Page 236 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 25

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e w i s h
o o k
n n u a l
heroism of an era about which we know very little from historic
sources. M.f. Hairnowitz and Sholem Asch recreated for us
through their artistry the epoch and the man of Nazareth.
I may disappoint some of my readers who perhaps expect
critical words about Sholem Asch. On the contrary, I want them
to know that I never thought of denigrating the literary quality
of this work by him, even though I regard another saga of the
man of Nazareth as more accurate from my own ideological and
moral standpoint. Less remote historically are Opatoshu’s nar-
ratives of the inns of the Judengasse in medieval Ratisbon, Zal-
man Schneour’s broad canvases of the era and the city of the
Vilna Gaon, and 1.1. Singer’s panorama of Jewish enterprise in
the emerging industrial center of Lodz.
The catastrophe which overwhelmed Poland enlarged the dis-
tance between us and our earlier decades on the other side of
the Atlantic. As a result, we now view events in I. Bashevis
Singer’s novel of the Family Moskat, in B. Ressler’s novel of the
Yanevke Jewish patrician, and in I. Metzker’s novel of Galician
villagers as not of our own generation but of distant centuries.
This feeling is not abated but rather intensified when we now
read Chaim Grade’s
My M o ther’s Sabbaths.
Main Ideas
From the themes of our novelists which encompass every aspect
of Jewish life, past and present, we now turn to their main ideas.
Living on two continents, the Yiddish narrator sensed more
keenly the tragedy of having “two lands and yet no fatherland.”
His main ideas, if reduced to a common denominator, can best
be expressed by the ancient hope “And a savior will come to
Zion.” This longing for
Salvation, originally centered
around the coining of a savior, not specifying “to Zion.” It formu-
lated a humanistic concept of Jewish historic continuity, a ineta-
phor for Jewish rootedness in spirituality, for Sabbath holiness
overflowing into every day of the week, for the centrality of the
Ten Commandments. This is evidenced in Sholem Asch’s
in Opatoshu’s Mlaver tales and historical romances, in 1.1.
O f A W or ld Tha t Is N o More,
and in Jacob Glatstein’s
travel narratives such as
Hom ecom ing at Tw iligh t.
The Jewish
community bringing Salvation to the peoples around them
emerges as a principal idea in 1. Bashevis Singer’s
Satan of Goray
and enfolds the massive, halachic characters depicted in Chaim
Grade’s novels.
The idea that Salvation could stem from the earth, from
service to the soil, appeared forty years ago in A. Raboy’s Mr.