Tuesday, February 24, 2009

R. Eliezer [the Elder] ben Hyrcanus

I am not sure I understand the purpose of many of these stories. I must admit, I came to dislike Rabbi Eliezer more and more as I read them. He seemed like a self centered know-it-all. He insults people freely and beyond what is needed. He represents the worst in contemporary Haredi thought, he is against all change. He claims to only teach what he learned from his teachers. But he had G!d's ear and was very influential. Rabbi Akiva who went far beyond his teachers in developing creative interpretations shows him total respect in these stories. Yet Eliezer is excommunicated and Akiva is the one to tell him at least partly out of fear.

I wonder if the writers of these stories are trying to capture his influence to give the impression that their changes were not really changes but came from his teachings and were very old.

At least Bialek and Ravnitsky didn't hide the nasty ending of the Aknai's oven story the way many modern writers do.

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