Dec 28, 2006

the affect of famous people

A couple of months ago Rabbi Yitzchak Solomon posted an interesting 1 minute video (really they are all interesting, but I am commenting on this one) in his series of "Something to Think About" on the website.

The clip was one referring to the plane crash in which a baseball pitcher for the New York Yankees named Cory Lidle died. Rabbi Solomon was discussing the fact that people lament the loss of a celebrity but neglect to realize that along with, for example, Cory Lidle in that plane crash also died the pilot who was a husband and a father and is a great tragedy to his family. He asked why we get all excited about news of a celebrity and not of the other people connected. Why do we not mourn the loss of the pilot?

Rabbi Solomon's point was good. It is a loss. Every person is a world and every person has people who care about him or her. Anybody who dies, especially if it is in an unusual manner, is a tragedy.

That being said, I think it is understandable that we, the general public who usually knew neither the celebrity nor the pilot (in this example) personally but were familiar with and maybe adored the celebrity, think about the celeb and forget the non-celeb. The celebrity somehow touched our lives.

For example, in the case of this plane crash, I was not affected by the death of Cory Lidle. I was not a fan of his. In fact I had never heard of him. I hardly even paid attention to the story when it happened. To me, his death was no more and no less tragic then the death of the pilot. But if it had been somebody else who had died, maybe I would have been affected (depending on who it was).

Why am I writing about this now?

In yesterday's daf in daf yomi, in Rosh Hashana 22b, the gamara was discussing the details of witnesses coming to beis din to testify regarding the status of the moon in order to declare the new month. One of the points under discussion was the fact that the witnesses must also bring charachter witnesses (references of sorts) to tell beis din that these guys are kosher Jews and trustworthy. After all, beis din has no idea who they are, so a reference clears things up.

The gemara discusses how many references the witness needs. One or two. The gemara mentions a story in which the witness went to Jerusalem to testify and along with him went Rav Nehorai as a charachter witness. The gemara wants to prove from this that he only needs one reference, not two. The gemara rejects the claim by explaining that really that witness had two references. It only mentioned Rav Nehorai and left out the other guy because Rav Nehorai was so great it says, "משום כבודו של רב נהוראי" - because of the greatness (honor) of Rav Nehorai.

In other words, because Rav Nehorai was a celebrity (of sorts), it is normal to not mention the other guy accompanying him.

When President Bush shows up, nobody mentions the aides that are with him. When Rav Elyashiv shows up somewhere, nobody mentions the shamash who tags along. When Ehud Olmert shows up somewhere, nobody discusses the name of the guy who drove him. When Cory Lidle dies, nobody mentions the pilot.

Sure, each person is important, and his death is tragic to those close to him. But the celebrity has a different status.


  1. bare with me on this for a second, its a little winded but (i hope) makes it's point.
    I have been seeing a lot of 911 videos with conspiracy theories and the like. Things like the plane that went down in PA was really a farce and it wasn't a plane at all. Or the government really brought down the towers themselves. Or the large amounts of pentagon theories (which are perhaps some of the most convincing of all of them). And what keeps coming back to me, is where are the families of these "non-existant" planes? Why can't the families come out and say, my husband was on that plane, so be quiet! You would think if the families can prove to the theorists that their relatives were on the plane, there isn't much to argue...
    I think the answer i have is because just what you said, they aren't famous. No one knows who they are, and the media gets more hype and ratings out of the conspiracies rather than the truth.
    We hear, see and know what the news tells us. And if they aint famous, we aint gonna hear about it.
    I dont know if this made sense, but it's a question i've been working on for some time.

  2. I hear you.

    There is also another facet though. Oftentimes, the families affected try to ignore conspiracy theories. TYhey try to not respond. Once they respond, even to reject the theory, it gives a certain credence to the theory. Also, they are probably just as in the dark as everybody else. They probably want the truth as much as anybody else, even if it invovles a conspiracy, so they do not say to stop.

  3. rafi - great post - is there a way to get your point to R' solomon? I know you don't care whether he gets it really, but your terutz to his point is ax excellent oneMoshe went everywhere with Yehoshua, yet we find that mentioned only a couple of times because that situation seemed strange for yehoshua to be there, e.g. har sinai. Otherwise we don't mention yehoshua as being by moshes side that much.


Related Posts

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...