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A Legend about a Good Rabbi

The Humanistic ideology in the Jewish religious practices


The influence of humanistic ideology on the Judaism can be found not only in the institutionalized forms of religion, but also in various Jewish religious practices. As affected of this influence a separate fragments of the sacral text get a new sense and are identified with the New times humanistic ideas. The traditional culture observes its own changes in one of considered cases. In this case the traditional culture reflects the changes by narrative about the act of Rabbi Israel Salanter, cancelled the fast of Yom Kippur 1848 during a cholera epidemic in Vilna. The written and oral stories about this occasion are fixed for the first time in the end of XIX century. They are widely distributed to this day. The stories about this occasion taken from the works of the Jewish historians and biographers are considered. The analysis of these sources allows to conclude, that a folklore features are clearly shown in them. All story-tellers emphasize the gesture of Rabbi Salanter (the eating on the synagogues pulpit) as the most significant episode. This gesture which is not having importance from the Jewish laws point of view, ousts all other details. The weak motivation of this gesture in the narratives forces to search for its motivation outside the text, in the emotional attitude of the story-tellers to those changes, which occur in the traditional culture. However this attitude not is shown, how a story-teller appreciates the act of the hero, and it is shown in the act itself which is attributed to the hero in the traditional narratives. The fact, that the adoption of humanistic ideology connects in considered case with eating food, with unconscious and speechless absorption, deserves, in my opinion, a rapt attention.

Published in Mythology & Day-to-day life. St. Petersburg, 1999, pp. 288-306