Page 111 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 40

Basic HTML Version

Harry Sackler: Mystical Rationalist
On the Centenary of His Birth
it er a t u r e
e ith er
remembrance of things past or projection of
the future. The volatility of the present acquires fixity in the
double vision. As an exponent of historicism in dramatic and
fictive works Harry Sackler (1883-1974) achieved critical acclaim
by connoisseurs of Jewish literature. But the fickleness of public
acclaim denied him solid fame.
A native of Bohorodczany in Galicia, a descendant of rabbis,
scholars and communal leaders, he received traditional instruc­
tion in a
and guidance in higher Jewish learning from Feivl
Schreier — the grandfather who ministered to the intellectual
needs of the orphaned boy. The distinguished rabbi and daring
Zionist with enormous knowledge of Judaic sources and a magni­
ficent library at his disposal managed as tutor to inculcate deep
love for Hebrew and Yiddish literature in the receptive mind of
the young tutee. Toward the end of his life Sackler paid him the
supreme debt of gratitude: “You are my spiritual support, you
are the guardian of my conscience.” The grandfather was also the
intellectual mentor, the literary paradigm. As the great in terpre­
ter of Halakhah, the Jewish law, he became the teacher of his
generation. The grandson, interpreter ofJudaism through Agga-
dah or Jewish lore, became the unacknowledged teacher of his
generation. And, in all likelihood, of future generations.
At fifteen Sackler began to devote his attention to non-Jewish
studies and prepared as an extern for an examination which
would gain him entrance to an institution of higher learning. In
1902, as a fresh arrival in New York, he continued his studies —
mainly in jurisprudence — and stayed in that city, with brief
intervals in the Land of Israel and in Europe, till the end of his
life. Incidentally, his arrival in the Land of Israel coincided with
the arrival — in June of 1920 — of Sir Herbert Louis Samuel, the
first British High Commissioner for Palestine. Though he had
intended to settle there, he stayed only four months: Malarial
discomfort of his wife was the main reason for his departure from