Page 122 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 37

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away from Musar and tradition) stand as one answer to the
unbearable tension inherent in the life of Tsemakh Atlas and his
The counterinfluence on Chaikl is his second teacher, the mild
and saintly Reb Avraham-Shaye Kosover. Instead of suspecting
every person of acting from evil intentions, and then working to
extirpate that tendency, Reb Avraham-Shaye emphasizes the pos­
itive; for him, the way to the truth and to a proper life is through
the inspiring light of Torah study, rather than the continual
self-examination and abnegation of the Musar school. Because he
is at peace with himself, he has no reason to be suspicious of the
motives and deeds of others. Reb Avraham-Shaye has survived a
difficult life — a shrewish wife, and a disabling heart condition —
with love rather than with bitterness. And his influence, as re­
flected in his interaction with some of the students of Tsemakh
Atlas, is a calming and benevolent one. It is only because of Reb
Avraham-Shaye that Chaikl remains a student of the Torah as
long as he does; toward the end of the novel, with his teacher’s
imminent departure for Israel, the youth realizes that their ways
will soon part ideologically as well as physically. Even Tsemakh
Atlas, after vociferously opposing the influence and preachings
of Reb Avraham, is finally won over, to the extent that he asks the
saintly man’s advice about his own life, and follows it.
The second volume of the novel ends with Reb Avraham-
Shaye’s departure for the Holy Land, leaving both Tsemakh Atlas
and Chaikl Vilner with the memory and the privilege of having
known and been influenced by him. While the dark and passion­
ate tendencies of Tsemakh Atlas seem to have been thoroughly
repudiated by the proponent of the benevolent view of the world,
the resolution is more in the nature of a resignation than of any
kind of synthesis. As in the two previous novels, the two opposing
forces which have provided the tension through the course of the
novel are never really integrated; one is merely subdued at the
The essentially unresolved state of conflict between the central
figures of this novel — Tsemakh Atlas and Reb Avraham-Shaye
— is best seen in the figure of Chaikl Vilner. While his Musarist
mentor has been subdued to a kind of uneasy tranquility by his