Page 73 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 18

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S1LBERSCHLAG — PROGENITORS OF HEBREW LITERATURE
65
Samuel 21:14-15), the man who wrote or brought with him a
whole book for which there was no need whatever must certainly
be deemed mad.”
The real culprits in Jewish life are the rabbis. They are in-
terested in honor and wealth. The spiritual welfare of their
people is neither their concern nor their worry.
There is he who pretends to be rich yet has nothing; there is
he who pretends to be poor, yet has great wealth
(Proverbs 13:7).
There is he who pretends to be rich yet has nothing—
this is the
European rabbi, rich in Torah, disgraced by poverty.
There is
he who pretends to be poor, yet has great wealth—
this is the
American rabbi, poor in Torah, enriched by his rabbinate. Any
rabbi who studies the Torah from left to right attains riches
and glory as it is written (Proverbs 3:16):
In her left hand are
riches and honor.
Rosenzweig was merciless in his denunciation of the vulgarisms
of the country—the love for money, the worship of success. “Rabbi
Know-All preached: What is the meaning of the biblical passage
(Psalms 104:25)
Yonder sea, great and wide, therein are creeping
things innumerable, living creatures, both small and great? Yon-
der sea—
that is America which is like a sea. As the sea receives and
covers everything people throw into it, so America receives all
who come here and covers all their transgressions.
Therein are
creeping things innumerable—
these are the people who resemble
creeping things: the bigger swallow up the smaller.
Living crea-
tures, both small and great—
these are men of small wealth who
become men of great wealth. And why are they called beasts? Be-
cause all who act like beasts that trample others and stuff them-
selves succeed in preserving their money.”2a
There was an epigrammatic terseness about Rosenzweig. Like
Solomon who is said to have composed a thousand and five songs
(1 Kings 5:12), he produced a book of 1005 original epigrams.
In them, as in his
Talmud,
he is the carping critic of folly in any
form, in any manifestation. Only for the social malaise of his
adopted country—such as the fate of the negroes—he shows that
compassionate understanding which is born of centuries of per-
secution:
In our South the Negro’s grief
Will not decline, will not abate.
In all the lands, in all the isles
The Jew and Negro share one fate.
The great heroes of American history—Columbus, Washington,
Lincoln—are singled out for uncritical approval. For Rosenzweig
had a touching faith in America. In the English preface to his
Hebrew translations of “America,” “The Star Spangled Banner”
2aH ayyo t
in Hebrew;
living creatures
or
beasts
in English.