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Sep 28, 2006

deserving of mercy

Dudu Topaz is an interesting person. He is an Israeli television personality. He is very popular and he seems to do outrageous things to draw people in to his show and increase his ratings.

Last night, Dudu Topaz performed an outrageous, and in my opinion stupid, stunt. Why he did it, I do not know. There does not seem to have been a point to it, other than the fact that it has not yet been done (I have no idea if that is true) and would increase ratings. It was not a test of endurance and stamina, which despite the stupidness of some of David Blaines stunts, at least they had that factor. It was simply a stunt for stunts sake.

NOTE: I did not see the stunt performed. I read about it in the newspaper this mornign on the way to work. It has been on the radio and people have been talking about it.

What was the stunt?

Dudu Topaz lit himself on fire. He coated himself with protective materials and coatings and lit the match. I am told by people who saw it that it was a very impressive display.

I do not see the attraction in this that people should run to watch his show. I even find it kind of stupid and boring. Yes, it was risky, but he took all the proper precautions (I guess it was not enough as you will soon see), so what he did was really kind of pointless and unimpressive. I would be much mroe impressed with a fascinating stunt that actually tests his skills and abilities.

Anyways, the local news have been reporting that Dudu Topaz did not come out of his stunt unscathed. He came out with an injury to his ear. He seems to have burned something, despite the precautions he took, and is undergoing examinations to determine how much damage and how permanent it will be.

People are glued to their radios listening for an update to his condition. When the radio says something about him everybody starts clucking their tongues (one of the Israeli gestures that Americans usually hate, such as the upturned squeezed fingers meaning wait a minute, the tsk of the tongue, the shoulder shrug, among others) meaning "poor guy".

Is this guy deserving of our condern and mercy? He did an incerdibly stupid act and he knew the risks involved. It is not like something beyond his control happened. He did it to himself. yes, we Jews are Rachmanim B'nei Rachmanim, but does that apply to this situation. Are we meant to be concerned with people who bring such misfortune upon themselves?

My initial thoughts were that the guy is an idiot and deserves whatever damage they find in his ear or anywhere else on his body. He does not deserve our rachmanus.

Then, as I was writing this post, the thought struck me. We are in the midst of the Aseres Y'Mei Teshuva, the Ten Days of Repentance. We are asking of Hashem every day to forgive us for our sins. In a few days is Yom Kippur when we will spend the whole day in shul fasting and praying, beseeching Hashem for rachmanus and mercy we probably do not always deserve. We will be asking Him to forgive us and change our fates/destinies/futures for good. We will be asking Him to cancel our punishments, even for punishments we brought upon ourselves by our blatant sinning.

Maybe during these Aseres Y'Mei Teshuva we should show compassion and mercy even to those not necessarily deserving of it, so we can go with a clear conscience to Hashem and ask Him to show compassion and mercy to us even if we do not deserve it.

Refuah Shleimah Dudu.


  1. I watched the show (I was waiting for "Whose Line..." to start...

    I saw him all dressed up in the fire suit, and he had no head covering of any kind other than some sort of liquid or gel. There didn't seem to be any kind of build up to the stunt, other than, "ok, we just finished talking to this guest, now let's light me on fire."

    The flames took incredibly quickly and within seconds the safety personnel had put out the flames - but while they were lit they went above his head and it was clear to see that his ear (his right) was burned.

    I think the real thing to worry about, rather than if he deserves our pity/sorry/emphathy or not, is, what could possibly have led him and his producers to think that this was safe? He barely had any protection!

    It just leaves me confused.

  2. I guess the quest for higher ratings make people do stupid things...

  3. "shomer Pi'saim Hashem".

    Actually rafi - "Im Ha'avaryanim". we daven with the sinners on YK because we want rachamim for all. Hate the sin, Love the sinner. blah blah blah....you get the point.

    Really, you should have rachamim on him because he's an idiot. Instead of saying "good, he deserved it", you should have said "oy, nebech, shoteh v'aino yodeah mah hoo oseh".

    Besides, I can synpathize with him. I do stupid stuff all the time. if I were in his shoes making my living by garnering as much publicity as I could, i see myself doing the same thing (just ask Matis if i would). Yes, I am an idiot too!

    love ya

  4. yes, we Jews are Rachmanim B'nei Rachmanim, but does that apply to this situation. Are we meant to be concerned with people who bring such misfortune upon themselves?

    Our ancestors chose to be Jews. They knew the risks involved; they knew they would be hated and despised by the world, but they chose to follow and serve HaShem anyway. Does that justify the endless massacres and murderings of Jews throughout history? Absolutely not. But no Jew who truly identifies as a Jew with their entire heart, soul, mind, and strength, can fool themselves into thinking that being Jewish is a safe thing in today's world. Nowhere is this more true than in the very State of Israel itself-- we are proud, and we will not back down, but we clearly did not choose a life of heaven on earth. What do we get for it but constant condemnation-- despite the fact that we have never harmed anyone!

    Now, is that the same as setting yourself on fire for ratings? Absolutely not! Sure, our choice to be Jews is far different from some stunt artist's choice to set himself on fire-- but I'm arguing principle here. If you're talking the principle of showing mercy to those who bring misfortune upon themselves, well, aren't we supposed to love our neighbors as we love ourselves? Who are we to judge, we of all people? And, in fact, if we seek to be more merciful to others as well as to ourselves, wouldn't we be fulfilling our calling to be a light unto the nations by setting an example of mercy and kindness by not judging the choices of others?

    I once had a history teacher say that the Amendments protected you to the tip of your own nose-- as long as your actions weren't negatively effecting the lives of others, you were free. So what, the guy sets himself on fire. He didn't harm anyone else in the process, and now he's paying for his choice. I'm not going to bake him a cake or send him a get well card, but why cluck about it?

  5. Great post. You're right, a little more rachamim can't hurt any of us. Maybe Dudu should team up with Amnon Yitzchak..that would be a show!

  6. It's all well and good to have rachamim on someone who makes stupid choices and harms him/herself. But how about those who make careless choices that harm others? The sad truth is that most people who do stupid things don't only hurt themselves, but others too. Rare is the action that one can take which won't have a ripple affect on those around him/her. For instance, how must Dudi's parents/siblings/wife/kids (whichever applies) have felt when they saw their loved one lit up like a bonfire with his ear smoking? That didn't hurt them too?

    So the question is not are we capable of having rachamim on someone who made a careless choice that harmed themselves or other strangers. The question is are we capable of having mercy on the idiots/simpletons that have hurt US in the past year. Even if that person is an idiot and can't be held fully accountable for his/her actions - you were still harmed in the process.

    I find it interesting that people can be forgiving of others whose actions did not cause them direct harm. It's easy to tell someone else to have rachamim on a person who hurts themselves or hurts someone who is not you. It is not so easy when you are talking about forgiving a foolish person who harmed you or your family.

    Keep those fires burning.......

  7. holyroller - just to be brief because I am running out right now to Kol Nidre. I think Rachamim and zforgiveness are two different things. If someone hurts you, it is up to you to forgive them. Sometimes it might be difficult. Rachamaim is compassion and mercy for a person who is in a tough situation.
    My thoughts touched on the issue of rachamim and not on forgiveness. If someone hurt you it might be difficult to forgive. Forgiveness is only something you can feel comfortable with when you are ready to forgive. Rachamim is different.

    Gmar Chasima Tova

  8. The first thing we say on Yom Kippur is, anu matirin le-hitpallel im ha-avaryanim; we declare it legal to pray with transgressors

    Even when it's for stupid ratings...


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