Thursday, April 03, 2008

Another Version Or A Literary Embellishment?

Excerpt from Four Hasidic Masters and Their Struggle against Melancholy by Elie Wiesel:

One day Reb Barukh visited his brother, Reb Ephraim and saw the poverty of his home—he had candlesticks made of clay and not of silver. “Do not be sad,” said Rebbe Ephraim, “the light is the same.” Shortly afterward, Reb Barukh offered his brother a set of silver candlesticks. But when he came to visit him again, they were not to be seen.

“Where are they?” he wanted to know.”

“At the pawnbroker’s,” said Reb Ephraim, “I needed money.”

“And it doesn’t bother you?” asked Reb Barukh.

“No,” said his brother. “I’ll tell you why. I prefer to be at home and have my silverware elsewhere—than the other way around.”

A hint of criticism? Maybe, though it would seem out of character. Reb Ephraim, the elder brother, was a gentle, sweet, unassuming man who never offended anyone—and would never have sought to pain his brother. So humble was Reb Ephraim that in his important book, Degel machnei ephraim, he is content with quoting the Besht and his immediate disciples and almost never speaks on his own behalf. Still, Reb Barukh must have envied him, for he once remarked: “I have not written a book—thank G-d for that.”

Compare this with a different version of the story here.


At April 3, 2008 at 1:48:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

How did Elie Wiesel know that R' Ephraim was "a gentle, sweet, unassuming man who never offended anyone"? The last time I checked, Wiesel was born 100 years after R' Ephraim died.

At April 3, 2008 at 1:49:00 PM EDT, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

128 years to be exact ;)

At April 3, 2008 at 3:40:00 PM EDT, Blogger Chaviva Gordon-Bennett said...

Perhaps he consulted secondary sources? The tradition of conversation with those born hundreds of years before and after us is a strong one in Judaism. Without it, well, we wouldn't know much about any of the great sages :)

At April 3, 2008 at 9:14:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

While Chassidic stories as reported by primary sources (or by the oldest sources available, or by recent Rebbeim or Chassidim belonging to the same group as the original author) may lack some literary distinction, I believe they are the closest to the real stories.

For example, the reworking of Rebbe Nachman's stories by more modern authors like Martin Buber always seemed to change something significant in the stories themselves, for literary or other reasons. I doubt such changes have to do with alternative old sources.

At June 3, 2008 at 6:00:00 PM EDT, Blogger redsneakz said...

If you limit your reading of Buber to his translations and retellings of the Besht or Rebbe Nachman, then yes, you find a great deal of embellishment. If you read "Tales of Hasidim," he is less free with the 'original' stories.

The second mayseh, with Rebbe Ephraim upbraiding his brother about traveling so much, seems out of character with the rest of the stories about him.


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