Friday, June 15, 2012

The Brazen Chazzan

Not many are aware that the Bach, zt”l, had a big detractor who always worked to undermine him. This person was none other than the chazzan of the community. The two had wrangled before since the chazzan was quite vocal about his belief that studying gemara was unnecessary for arriving at the correct pask. In his opinion, learning Tur, Shulchan Aruch and their commentaries was sufficient for this. The Bach disagreed strongly. When the Bach came out with his heter to eat the new grain of chutz l’aretz, this chazzan felt certain that he had erred. Although the Bach points out that gedolei olam had permitted chodosh and even beer made from chodosh, this chazzan began to denigrate the Bach. He would go from group to group, wondering aloud how long they would continue to have, “an ignoramus for a rav.” One Shabbos, the chazzan noticed an error in the sefer Torah from which they were reading and ordered them to take out a new sefer. The Bach disagreed, explaining that it was a minor error and they could continue to read from this sefer. The chazzan cursed the Bach out in public, accusing him of being ignorant of the halachah. It was only when the Bach announced that the man deserved to be put into a form of cherem that cannot easily be revoked that the chazzan finally slunk out. The chazzan ran to the Rav of Lublin and succeeded in convincing him to give a psak not to call the Bach up to the Torah. The Bach wrote this rav a sharp letter explaining that the chazzan was an ignorant sinner who only knew how to read from the Torah. He demanded the Rav of Lublin to repeal his psak, which he eventually did. When Rav Nosson Gestetner, zt”l, told over this story he commented, “We must learn a lesson from this. Despite the Bach’s greatness he was confronted with terrible difficulties. Despite such hardships, he strengthened himself. Even with these obstacles, he taught Torah and wrote works that give us vitality to this day!”

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