There is a Greek island located in the north-eastern Aegean Sea called Lebos. It has an area of 630 square miles with almost 200 miles of coastline. It is a beautiful place with a population today of about 90,000 souls living a gay and happy life in the beautiful air of this part of the Mediterranean. The people of Lebos, men and women, refer to themselves as Lebians, though in the last fifty years this name has been usurped. The reason may become evident in my story.
Until the second world war, Lebos had a sizeable Jewish community. This community probably goes back to Roman Empire times. The authority over autonomous Jewish life in Lebos was given to the Rabbi. He was given much freedom by the secular authorities. During most of the history of the Lebian Jewish community, the position of Rabbi was held by the leading Lebian scholar of the generation. Sometimes this necessitated bringing a rabbi from other parts of Europe. The community was wealthy because of it's involvement in international trade and so was able to support many leading scholars. The authority of the Rabbi was accepted by the different factions of Lebian Jews: Ashkenazi, Sephardi, Italians and Turks.
About 200 hundred years ago there was a change in the method of appointing the Lebian leader. The Lebians were so happy with their then scholarly and saintly appointment, Rabbi Threesman, that they appointed his son as successor. Though the son was not up to his father's intellectual level, he was a nice man. His son however was definitely in the grandfather's league, so on the demise of his father, the Lebians were more than happy to appoint him their mentor.
The old Rabbi Threesman published a number of books on both the hidden and revealed sections of the Tora and Jewish learning. This includes a very important rule book (Shulḥan Arukh) which became known as the Lebian Shulḥan Arukh. While a brilliant summary of Jewish jurisprudence, the Jews of Lebos seemed to prefer to follow what they believe the good Rabbi had done rather than what he wrote. Sort of "do as I do and not as I say" attitude, though there is no documentary proof that this was Threesman's intention. Of course as they needed an excuse for not following the rabbi's written word, they claim that the rabbi wrote his Shulḥan Arukh for the Jews of the world and not for Lebians. These practices of the rabbi are now commonly referred to as "Lebian Customs".
The old English Proverb goes, "All good things must come to an end" and so they did to 2,000 years of Jewish Lebianism's freedom. The clouds of anti-Semitism rolled onto Greek shores in the form of the Nazi S.S. Nearly all the Jews were deported and murdered by the Germans — very few survived. The then Lebian Rabbi, the sixth in the Threesman line, managed to escape, with his large library of Jewish learning, eastwards to Phong Chong, where he was able to re-establish his Lebian community. He built a wonderful centre of learning around his library, but by this time he was old and tired, and was not able to do much to rebuild, let alone to expand his empire. Interestingly this is always been referred to as the Lebian Empire, even though other rabbis of esteem lived in Phong Chong at the time of his arrival. The "Phong Chong Rabbi" remains known as "the Lebian".
Unfortunately for the Lebian line, this Rabbi only had three daughters — no sons, thus no heir. One of his daughters died soon after their arrival in Phong Chong of a mysterious disease. The other two girls married Lebian scholars who had also miraculously managed to escape the Nazi onslaught on Hellas as they were studying at universities in other parts of Europe at the time. These young men joined the Rabbi in Phong Chong.
For reasons only known to the old Rabbi, he did not appoint a successor. When he passed away, a leadership vacuum was created re the continuation of the Threesman Lebian leadership. The Rabbi's wife favoured appointing the older of her two sons-in-law as the next leader. She planned to announce this at the end of the traditional seven days traditional mourning period. Now the Lebian custom was that the appointment of Rabbi was confirmed with the donning by the new leader of old Rabbi Threesman's coat.
However, one evening during the seven mourning days, as the younger son-in-law, Rabbi Nachman, entered the room for prayers, a brightspark disciple jumped up and pronounced, "Long live Nachman, the new Lebian Rabbi!". Everyone responded, "l'chaim, to life", in assent. The old Lebian Rebbetzin was beside herself in anger. She responded, "I will not give you the old Rabbi's coat!", to which a cheeky Nachman responded, "I'll be the first Lebian Rabbi without a coat!". And so it was, he never wore a coat again, just a white shirt and white knitted kippa. And the disciples all followed suit.
