Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Merkaz HaRav Urban Legend

Three weeks, ago, in the wake of the massacre at Merkaz HaRav, I posted an inspiring story about one of the victims, Doron Mahareta.

Yesterday, I received a phone call from a young member of the Merkaz HaRav faculty (the son of one of my oldest friends), who told me that aside from Doron being a big Lamdan, the story was untrue. He actually was a graduate of Kfar HaRo'eh and was, ab initio, a regular student at Merkaz.

Aside from providing another example of why one should be wary of the internet (irrespective of who provides the information), I am troubled by the story for other reasons. First, it is not so slightly tinged with racism (either on the part of Merkaz or the narrator). Second, it raises the larger question of hagiography and history (wie es eigentlich gewesen ist). Are sacred forgeries of any value? This, of course, is exactly the type of question that has been discussed by JJ Schacter, Marc Shapiro and contributers to the Seforim blog. The expansion of the internet, though, opens up new dimensions that should give us all serious pause.

12 comments:

Tzvi said...

Well it was a good story while it lasted...

frumhouse said...

So where did the embellishment originate? I seem to recall reading that story a few different places. You are correct that the internet can be like one big game of "telephone" where the final translation is a laughable interpretation of the original message.

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

woohoo! I'm glad I didn't post that one!

:)

(Though I think the story originated on Lazer Brody's blog...I could be wrong)

Anonymous said...

i don't know where he went to HS but i can tell that this past shabbos a current talmid of Merkaz was in shul and i asked him as well about Doron and he confirmed 100% the essence of the story; namely that when he 1st came to the yeshiva it was not as a talmid but that he was working in the kitchen and only later was accepted

Anonymous said...

...and yet you chose to ignore, then and in the future, the racism in the (untrue) MH story. You chose to raise the racism inherent in the story only after you found it debunked. Does this make you feel the need for a heshbon ha-nefesh?

Baruch said...

the racism is in making up such a story...

Moshe said...

Could it be that Doron worked as a dishwasher (or some other job) in order to make a little pocket money? It is very normal for Yeshiva boys in Israel to work on the side to make a little money, especially those who come from families with limited means.

Jeffrey said...

According to my caller, Doron was involved in full-time Torah study from the start. period.

As to the racist element...here I think we need to tread lightly. Yes, there is racism against Ethiopians (and Sephardim) in Israeli society and in yeshivot (though the Haredim here are far more guilty than the RZ world). On the other hand, the idea that someone overcomes obstacles in order to become a Talmid Hakham, and will endure both hardship and embaressment to do so, is a permanent theme in Hazal. The classic expression, as noted by R. Laizer Brody, is that of Hillel on the roof. (Unless you want to invoke ancient Palestinian nativism and suspicion of Babylonians, as I would not). In fact, until after World War II, it was common to cite the Netziv(!) and R. Yitzhak Elchanan as an axample of a person of average talent who proved themselves and became gedolim.

Anonymous said...

Average intelligence is not the same as black skin.

Anonymous said...

that of Hillel on the roof.
======================

and how do you understand that story in termms of the Yeshiva's apparent policy of only admitting those who could afford it?
KT
joel rich

Nachum said...

I'm sorry, I don't see the racism. The story would have been exactly the same had he been from, say, Russia.

Nu, it's inspiring anyway.

Anonymous said...

Why are you lying. you don't know anyone who is on the Merkaz Harav Staff. My son's wife's Mother's Cousin's Nephew threw Marrige brother is a Ram at Merkaz Harav and he says you are lying and the story is true.

The mensher rebbi