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Wednesday, July 12, 2006


Tales of Emunah: True or False?

I just discovered a very disturbing problem: In the July 2006 issue of The Announcements, a Monsey ad book, a story called "United Flight 175" appears on page 76.

Essentially, the story is that a frum Jewish man was on the plane, realized that he forgot his tefillin in the terminal at Logan Airport, and made a huge fuss until the flight crew let him off the plane to retrieve them. The plane left without him, was subsequently hijacked and flown into WTC Tower 2, and this yid survived because of his dedication to the mitzvah of tefillin.

And, the story continues, because of his actions, the plane was delayed in taking off, which put an 18-minute gap between the two planes hitting the towers, and that led to thousands of more lives saved.

According to the post-script, this story appears in a 2002 book called "Even in the Darkest Moments," by Zeev Breier. This book has been quoted widely and even excerpted on Aish.com.
I was suspicious. Why had I never heard this story before? I looked it up online, and sure enough, snopes.com - the main site for debunking myths - reports that the story never happened.

It never happened!


Read the report on snopes and decide for yourself. It seems pretty straightforward.

So what are we supposed to believe? Is the story about R' Elyashiv on page 48 also a little bit of a white lie? Was Zeev Breier fooled by someone who claimed to be telling a firsthand story? Or did he make it up?

We've already seen many instances where stories about gedolim or chasidishe rebbes (and I don't mean the two are mutually exclusive) are interchangeable - some say it happened to Rebbe1, some say it happened to Rebbe2, and so on. But how many of these stories are just fabrications? Anyone?

Terry Pratchett, a brilliant British author, once wrote, "A lie can travel 'round the world before the truth has got its boots on." I just wish that weren't the case with stories that are supposed to inspire and give chizuk to people.

And then, the more frightening question: If people are inspired and strengthened by the story, does it really matter whether it's true?

A former chevrusah of my (who had his share of problems with the community) use to say that the EMES always comes out. I've seen it time and time again in my life and various employment situations. Great post.
Your question is a good one. I think for the non-frum or non-Jewish world, an inspiring story need not be non-fiction. Aesop is a great example.
For us me I prefer emes. A story like the one you blogged about is like eating a piece of delicious cake and then finding out it was made with lard.
Why does a story have to be true in order for it to be inspiring? Were you not inspired by King Lear? Do you mean to say that The Good Earth is not inspiring because it never happened?
The only problem is when fiction is presented as fact. As a rule, I am of the position that the mere fact that a story was published in Artscroll is not enough to make it true. But if the story is inspiring, I am inspired. I do not find the 'United Flight 175' to be inspiring in any way. And even if it was true, I would not be moved by it. (I'd of course be happy for the guy and his family)

See this link for a story going around Jerusalem causing some controversy.
The snopes.com report doesn't give a complete argument at all. Instead of labeling the story false based on a large set of assumptions (like the guy must have had more than just a carry on piece of luggage--I travel for business a lot and even if Im staying one night, I never check in a bag), they should have just left it as a status unknown. Also, a one-two minute delay out of the gate can easily cause a longer delay because you fall behind other planes who are scheduled to leave right after you.
Anyways, my point is that snopes.com is not making a complete argument at all, and is not a be-all-end-all source for this topic.
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