in relation to Rabbis Yosef and Eliyahu, I think it is reasonable, are younger, more rationalists, less involved (at least publicly) in kabbala. Perhaps because of that they insist it did not happen - they are younger, closer connected to the modern way of thought that rejects these types of stories - our level of emuna in miracles is not nearly at the level of the simple Jew of the previous generations, and the younger rabbis and their way of thought could very well be a product of our lower level of emuna.

I am not knocking Rabbis Cherlow and Aviner and saying they are no good - I am just saying they are younger, less involved in kabbala, have a more "rationalist" and perhaps scientific approach. While Rabbis Yosef and Eliyahu are more involved in the esoteric and kabbalistic worlds. Perhaps that is why we see a "machlokes" between them on thi sissue.

What do you think?

Buy my book. (please)
Buy the other guy's book. (please)
Buy my wife a gift (please)

No comments: