February 22, 2005

by Reb Yudel
Ya Gotta' Read Da Classiscs

Yori Yanover, whose USA Jewish blog is temporarily offline, sends the following piece from overseas:

Cross-currents.com blogger Yitzchok Adlerstein is utilizing Arthur Miller's departure as yet another opportunity for self-congratulation which threatens to throw his shoulder from all the patting. Most enjoyable is his educated reference to the teachings of a rav (indicating he's not just any old rabbi, but unzere rabbi) who apparently is still alive (hence the ever comprehensible "shlit'a" entry, as opposed to z'l or ztz'l), who's explicating (1 : to give a detailed explanation, 2 : to develop the implications of : analyze logically -- or, in English, Explain) a midrash:

"Rav Yaakov Galinsky, shlit”a, is fond of explicating a Midrash on the verse in Koheles that soberly tells us that we leave the earth naked as we enter it. The Midrash offers an analogy to a fox, separated by a fence from the vineyard it would love to raid. its ample body cannot pass through the one breach in the fence it finds. Determined to get in, it fasts for days until its emaciated body is able to slip through. Once inside, it eats to his heart’s content, until he tires of all the good food, and decides it is time to move on again. Once again, the fence proves impassable. Once again, it is forced to starve itself in order to fit through the hole. Emerging to the far side of the vineyard, the fox looks back, and realizes that it came into the vineyard hungry, and left the same way."

If the cited "Midrash" seemed familiar, it's probably because you read it in kindergarten or in the first grade, and back then they told you it had been written by Aesop (“Plagiarisms of our Fathers,” now, there’s a bestseller):

"A famished fox crept into a vineyard where ripe, luscious grapes were draped high upon arbors in a most tempting display. In his effort to win a juicy prize, the fox jumped and sprang many times but failed in all his attempts. When he finally had to admit defeat, he retreated and muttered to himself, 'Well, what does it matter anyway? The grapes are sour!'"

Adlerstein's frumspeek is so dripping with ideological autoeroticism, the upgrading of Aesop to midrashic sagehood almost pales by comparison to his metaphor-mixer-on-overdrive conclusion, saying us Jews "understood that every moment of life afforded opportunities to throw bundles of mitzvos over to the other side! Bundles of good deeds would amount to an eternal nest egg."

Bad writing and self-congratulation: a marriage made in heaven, a sheva brochos celebrated further down under... TrackBack


Hunh? Aside from the hungry fox, the midrashic fable and the aesopic fable are completely different. They tell different stories and have different messages. Can't Yanover see that?

Posted by: Zman Biur at February 23, 2005 12:59 PM

my take on this at:

Posted by: josh waxman at February 24, 2005 11:03 AM

i prefer to take on the article on its merits or (in this case) demerits, rather than resorting to ad hominem attacks.

Posted by: josh waxman at February 24, 2005 12:17 PM

The comments here (at lest for now) accept html links. So Josh's response can be found at
by clicking on this link.

Posted by: Reb Yudel at February 24, 2005 12:23 PM

An interesting article somewhat on the topic (of Hazak, not Miller) is "The Talmudic Proverb in its Cultural Setting" -- it's a lot of fun.

Posted by: Reb Yudel at February 24, 2005 12:26 PM

Thanks, Reb Yudel, for the clickable link.

The post has been updated, by the way. Rabbi Uri Cohen emailed me saying he saw the midrash inside on Kohelet 5:14, so the midrash does in fact exist. Perhaps I will update again later with the actual text from the midrash.

Posted by: josh waxman at February 24, 2005 2:12 PM

For those following from the comment section alone, Yori has a reply and update.

Posted by: Reb Yudel at February 24, 2005 9:39 PM

And my reply and update appended to my original response here.


Posted by: josh waxman at March 1, 2005 8:17 AM
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