Now that they lived in Phong Chong, it actually made a lot sense — the summer heat and humidity can be debilitating. Unfortunately, many of the disciples, who later moved to cold climates like Leningrad, (where many live today) don't realise the source of the dress code, and still walk around outside in minus twenty degree (plus windchill factor) cold in nothing more than their tzitith covered with a white shirt.
The appointment of Nachman left his brother-in-law's family somewhat destitute. Not long after, the brother-in-law died. His son (Nachman's nephew) felt that he was a true heir of his grandfather. So, as he was short a quid, he "took" home some books from his grandfather's library. The library which was not used very much any more, was under the care of an old friend of the deceased rabbi. The nephew was correct in his thinking, and the books he "borrowed" were noticed to be missing until most of them had been sold. Nachman was furious when he found out, insisting that all the books, including those already sold, were returned. He even took his nephew to the courts of the land to force the return of the books. It was an embarrassing family feud.
Spurred on by the liberal economic climate in Phong Chong, Rabbi Nachman moved quickly to build and consolidate a new Lebian Empire. He trained many young men who were attracted to Phong Chong to learn Tora with him. He sent these young men as his personal emissaries all over the world, establishing Lebian communities around the globe. Wherever one could drink Pepsi-Cola, Lebians were now to be found.
At first, everything appeared to bode well with the Lebian Jews vis-à-vis the rest of the Jewish world. But gradually "funny" things started to happen re their practice. They had to do things a little different from everyone else. At first, just little things. But eventually these seemed to became breaches of accepted Jewish law and custom. The Lebians recognised their rabbi for his brilliance, but when they started to claim him as "the" unique leader of the Jewish World, God's very gift to the Jewish world, unequalled since the time of the Gaonim, many started to worry. It sometimes seemed that the Rabbi himself believed these claims and started to attempt to fill these large shoes. He was in enough control of his empire to stop it if he had wanted. He really was a powerful leader, and Lebians would not ignore his requests.
And so it was that I was in a city far from home where there was a large Lebian community, run by a very outgoing and rotund Lebian-trained rabbi. He gave a regular Talmud lesson on Shabath afternoons. I once went along. The participants were not Lebians, just ordinary straight Jews. At that point in time most of the people in this synagogue were not followers. Gradually this changed, and the next generation firmly embraced Lebianism.
Anyway, this group was learning the second chapter of the tractate of Sukoth. Here the Talmud discusses whether one who sleeps under his bed in a Suka has fulfilled his obligation. However this rabbi said that this was just a theoretic question, as according to the Shulḥan Arukh one must not sleep in a suka. As he did not specify to which book he referred, I first looked in the original Shulḥan Arukh by Rav Yosef Karo, the accepted arbitrator of Jewish law and custom to see if this was true. Well, there it was in black and white, that the main observation of suka is to sleep in it. So I figured he obviously meant the Lebian Shulḥan Arukh. No, there too it says that sleeping in the suka is an obligation. So why did this Rabbi lie to me (and the other ten people) at the lesson? Is this part of a planned effort?
To round off the story, Rabbi Nachman, died childless, and his now worldwide Lebian disciples, still internationally headquartered in Phong Chong, decided not to appoint a successor. It seems now to have become a Lebian tradition to not appoint successors if there is not a son, the obvious choice. Instead many of them believe that their leader, though buried near his home, is still somewhere, leading them from afar. Their leader may be living on the planet of Jupiter. I think they think that Rabbi Nachman has moved in with Elvis and together they send messages from up there. Rav Nachman still makes all the decisions.
Of course claiming the eternity of a dead man is a great gift to Christianity. We Jews have always claimed that the J-man is a false prophet, a fake messiah, precisely because the Mashiaḥ must be a regular human being, someone who will be the accepted leader of all Yisrael. By claiming eternity to the Lebian Rabbi, they are granting credence to Catholicism. It is not possible that the Jewish people will accept the dead Lebian as their king!
I guess someone is in control of the Lebians. There must be because the Lebian empire is now a huge, money-making machine, but the real leader remains unknown to those outside the organisation — and I suspect to just about everyone inside it as well.
Menachem Kuchar, 13th July, 2007
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