Page 106 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 16

Basic HTML Version

e w i s h
o o k
n n u a l
Sabbath, when the wheel of fortune will have turned, his neigh-
bor can borrow from him.
Despite a surface appearance of competitive striving and feud-
ing, there are deep bonds of affinity and a profound sense of
mutual responsibility among Kasrilevke’s Jews. The individual
is embodied in the group and is therefore not afflicted with lone-
liness, the chronic sickness of Occidental man since the Renais-
sance. In adversity he expects help from fellow-Jews, and is ever
ready to share his good fortune with others.
When Tevya is persuaded to speculate in the hope of
accumulating wealth, he does not conjure up visions of epicurean
feasts or gaudy clothes for himself. He aspires rather to be a
benefactor dispensing charity in grand style, to build a new
solid roof over the old synagogue, to endow Kasrilevke with a
Hebrew school and with a hospital for the ailing.
When the Melamed of Kasrilevke muses on what he would do
if he were Rothschild, he does not revel in daydreams of intoxi-
eating sensuality or of luxurious material possessions, but en-
visages inexhaustible opportunities for doing good and for help-
ing his fellow-men, non-Jews as well as Jews. He would use his
imagined billions to render it unnecessary for anyone to envy or
hate another in the struggle for bread. He would strive to abolish
war by satisfying with his immense resources the longing of each
country for economic betterment. He would ultimately abolish
money altogether. Then the desire for possessions would wane,
greed would abate, and evil would disappear from the face of
the earth.
In the world of Kasrilevke, learning is esteemed far more than
wealth. A father of eight is least proud of the one child who
helps support the other seven children and their offspring, be-
cause this hard-working child lags behind the others in intel-
lectual attainment. The father reasons that if such an unlearned
person is privileged to marry into a family whose members are
able to discuss the Talmud and its commentaries with great
acumen, he should pay for this privilege by working for them.
Kasrilevke’s Jews live like members of one large family. They
gossip and quarrel but without venom. They weep together at
cemeteries during the month of Elul and rejoice at common
festivals. When a child is born to Reisl, whose husband was not
heard from after leaving for America, the women in her neigh-
borhood supply all her immediate physical needs and the men
vie with one another to provide for the
br ith,
an occasion not
only for religious devotion but also for gladness, dancing and
wholesome good-will. At a wedding the entire community dances.
On Purim households interchange gifts of cake and fruit. When
Yom Kippur or Passover arrives, litigants reconcile their disputes.
Competitors confide their troubles to each other and find mutual
understanding and sympathy.