08 March 2015

Scattered Thoughts on the Footage from the Knessiah Gedolah

Last night I lamented in writing that (at least in my limited experience – I could be totally wrong about this) while it is possible to seek out stories about the talmidim of, say, the mussar yeshivos, it is a little harder to find stories about the talmidim of the Aruch laNer, to give a real tzura of what a gadol from Frankfurt was like.

This was the last thing I wrote before I went to sleep.
Then I woke up and pretty much the first thing I saw in the morning was this (thank you Prof. Weingrad):


(I'm linking to Rabbi Bechhofer's because he posted the list of who's who)

Hazorim bdima brina yiktzoru, it is the footage from the first Knessia Gedola (I guess – it says Vienna, not Katowice); it is footage of Moreinu Rosenheim, and one R' Ehrmann (but he can't be the one I'm thinking of, right?), and some others whose names are not as familiar to me; and – R' Chaim Ozer, and – R' Elchanan - Wasserman, and – the Chofetz Chaim.

For this video the Internet was created.

(Let me just translate that a minute:
I had been lamenting that I don't know how to get a clear idea of what the great Torah scholars of Germany were like; but this film has a few of them in it, along with some from eastern Europe who have been a household name for the past 70 years but whom nobody has ever seen on film.)

Nevertheless, thank G-d there was no movie camera at Sinai, or in the sukkah of Pachad Yitzchak, or at any other event in between.
I say this because in watching a film it is hard not to confuse the event itself with the film of it.

Still, it is hard not to be disappointed when a man in the film puts his hand over the camera.

The Torah world gets its learning from texts and conversation. This is the only time I have seen it converge around a film.

I hope that teachers and parents will continue to allow their children many years of Chofetz Chaim stories before they show this film. I want my daughter to know the Chofetz Chaim as the Chofetz Chaim of the sefarim he authored and of the stories before she ever sees the Chofetz Chaim as a figure on a screen.
Lehavdil elef alfei havdalos, my mother did not let me see Fantasia until I was twelve. Once you have seen Fantasia, whenever you hear one of the pieces in it you have to try hard to think of the music as music, rather than as an accompaniment to the film you are not watching.

It is an immense gift to the generation that this film has come to its attention.

To be able to see how a person carries himself – is a most extraordinary thing.

I imagine the good folks at the University of South Carolina trying to fathom what just happened.
How would I explain what it means to us to see the Chofetz Chaim on film – or what the Chofetz Chaim means to us?
I cast about for analogies – analogies fail me.

If the Chofetz Chaim is on Youtube, then anything is possible.
Excuse me a moment while I go fill up my oil lamp with vinegar.
I feel like this changes the nature of the Internet entirely.

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