Thursday, 28 January 2010

Can you say "Rashi was wrong?"

Idol - someone who is adored or followed blindly and excessively.

We, as human beings, have a tendency to idolize the long dead. Men and women who left their written words, music, art work or other creations and then passed away are viewed as wiser, more enlightened. Especially when it comes to religious writers, we shy away from overtly doubting their wisdom or insight.

Need proof?

Here's a question for my Frum friends...when was the last time you said Rashi (or the Ramban or any one of the sages) was Wrong. Not "making a point", or "taking a different view than another sage." Just plain wrong. Mistaken.

When was the last time you saw a statement like that in an orthodox publication? Spoken by a teacher in a Yeshiva?

Would "NEVER" be close to the mark?

And how about my observant Mormon friends? Was Joseph Smith ever wrong in what he wrote or said? Catholics have a doctrine of infallibility when it comes to their Popes, so I won't ask about that. But how about the writers in the Christian Bible -- was Paul just plain wrong on anything? How about Matthew? And to my Muslim friends...was Mohammed ever wrong?

It's not limited to religion...Chopin is considered appropriate music for even the most conservative household, and yet he lived a lifestyle that would put most modern rock stars to shame. The difference? he is long dead, and therefore somehow "better" than the tour-bus riding musicians of today.

The same even happens in families...the longer someone is dead, the more perfect they become. So why is this?

I have a's because the longer someone is gone, the less human they become to us. We all know human beings have flaws and make bad calls. It's hard to ignore when the person on the podium passes gas or fumbles over their words and makes a ridiculous statement. They are very clearly fallible.

But that long dead sage or artist? We are so far removed from ever hearing them burp or getting a whiff of stinky feet that we forget that they were no better and no different from the rest of us. Sometimes insightful, sometimes narrow-minded. Sometimes wise and sometimes foolish. Sometimes right, and sometimes just plain wrong.

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