Are the Legends Necessary?
Recently someone while insisting that Rav Kaduri wasn’t the Rosh Yeshiva of Beit El(in fact he was, aside from testimony of numerous Talmidim I offer you this bit of documentary evidence which was initially put out as a newsletter by the Jewish Studies staff at Hebrew U. Because Yeshivot need to register with the govt in Israel to receive various benefits, who runs them and curriculum also needs to be registered, and so is public record).
Moving on, so the story was that the Shemen Sasson looked like an angel as he walked the earth and even grew several inches every Friday. This story was of course reported to someone from someone else who heard it from one of the Talmidim of Rav Kaduri, who witnessed this with his own eyes. So that is the legend. Now there are a lot of angles to come at this one from. We can go with what was written about the Shemen Sasson both by his contemporaries(such as Rav Dweck ZTzUK”L) or his successors, who typically remarked upon his modesty, and that seeing him on the street(or finding him shopping in the shuk shlepping groceries, as Rav Dweck reports it, one would not by appearances guess the magnitude of the man). You could come at it from that angle.
However I would like to look at it from another angle. That second angle being a simple historical account. Rav Kaduri ZTzUK”L first arrived in Eretz Yisrael in 1923/5683. The Shemen Sasson ZTzUK”L was niftar from this world in 1903/5663(see photo of obituary). That means that the first time Rav Kaduri was able to come to Eretz Yisrael, the Shemen Sasson had already been gone from this world for 20yrs. Historically you simply can’t say that Rav Kaduri witnessed something. The best that you would be able to say that he heard it from those who witnessed it(i.e. the Hakhamei Beit El, amongst whom he would eventually take up residence).
Now here is the thing that I don’t quite understand. Why the need for the fantastic legends? Is the legacy of Torah that he left behind not enough? Is it not enough that the Chazon Ish was impressed by the amkut of his successors(no mean feat that)? The Roshei Yeshivot of Beit El have never sought fame or publicity, in fact if one of them were to be elevated to the position of Zaken HaMekubalim, they were required to step down as Rosh Yeshiva(they lost 2 Roshei Yeshivot that way, first Rav Massoud Alhadad, the successor of the Shemen Sasson, and later Rav Kaduri). Especially do we have to copy a legend that has already been used for the GR”A and the Chafetz Haim.
I’m going to finish this up with something that I heard from Rav Tzion Brakha in the name of Rav M. Sharabi, when discussing “Tzadik stories.” Specifically I was speaking of the one that GR”A never really slept. He said, “You know all of these wonderful stories, that is all the they are, they are just stories. They are the mashal, what is the nimshal. No man can go without sleep, and if you try to learn the secrets of Torah without adequate sleep, you will destroy your mind. So you know the mashal(the parable/fable) what is the nimshal(the moral of the story).”
I could speak at length about the damage done by exaggerating the “miraculous” in our relating of actual nissim(miracles). It does do damage, because when one actually searches out the truth, and finds that it is not the story that is being told today(and I have seen radical changes in the course of just months) it sows the seeds of doubt about a number of things. However, let’s tackle the actual fable here, that the Shemen Sasson grew so much on every Yom Shishi that his pants were suddenly much too short. Let’s see he grew just a single inch(3cm), though I would have to say that I doubt that would qualify for pants suddenly being too short, but think of it, that means within the course of a single year, he would grow a full 1.5meters(4feet). Even if he only grew a single cm every week, he would have been the Jolly Rabbinic Giant in fairly short order. So much for the modest and non-descript man that all of his contemporaries and successors describe. Rav Dweck shouldn’t have had any problems finding him shopping in the shuk, he needed only look for the person who was double the height of a normal human being.
So let’s say there is some truth that was being conveyed in the story. No I don’t believe that the Shemen Sasson actually grew an inch or so every week. But I would be willing to believe that, the depth of his learning was such, that his stature in Torah significantly grew each week. Considering that his successors would go on to impress the Chazon Ish with their depth of learning, certainly the Shemen Sasson must have been an amuk of great measure.
I understand that stories such as these, and those of miracles are spread to induce faith. However, I have a novel idea, let’s either call a fable what it is, or in the case of miracles strive to understate as opposed to overstating them. It would be much better if someone were to investigate the miracle and find that it was indeed more impressive than we say, then the opposite. At least that’s my opinion.