David Bruce: 250 Anecdotes About Religion, Volume 2 — Problem-Solving, Rabbis

Problem-Solving

• A woman complained to R’ Eizel Charif that she had been abandoned by her husband and that he refused to support her; therefore, she wanted a divorce, but her husband refused to give her one. R’ Eizel Charif summoned the husband, who said that he would give his wife a divorce if she would give him a large sum of money (which his wife, a poor woman, did not have), but without the money, there would be no divorce. R’ Eizel Charif took Maseches Kiddushin from his bookcase, opened it to the first Mishnah, then showed the volume to the husband and said, “See what it says: ‘She acquires herself [that is, goes free] in [one of] two ways … by divorce or through the death of the husband.’ Now you can choose by which of the two your wife will acquire her freedom.” The husband decided on the divorce.

• One problem faced by many religious people is how to avoid persecution. The story behind the game of dreidel is serious. Jews were forbidden to worship, but they worshipped anyway, gathering together to study the Torah. At these times, they had money and a dreidel nearby. When soldiers came near, the Jews gathered around the dreidel and pretended to be gaming. Early Christians did something similar by decorating their houses with holly. Holly was sacred to Saturn, and so by decorating their houses with holly, early Christians avoided trouble because pagan soldiers thought they were dedicated followers of Saturn.

• Muhammad, the prophet of Islam, was a good problem solver. All the clans around Mecca wanted the honor of repairing the Ka’ba shrine, so the clans worked together so that all could share the honor. However, the greatest honor lay in replacing the sacred black stone, and the clans could not agree on who would have that honor. Fortunately, Muhammad came up with a solution. He advised that the sacred black stone be placed on a cloak and a representative from each clan be stationed around the cloak. That way, working together, representatives from all the clans could lift the sacred black stone into place and all the clans could share that great honor.

Rabbis

• Rabbi Nissen Telushkin noticed several times that a rich man with a high standing in the community insisted on sitting at the back of the synagogue although he was entitled to a seat up front. This man carefully watched to see if anyone noticed that he had chosen a humble seat. Finally, Rabbi Telushkin said to the man, “It would be better if you sat up front, and thought that you should be seated in the back, rather than to sit in the back, and think the whole time that you should be seated in the front.”

• The wife of Rabbi Wolfe of Zbaraj quarreled with her female servant. Because they could not settle the quarrel, the two women began to leave for the rabbinical court. However, when Rabbi Wolfe got up to go with them, his wife told him, “I don’t need your help.” Rabbi Wolfe replied, “That is true. Everybody knows and respects you, but no one knows and respects this poor servant girl. I am going with you to help her and to plead her case.”

• For the 1991 Emmy-winning Simpsons episode “Like Father, Like Clown,” Rabbi Levi Meier and Rabbi Harold Schulweis provided religious expertise. Their names appeared as technical consultants in the credits, and immediately Rabbi Schulweis became a celebrity in the eyes of his congregation. He said, “I became an instant hero among my young people. I was cool.”

• A visitor from the United States visited Polish rabbi Hafez Hayyim and noted that the rabbi’s house was filled with books, but had only a table and a bench for furniture. “Where is your furniture?” asked the visitor. “Where is your furniture?” asked Rabbi Hayyim in turn. “My furniture? But I’m only visiting here!” the visitor said. Rabbi Hayyim replied, “So am I.”

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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