Page 120 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 37

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admission of personal failure, the novel ends with a truce rather
than any mutual understanding or synthesis of the opposing
The juxtaposition of two diametrically opposed philosophies is
most extensively developed in the two volumes of
The Yeshivah,
Grade’s longest and most ambitious novel. The strict, unbending
attitude toward oneself and others is represented by the tor­
mented figure of Tsemakh Atlas, a Musarist whose private doubts
and secret longings lead him to distrust himself and everyone
else, and to act in the Navaredok tradition of violently rooting out
these “evil inclinations.” A more benign view of the world, with a
correspondingly humane attitude, comes from the inner tran­
quility and perfect faith of the second major figure of the novel,
Reb Avraham-Shaye Kosover. Although these two characters
rarely come into direct contact in the course of the novel, the
conflict between their opposing ideologies is presented through
the actions of the people whom they influence — their students —
as well as in the implied contrast of their own behavior. As in the
long narrative poem
there is in
The Yeshivah
a semi-
autobiographical figure, young Chaikl Vilner, who comes under
the influence of both teachers, and is torn between their con­
tradictory views.
The career of Tsemakh Atlas illustrates the results of the most
extreme, strictest attitude toward belief and action. His relentless
quest to root out evil, in himself and in others, succeeds mainly in
alienating those who associate with him, and in driving himself
deeper into doubt and self-hatred. Tsemakh Atlas’ relationships
with women follow this pattern. He breaks his first engagement to
poor, humble Dvorele Namiot of the village of Amdur, because
he is told that her father is cheating him — and also because he
has, meanwhile, fallen in love with Slava Stupel, a worldly beauty
in the town of Lomzhe. Tsemakh’s marriage to Slava and his brief
attempt at living a secular life are disastrous; he despises himself
for his sexual feelings, even toward his own wife, and his unbend­
ing principles and unabashed frankness in revealing what he sees
as the faults of others quickly alienate his in-laws. As a partner in
the family business, Tsemakh fails because of his outspokenness
and refusal to plav up to customers. He finally decides to break