Legend has it that the renowned Mark Twain had a great grandson who, upon reading his ancestor's writings concerning the Jews,was so greatly inspired, that he ultimately converted to Judaism.1 Subsequently, he wrote this column in the Jewish Wayward2:
If the statistics are right, the Hareidim constitute but five percent of the Jewish race. Properly, the Hareidi ought to be hardly heard of; but he is heard of, always has been heard of. He has made a marvelous fight in this world, in all ages; and has done it with his hands tied behind him. He could be vain of himself, and be excused for it. The Hellinist the Sadducee and the Karaite rose filled the planet with sound and splendor, then faded to dream stuff and passed away; the Maskil and the Yesvekzia followed, and made a vast noise, and they are gone; the Bundists, Reform, and Zionists have sprung up and held their torch high for a time, but it burned out, and they sit in twilight now, or have vanished. The Hareidi saw them all, beat them all, and is now what he always was, exhibiting no decadence, no infirmities of age, no weakening of his parts, no slowing of his energies, no dulling of his alert and aggressive mind. All Jews are mortal but the Hareidi; all other forces pass but he remains. What is the secret of his immortality?
- Shmuel Langbordt Cleminitz
What is the secret of his immortality, indeed?
It is said3 that David Ben Gurion made concessions to the chareidim because he fully expected that within fifty years, they would fade to dream stuff and pass away.
He didn't know the secret.
It is told that when Rabbi Yosef Kahaneman instituted a campaign to build a yeshiva for a thousand-plus students on a dusty desolate hilltop outside Tel Aviv, he was mocked and ridiculed, yet he prevailed. The story goes that one potential benefactor admonished him, "You are dreaming!" He responded, "I am dreaming, but I am not sleeping."
That was merely a clever retort but it was not the truth. He was not dreaming. He knew the secret.
Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakai preserved the immortality of the chareidim by petitioning the Roman General Vespasian with a seemingly innocuous request.4
He knew the secret.
Vespasian granted the request.
He did not know the secret.
Every year more and more Jews come to identify with the chareidim.
They have discovered the secret.
A lesser number fall away from the society.
They have lost the secret.
It is an old secret and it has never been guarded, yet so very few know it.
Those who know it are eager to share it. They proclaim it loudly, yet so very few hear it.
It seems to have been very carefully hidden, but it is in plain sight, and so few see it.
I know the secret. I learned it from my great-great grandfather, Rabbi Shlomo Isaacson. He wrote it down for me. Not only for me, but for all his descendants and students. Almost a thousand years ago.
It is time to reveal the chareidi's secret of immortality.
Step into the Holy of Holies on the Day of Atonement and catch a glimpse of the secret:
"And he shall take from the blood of the bull and he shall sprinkle with his finger on the eastern surface of the covering; and before the covering, he shall sprinkle seven times of the blood in his finger."5
Writes Rabbi Isaacson: "And before the covering he shall sprinkle seven times - Thus we have one above and seven below."
1 I am totally making this up!
2 The original text of these excerpts can be found in the Appendix at the end of this book (page 303)
3 From here on in, I am not making anything up.
4 Talmud Bavli Gittin 56b
5 Leviticus 16:14