Friday, April 11, 2008

The Folly of Embellishment

Hirhurim had a post on a couple of days ago about one of the Merkaz HaRav victims that made my blood boil. There is new information on a story about him which was circulated just after the massacre.

For those who may not know about Doron Mahareta – his story is unique. It is special. It is a gut wrenching and yet inspiring story that was originally posted by Rabbi Lazer Brody in his blog, Lazer Beams.

I didn’t post about it because it because it had such wide circulation on the internet. I thought a post by me would just be over-kill. I did not want to be guilty of milking that tragic event for purposes of writing my own blog post.

The story briefly is as follows. Doron was an Ethiopian student whose background in Torah learning was minimal… not enough to earn him entry into the Yeshiva in which he longed to learn. But he was determined to somehow be involved so he got a job working in the Yeshiva kitchen washing dishes. In his off time he spent every spare minute learning Torah.

Long story short - he convinced the Rosh HaYeshiva to test him, which he did reluctantly. Doron passed with flying colors and was immediately admitted as a full fledged student. From there he rose to great learning heights. This young man was described as a modern day Hillel who had done virtually the same thing 2000 tears ago. Then suddenly in his very young life he was cut down in a hail of bullets. On that fateful day he and 7 of his colleagues were brutally slaughtered in the library of the Yeshiva, where the Masmidim spent their leisure time!

Doron's story made the rounds including cross-currents and various e-mail lists. It circulated to thousands of private e-mails where it was forwarded over and over again... tugging at the heartstrings of countless numbers of people.

The problem is the story is false. Here is what Dr. Jeffrey Woolf said about it on his blog, My Obiter Dicta:

Yesterday, I received a phone call from a young member of the Merkaz HaRav faculty (the son of one of my oldest friends), who told me that aside from Doron being a big Lamdan, the story was untrue. He actually was a graduate of Kfar HaRo'eh and was, ab initio, a regular student at Merkaz.

This is an outrage. The tragedy at Merkaz HaRav was bad enough. It needed no embellishment from anyone. That this young man’s death was used in this way is wrong and besmirches the memory of a man who gave his life Al Kiddush Hashem - as false praise always does. He was a Masmid murdered in his prime along with 7 fellow students. Was this not tragic enough? Did it need an embellishment of lies? Lying only compunds the tragedy and in the end dimishes it. Kol HaMoseif Gorei'ah.

Because of this lie, Doron became the subject of focus and it reduced focus on the other victims.

Why the lies? What can be gained from embellishment? Instead of generating sympathy, it generates doubt ...doubt about the veracity of the Jewish people. Who will ever believe us again if we are caught lying at a time like this? What kind of people takes advantage of tragedy by exaggerating it to gain sympathy or make Hashkafic points?

It brands us all as a bunch of opportunists! It casts doubt on every tragedy that ever happened to us as a people. It even gives fuel to those who say we exaggerate the holocaust.

I don’t know who Rabbi Brody is - or anything about him. I will even grant that his intentions were good. Perhaps he heard the story from someone he considered a reliable source and simply reported it on his blog as he heard it. Or he may have misunderstood or misintepreted information he got. Or he may have embellished - thinking - what's so bad about embellishing someone's stature in a eulogizing post. People exaggerate all the time in eulogies. Acharei Mos - Kedoshim.

But it's wrong and in the end a Chilul HaShem resulted.

Modified: 4/13/08 1:51 PM CDT