Saturday, June 25, 2005

If Rabbi Daniel Lapin lived 100 years ago


Toward Tradition: Own Own Worst Enemy

I am an Orthodox Jewish rabbi sadly denouncing one of the most popular books of 1904. What has earned my wrath? Here is a clue— "Mark Twain." No, I'm not talking about Mr. Twain's essays regarding the alleged Belgian atrocities in the Congo. The book causing me deep distress was written by a self-hating Jewish shtetl resident who is styled as the "Jewish Mark Twain."

I am reluctant to name the book on account of the implied vulgarity of it's main character. (What kind of name is "Tevye" anyway?) If you are reluctant to part with good money for the privilege of seeing the Jewish people being defamed, you should not buy this book. In spite of being written in Yiddish and having a "Jewish" author who has the temerity to give himself a Hebrew pen name, "Shalom Aleichem," this books’s vile notions of Jews are not too different from those used by Czarist propagandists

I take especial execption to the short story entitled "Chanukah Gelt." In this story, practically every Jewish family depicted is a traditional two-parent, Orthodox, and has a wife who is a full-time homemaker. So far, so good, this is what chazal says that God wants from us. But Mr. Aleichem slanders such families by depicting every single one of them is totally and irredemably dysfunctional and neurotic.

Doesn't Mr. Aleichem realize that 100 years from now, Rabbi Perry Raphael Rank will urge the Jewish people to follow the example of their "great bubbes and zaydes" and return to the lifestyle of the shtetl? Why would they want to do that after reading one of Mr. Aleichem's books? Doesn't Mr. Aleichem realize that 101 years from now, Ms. Toby Katz, a devout rebbitzin, will demonstrate that the "traditional " lifestyle of the shtetl with full-time homemaker moms is the only way to preserve the Jewish people? How will these rightoeus efforts come to anything if the Jewish people believ in the slnaders propagated by Mr. Aleichem?

Jews in the next century will read Mr. Aleichem's work and realize that Rabbi Rank and Ms. Katz are full of ... well, they will not follow their advice, and they will continue to be secularist Reform and Conservatives, and most of them will probably vote for liberal Democrats, G-d forbid.

Mr. Aleichem should realize the error of his ways. The entire future of the Jewish people is in his hands. He should refrain from writing untill the Artscroll press is founded, and then make sure his work is edited by a God-fearing right-wing Orthodox rabbi.


Anonymous Neo-Conservaguy said...

The problem with "Tevye" is that all too many modern Jews mistakenly elevate that twisted caricature to a misty-eyed representation of the Days of Real Judaism. After all, don't all real, authentic Jews speak Yiddish? Never mind that for a THOUSAND YEARS before Tevye's time the center of Jewish though and law came from Spain and the Middle East and didn't involve a single word of Yiddish. Shocking - I know - but true. How did Rashi and Rambam ever get along without knowing the joys of the shtetl and Yiddish? Somehow, with haShem's merciful help, they seem to manage just fine. Baruch haShem!

12:27 AM  
Blogger Conservative Apikoris said...

Neo-conservaguy, you're missing the point of my post. If you've ever actually read the Shalom Aleichem stories, even in English translation, you will find them to be far from the treacle of "Fiddler on the Roof."

In fact, Shalom Aleichem sometimes wrote with a very barbed pen about his fellow Jews. If he lived in this century and had a blog, I'll bet it would be pretty controversial.

Find a collection of Shalom Aleichem stories and see if you can find "Chanukkah Gelt." (It's called Chanuka Money" in the translation I own.) You'll see what I mean.

And even "fiddler on the Roof" at times is not exactly a recruiting film for shetl life. It makes the Jews look like a bunch of argumetative, superstitious fools.

Thta's my great-grandparents, you're talking about!


8:34 AM  
Blogger The Jewropean said...


I think the German with Jewish words Rashi spoke (kind of like Yeshivish today) was what later developped into Yiddish.

9:48 AM  
Blogger Conservative Apikoris said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

1:39 PM  
Anonymous Neo-Conservaguy said...

Perhaps I misunderstood about our friend "Tevye", but I'll stand by the point I was trying to make about certain bizarre beliefs held by many American Jews regarding the history of "authentic Judaism".

I just did some quick investigation, and there are some arguments about the sum total of Rashi's command of certain languages. Besides his obvious knowledge of biblical Hebrew, most seem to agree that the profane languages he knew were French and German. He wrote at least some glosses in Judeo-French, sometimes translating difficult Hebrew words into French to help local students. His glosses preserve Old French, apparently to the delight of French language historians.

I have nothing at all against Yiddish - I wish I could speak and understand it. I'm pointing out that there are several other important languages of "the people" in Jewish history - Aramaic, Judeo-Spanish (Ladino), Judeo-French, Arabic, etc.

8:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Again, with Rabbi Rank references? What's up with you? Just get some therapy!

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