Page 138 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 38

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Kressel settled in Palestine in 1930, at the age o f 19. He made
his home in one o f the first settlements o f the new Yishuv — Petah
Tikvah, in whose o rchards he worked as an agricultural laborer.
Although the work was very fatiguing and exhausting, the young
Kressel, because o f his iron will and strong ambition, was able to
overcome its difficulties. During the day, he wielded the hoe, bu t
in the evenings and into the late hou rs o f the night his books and
writing occupied his m ind and attention . Kressel labored in the
orchards o f Petah T ikvah for almost eight years, and du r ing this
time he grew both physically and spiritually. He became an in­
structor o f agricu lture and found satisfaction in tilling and cul­
tivating the parched soil.
In one o f his essays Kressel speaks o f his early years in Petah
Tikvah “as the most difficult and most beautiful ones.” Soon his
first published article brough t him to the atten tion o f readers who
were unde r the impression that one o f the older and established
scholars in Eretz Israel o f the thirties had published this learned
essay unde r an assumed name.
It was the Hebrew critic Dov Sadan who published Kressel’s
first article dealing with the German-Jewish scholar Leopold
Zunz. Sadan mentions some interesting details about this first
article and the reactions to it. He writes (in his volume o f essays,
Fence Stones,
1970): “I was privileged as editor o f the literary
supplement o f
to publish tha t first article and I served also
as the address for the various people who tu rn ed to me with the ir
comments. Since the au tho r was unknown, some felt tha t he was
the ir beloved “Reuben” and they praised him. O thers felt tha t he
was “Simon,” who was not so beloved to them , so they o ffe red
begrudging praise tem pered with critical comments. But none o f
them could imagine tha t the young writer was an orcha rd labo rer
and tha t all his achievements in the fields o f scholarship were
gained th rough his own work and devotion .”
Kressel is a self-made man. He is p a r t o f a generation in which
the phenom enon o f self-advancement in such fields as linguistics,
science and Jewish scholarship was a common one. Jewish young
men who were confined to the small towns tried to learn from
books without the help o f teachers and sometimes succeeded
admirably. T h e ir motivation and love o f learn ing was exemplary,
and after they had tasted o f the tree o f knowledge they could no