Monday, March 12, 2007

Another Historic Cover-up: The Ben Ish Chai

In the recent issue of Hakirah, Dan Rabinowitz wrote a very interesting essay regarding the Halachot of wearing a Yarmulke. He goes on to discuss the trend within the past 50 years that completely removes any discussion regarding the obligation to keep one's head covered at all times.

Rabinowitz printed three photographs to help prove his point (two where the subject's head is uncovered and one where one of the previous photos has mysteriously grown a kippah). He also spoke about - though unfortunately did not provide the picture - that a common photograph of the Lubavitcher Rebbe that originally had him without a kippah.

I find it interesting that we try to re-write history to remove any of that evil "C" word (change). I noticed two months ago a similar revising of history.

This is the Ben Ish Chai, R'Yosef Chaim Baghdadi (1832-1909):
This is the only picture of him that ever existed. As the story goes he refused to have his picture taken, until the rich supporter of his Yeshiva requested one, and he relented. If you notice there is a black stripe on the right side - yes, he wore Tefillin all day long.

This is the cover of Peninei HaBen Ish Chai published by Feldheim.

If you notice he has suddenly grown a Peyah on his left side. I'm pretty sure that he did in fact have peyot, but this is clearly an addition to the photograph. I'm stumped as to why someone would want to add this, the man wore Tefillin all day long, it isn't like there are no signs that he is frum. A friend of mine suggested that the artist who colored the picture may have thought he saw one and drew it in, but until I bought this book I never thought there was a peyah there, if anything the beard in the original just needed to be combed.

This is nowhere near the "scandal" that Rabinowitz speaks about, but peyot are not even Halachikly mandated which is why is seems so strange to me that, of all things, it would be added.


Anonymous said...

I guess it's all in the eye of the beholder, because before I even saw the second picture, I perceived a peyah on his left side. Certainly, the second picture renders it more prominent, but nevertheless I don't necessarily think they consciously manufactured something, or intended to create a falsehood.

Natan said...

I can see how one could see that but in the new picture it seems to me that the new Peyah is coming out of his beard such an odd angle that it is not part of the new rendering.

Anonymous said...

1st of all I heard personally from a Mekubal in Jerusalem (since passed away) that the Ben Ish Hhai had very thick peyoth & almost the length of his beard.
2ndly Peyoth are Halakhikly required by Torah law.